Tom Santilli is a respected journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association, Detroit Film Critics Society and Online Film Critics Society since 2010. Tom is the Executive Producer and co-host of the syndicated TV show, "Movie Show Plus," which has been on the air for 20+ years in the Metro-Detroit market and Mid-West. He is also the film critic for WXYZ-TV. Twitter: @tomsantilli, Facebook & Instagram: @filmsurvivor.
Originally slated to hit theaters in July of 2020, the pandemic had other plans for "Morbius." Nearly two years and several more schedule-shifts later, and the newest Marvel movie has finally arrived, but with more of a thud than many were hoping for.
"Morbius" is owned and distributed by Sony, which means that this film exists in that "side" universe and not exactly in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that we know and love. He shares his on-screen universe with the likes of Tom Hardy's "Venom," though, who - spoiler! - just showed up in a post-credit scene during a recent MCU film, so anything is possible.
The character - created by writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane back in 1971 - was known as "the living vampire," and mostly was a foil for Spider-Man as well as for Blade, The Vampire Hunter (makes sense). Over time however, he grew in popularity and became a sort of anti-hero that has established his own comic book legacy throughout the years.
The new film follows the comic book origin story quite closely: A highly-renowned scientist by the name of Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), also suffers from a rare blood disease that leaves him needing crutches in order to walk. As a child, Michael meets his only real friend, Milo, who also is inflicted with the same disorder. As an adult, Morbius seemingly finds a cure to his ailment - in the DNA of a rare breed of bat - and in an attempt to cure himself by splicing the bat DNA with his own, he becomes...something else altogether.
Yes, he no longer walks with crutches, but he is now a literal blood-thirsty monster. To keep his cravings in check, he develops a synthetic blood, but soon this doesn't quite take the place of the real human blood that he so needs. Milo (Matt Smith) is now a "living vampire" as well, and acts as the more wild, uninhibited version that Morbius is afraid of ever becoming.
"Morbius" rehashes several themes used elsewhere in Marvel movies, done better elsewhere. There is a loose feeling of "Professor X vs. Magneto" going on between Morbius and Milo, who have the same underlying issue but who simply see the world differently based on their own personal histories. There's also territory previously explored in films like Venom and once again the "X-Men" films, where Morbius struggles internally with containing this massive power he now possesses, and needs to find balance.
I've been openly one of the biggest Jared Leto haters in recent years (he was appallingly bad in "House of Gucci" and even worse in the recent film "The Little Things"), but surprisingly, he's an OK Michael Morbius. For an actor that is usually screaming "HEY, LOOK AT ME!" every time he enters the camera frame, he sort of works as a dark and brooding, frailish scientist. But when Jared Leto is the best part of your movie, you know you are in serious trouble.
The action is quite bland and a relationship with co-worker Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona) goes nowhere. Two bumbling detectives on the case of all of these murders that are occurring - played by Tyrese Gibson and Al Madrigal - are useless, ineffective and don't add anything at all to the story. Matt Smith gives it the old college try, but Milo is so one-note that he seems to suffer from another ailment called generic-villain-itis. And the entire proceeding is just drab, devoid of any fun and so colorless that you will soon feel like one of the vampire's latest victims: Sucked dry of all life.
There are two credit scenes, neither of which make any sense if you haven't seen other Sony/Marvel films...and they of course tease what might be next. Morbius as a side character? That could be interesting. But it's clear that the character wasn't really worthy of holding down his own movie.
They should have taken some solid, age-old vampire advice: "Morbius" should not have been able to ever have seen the light of day.
Grade: CGenre: Action, Adventure, Drama.Run Time: 1 hour 44 minutes.Rated PG-13.Starring: Jared Leto, Michael Keaton, Adria Arjona, Matt Smith, Tyrese Gibson, Jared Harris.Directed by Daniel Espinosa ("Life," "Child 44," "Safe House").
"Morbius" is in theaters on Friday, April 1st, 2022.