Review: Morbius (2022)

Preamble

At this point, Morbius has become a rite of passage for understanding social media and its ability to frame and process a piece of art. Witnessing the pendulum swing between the initial reaction (mainly bafflement and disappointment) and ironic love (via memes) has been an interesting experience. At the same time, the various platforms and their collective power to get the studio to re-release the film (in a limited run) has been nothing short of a chuckle-inducing illustration of the sheer foolishness of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

With this in mind, does Morbius deserve a second chance? Or was it a turkey that always deserved roasting? Well, you can find out after the jump. What did you think of Morbius? Let me know in the comments below.

Review

Compared to other villains that grace Spider-Man’s rogue gallery, Morbius does not seem like an entirely bad idea for a solo film. By themselves, good Vampire movies can be fun, sweeping, scary and inherently romantic. If anything, Morbius could coast off these elements without fluttering twice like a bat. Aside from a few moments, Morbius is a mostly ho-hum tale of two vampires that undermines and illustrates the banality of its title character.

The 2022 comic book movie is about Dr Micheal Morbius (Jared Leto) and his recent attempt to cure a terminal disease he’s had since childhood. The experiment in question involves splicing DNA from vampiric bats he’s captured from Costa Rica. Naturally, the experiment goes wrong, and the good doctor has to stave off the thirst for blood (via drinking artificial blood, nicknamed blue blood). However, complications arise when the blue blood loses effectiveness and Morbius’s childhood friend, Lucian aka Milo (Matt Smith), takes the serum that turned Morbius into a blood-sucking creature of the night.

Aside from dying from a slow death of a thousands continuity cuts (including false advertising in its trailers about Micheal Keaton’s role as the Vulture), Morbius also exists in a strange purgatory. On the surface, it wants to have the pathos of David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of The Fly, paralleling its main character’s terminal disease with that of Jeff Goldblum’s metaphorical terminal disease (via the transformation into the central creature).

Some initial choices early on from Jared Leto (including a coy sense of determination in his line readings) make the movie seem game for this tragic premise. However, it’s undermined by a persistent sense that once Morbius becomes a vampire, the film wants to make him loose and funny. Leto struggles during these moments of the character becoming like a Kevin Williamson character to a seemingly uninterested audience. In fact, the movie as a whole does turn into a Saturday Night Live audition tape with many of the supporting players delivering awfully written jokes with the glum enthusiasm of someone whose has just attended a funeral. This is compounded by a persistent feeling of the film loosely dancing around the troupes of a vampire movie, without ever committing to them with any gusto or feeling.

Elsewhere, the filmmaking from director Daniel Espinosa is occasionally fun, if not entirely pedestrian, whether its scene transitions or an extended sequence involving a long shot in a hospital with flickering lights being used as a backdrop for a vampire kill. However, these ultimately lack bite because of little tension and the audience being two steps ahead of the movie.

Matt Smith’s Milo occasionally enlivens the film’s energy with quirky actions and an amusing sense of play between the morphing vampire effects of his face and actions. The latter quality particularly reminded me of the sadistic qualities of Jerry from the original Fright Night. However, Smith’s character is an ultimate reminder of the sullen and boring nature of Morbius and how the transformation has made him less engaging.

I’ve seen a lot of comic book movies at this point. But I’ve never seen one that’s so dead set to illustrate how bland its central character is. With this in mind, the ironic love for this movie on social media almost becomes like an exercise in character revival. By giving Morbius a catchphrase (It’s Morbin’ Time) and leaning into the meme of it, the character suddenly stands as an amusing and cornball creation with some sense of irony. I wish the actual movie had these qualities. But as it stands, Morbius is a testament to how boring you can make a seemingly tragic vampiric character and the generic colours you can paint your superhero movie in.

About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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