Action Adventure

Review: ‘Morbius’ Recasts Yet Another Spider-Man Villain as the Anti-Hero, with Predictable Results

March 30, 2022Ben MK

As Batman's arch-enemy, the Joker, Jared Leto gave a portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime that, unfortunately, failed to connect with audiences. Now, as the titular anti-hero in director Daniel Espinosa's Spider-Man spinoff Morbius, Leto is getting the opportunity for a comic book movie do-over, as he brings to life one of the Web-Slinger's most terrifying rogues. But does the Living Vampire's transition from the page to the big screen manage to live up to the high standards set by Spider-Man: No Way Home? Or does Morbius have more in common with the Lethal Protector than anything else?

The tale of a brilliant but ill-fated biochemist named Michael Morbius (Leto), the story begins with Michael standing at a cave entrance in Cerro de la Muerte, Costa Rica, where he's traveled to from New York City, to procure a number of specimens for his experiments. Ever since he was a child, Michael has suffered from a blood disorder that has left him in a perpetually weakened state, but with the aid of modern science, he's hopeful that he can finally find a cure. By fusing human DNA with the DNA of vampire bats, Michael believes that both he and others like him will be able to live the normal lives they've long dreamt of. However, when he decides to inject himself with the serum, he learns that his cure comes with some unexpected side effects, as he's transformed into a monstrous, blood-thirsty creature — endowing him with superhuman strength and agility, but at the cost of his humanity.

Before long, Michael finds himself the prime suspect in a city-wide manhunt, as a pair of unrelenting FBI agents (Tyrese Gibson and Al Madrigal) begin linking a string of gruesome murders to him, leaving him no choice but to go into hiding. But could Michael really be responsible for the deaths of all those innocent civilians? Or could there be another bloodsucker on the loose in the Big Apple? As he sets out to solve the dangerous mystery and perhaps find a cure for his disturbing new condition, Michael enlists the help of his girlfriend, Dr. Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona), the only other person in the world who might possibly understand what he's going through. Little does he realize, however, that by doing so he's unwittingly putting her in imminent danger, as the real culprit behind the killing spree will stop at nothing to ensure his own place as the city's apex predator.

An origin story in a similar vein as Venom, the result aims to portray Michael in a sympathetic light — an effort that largely works, thanks to Leto's commitment to his role. It's when Espinosa and screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless attempt to inject the film with greater depth, however, that the entire endeavor starts to grow tiring. As both the movie's plot and its characters fall victim to the tropes and clichés of the genre, viewers might find their patience tested while they wait for Morbius to sink its teeth into its inevitable, action-packed climax. And to make matters worse, the eagerly anticipated tie-ins to the other corners of the Marvel universe also end up falling flat, with the requisite cameos feeling like awkward checkbox-ticking rather than well-earned bonuses.

That said, Morbius is by no means unwatchable. After all, any big budget spectacle that devotes the majority of its VFX budget to slow-motion, vampire-on-vampire action certainly can't be all bad. Ultimately, though, it all comes down to how desperately fans want to see the character team up with his fellow antagonists and square off against Spider-Man in the future. Yet, for those familiar with Marvel Comics lore, seeing the Living Vampire go toe to toe with the Daywalker himself may prove significantly more gratifying.

Morbius releases April 1st, 2022 from Sony Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, some frightening images, and brief strong language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 44 min.

You May Also Like