Movie & Television Show Reviews

A Strange Backdoor Installment In The Marvel Cinematic Universe | “Morbius” (2022) Movie Review

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” ripped open Marvel’s multiverse by making Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy, Andrew Garfield’s “Amazing Spider-Man” duology, and both “Venom” films canon to the MCU — they are just one of many universes under the MCU’s umbrella. As such, Sony’s “Morbius” film, which stars the titular vampiric Spider-Man villain, had to follow up on it, and it sort of does, working as a kind-of new entry into the MCU capitalizing off of a technicality at the end of “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”

Taking place presumably in the Venomverse, the film focuses on Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), who is a pioneer in the area of synthetic blood, who also suffers from a debilitating blood disease in which he must undergo blood transfusions three times a day to live, that also has left him crippled. His number one goal in life is to find a cure for his disease at whatever the cost.

His best friend and surrogate brother, Milo Morbius (Matt Smith) is encouraging of his work, as is their mentor, Dr. Emil Nicholas (Jared Harris), and his girlfriend/assistant, Adria Arjona (Martine Bancroft). His research leads him to combine his genes with those of bats from Costa Rica, which turns him into a vampire. The experiment is of course illegal, and he makes use of mercenaries to help him carry it out that serve as quick canon fodder when his experiment goes wrong.

In a way, Michael succeeds in curing his condition, as he is granted superhuman strength, echo location abilities and can even fly for a limited time, but he must consume blood constantly or else he gets withdrawals in which his blood disease comes back with a vengeance. He consumes synthetic blood at first, but its effectiveness starts to diminish with time, and he knows that he will have to consume human blood from live victims soon.

Everything starts to go wrong when FBI Agents Simon Stroud (Tyrese Gibson) and Alberto Rodriguez (Al Madrigal) get on his case, who suspect him of wrongdoing in relation to the previously-mentioned dead mercenaries he left during his initial transformation even though he is literally offered the Nobel Prize and they have very little evidence linking him to the crime scene. And through some narrative somersaults, they actually manage to catch him. Gibson is tolerable as Stroud, but Madrigal is unbearable, as Agent Rodriguez has some of the worst and most awkward humor in the entire film. Their presence is unnecessary, and they only serve to complicate the film.

It does get into high gear when Milo, against Michael’s wishes, injects himself with the bat blood, becoming a vampire just like him, but with far less regard for human life. Milo has hated those without his condition for years, and has no problem taking life in order to live his to the fullest, a motivation I understand and isn’t a bad direction for his character, it’s just underdeveloped. In fact, the same can be said for most of this film; I liked many of the creative choices its director, Daniel Espinosa, went with, it’s just that the film feels like it’s missing key scenes connecting its major plot points. The film feels like a lot of important scenes that would make character motivations a little more believable — such as Milo’s turn into a villain — more believable and natural.

Milo eventually goes on a rampage in part fueled by his resentment of ordinary people, and part fueled by the corrupting influence of his powers. The surrogate brothers’ powers are treated like a drug, and their need to consume blood like addiction, which adds to the tragedy of their conflict. In fact, the relationship between Michael and Milo is much better than most protagonist-antagonist relationships in the rest of the MCU. There’s an intimacy between the two that you don’t usually see in these films, and Smith and Leto’s conflict make the film work.

Smith draws a striking resemblance to his version of the Doctor on Doctor Who, from the way he dresses to his mannerisms, and for all intents and purposes, he’s basically playing an evil, vampiric version of the 11th Doctor on a character level — which is a fantastic thing. Smith makes good use of his range, and is clearly having fun being evil, stealing the show from Leto once he turns into a vampire. I love how there are sad undertones to their conflict — even if Michael wins by destroying Milo so he can bring his killing spree to an end, he loses, as he’ll lose his brother. This isn’t another dime-a-dozen MCU film where our heroes have superpowers with no drawbacks; there are serious consequences to their powers, and it’s also worth noting that they initially didn’t seek them out; they just wanted a cure to their disease. They wanted to be normal, and instead, they got a curse.

The film’s cinematography is nothing special and its fight scenes are really bad — there is a huge overuse of motion blur, and its choreography is horrendous — but I don’t think they’re terribly important to the film. What I think is holding it back from being a great film are its missing connecting scenes — the film just jumps from one plot point to another, with very little development. I personally would have cut Stroud and Rodriguez from the film in order to elevate Milo and Michael’s relationship, as well as Michael’s relationship with Adria, which is terribly rushed.

This movie is not as bad as the internet is trying to tell you, and its 16 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes is not reflective of its quality. It has more interesting creative choices than an average MCU film, but suffers from a lack of focus and structure, but is bolstered by Leto and Smith’s strong performances.

“Morbius” gets a 7/10

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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