REVIEW: “Morbius” – Sucks, but still a better vampire movie than “Twilight”


Morbius is currently playing in theaters

Ben Kaiser, News Editor

Vampires have been around in movies for almost a century now.

Vampire movies range from Bela Lugosi’s sinisterly charming “Dracula” to aristocratic Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire.” Vampires showed their rebellious nature against society in “The Lost Boys” to living mundane lives with roommates in “What We Do in the Shadows.” Then, “Twilight” came along and made them embarrassingly sparkly.

Now, Sony is trying its luck with Marvel’s vampiric anti-hero (sometimes villain), Morbius.

“Morbius” is the third film in Sony’s Spider-Man Universe. It’s a weirdly named universe considering that Spider-Man isn’t even in this universe. So far, it’s just Spidey’s villains fighting each other.

“Morbius” is directed by Daniel Espinosa. Espinosa has worked on “Safe House,” “Child 44,” and “Life.” His range filters through sci-fi/horror, action/thriller, and historical drama. So a vampiric anti-hero movie is a new angle for him. Yet, it’s a bit of a combination of his past works.

“Morbius” stars Jared Leto (“Requiem for a Dream”) as Michael Morbius, Adria Arjona (NBC’s “Emerald City”) as Martine Bancroft, Jared Harris (HBO’s “Chernobyl”) as Emil Nokols, and Tyrese Gibson (“Fast & Furious” franchise) as Simon Stroud. Matt Smith (BBC’s “Doctor Who”) stars as Milo Morbius, who suffers from the same blood disease as Michael. Michael Keaton (1989 “Batman”) returns as Vulture from “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

“Morbius” is about a brilliant scientist named Michael Morbius, who suffers from a super-rare blood disease. He’s spent his life trying to find a cure for his condition using illegal experiments on vampire bats. Naturally, Morbius develops a possible cure and immediately tries it on himself. The cure works… but transforms Morbius into a bloodthirsty vampire.

Now, Morbius tries to find a way to curve his blood lust. However, his surrogate brother Milo, who also has the same blood disease, learns of the ‘cure’ and takes it for himself. Milo enjoys becoming a blood-hungry monster and wants to force Morbius to join him, even if it means killing everyone close to Morbius.

So, who or what is Morbius? Known in Marvel comics as a “living vampire,” Morbius is a pseudo-vampire, a blood drinker that isn’t undead or supernatural. His vampirism is more from a mutated experiment with vampire bat DNA. This gives him genetic “vampire” abilities without having to deal with “real” vampire weaknesses (and yup, Marvel has vampires). Morbius is usually an enemy of Spider-Man and Blade, the vampire hunter. He makes for an interesting character trying to do good while struggling with an insatiable thirst for blood.

So, admittedly, the movie kept Morbius’ backstory close to the source material. At least he’s like the vampire he is in the comics instead of how the ‘90s cartoon hard to redesign him. He gets his vampire powers like super-strength, sharp fangs, echolocation, fast reflexes, and flight. He also exhibits weird smoky trails when he uses his powers.

I still remember Morbius from the ‘90s cartoon, whining every two minutes about craving “plasma” because Fox censors wouldn’t allow him to say blood. Also, instead of biting people, the cartoon gave him suckers on both palms of his hands, which was waaaay more disturbing. Not gonna lie; I was hoping he would say plasma at some point in the film.

Jared Leto’s performance was alright. You can tell Leto is trying to take all of this seriously, but maybe it’s too serious. I mean, it’s a comic book movie about vampires; this isn’t going to be a blend of “Interview with the Vampire” and “The Dark Knight.”

However, Matt Smith’s villainous role was much more fun. He’s eccentric and eats up the scene as both a dying friend and bloodthirsty “vampire.” Unlike Leto trying too hard to be completely serious, Smith is just enjoying himself, even during the fight scenes. There’s even a scene where Milo was asked how he’d rate his pain from 1-10, he says “11.” “Doctor Who” fans will get this reference since Smith played the 11th Doctor in the series. I wonder if Smith is followed by the number “11” hints in other movies and shows.

Speaking of references, “Morbius” has multiple non-MCU Marvel hints. Probably the most significant ones are the “Venom” references. FBI agent Simon Stroud and his partner discussed similarly bizarre events in San Francisco (where Venom resides), and Morbius himself scared a street thug by saying “I… am… Venom.” These hints make sense since Venom and Morbius are supposed to exist in the same universe. Also, Morbius said, “Don’t make me hungry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry.” Hulk fans might remember that deviation of Bruce Banner’s classic line, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

More references include everyone reading the Daily Bugle, a magazine where Peter Parker (Spider-Man) worked. Headlines hint at Rhino, Black Cat, and the Chameleon, all known villains to Spider-Man. Morbius worked for Horizon Labs, which is also a place Parker worked. Again, Spider-Man doesn’t exist in this world, but it has many things and places that connect to him.

This Multiverse thing from the MCU is starting to get convoluted, especially with Sony playing into it.

There is a lot wrong with this movie. One thing was the weird misinformation about vampire bats. In the film, vampire bats are seen as ravenous swarmers that can tear apart animals in seconds. Now I’m no chiropterologist (someone who studies bats), but I have read a Zoobook magazine or two. Instead of attacking in a frenzied swarm, vampire bats creep on sleeping prey alone and drink their fill. It honestly sounds like the writers confuse vampire bats with flying piranhas or something. I honestly did more research for this review than the writers did for their big movie script.

Also, maybe this is nitpicking, but Morbius has a mouth full of fangs in the movie yet still leaves only two vampire bite marks like Dracula?

The story has several plot points that are seen over and over again in these science fiction movies. A scientist working on an incurable disease with questionable (borderline desperate) experiments, a scientist so desperate that they have to test it on themselves, the cure comes with unexpected transformation, and, finally, the condition is so terrible that they spend the rest of the film trying to reverse effects. It’s been done a million times since “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

For example, in “Spider-Man,” Norman Osborn was forced to experiment on himself, unexpectedly turning him into a psychotic killer. It’s the same thing with “Hollow Man.” “Fantastic Four” had the superheroes trying to find a cure for their superpowers for the entire movie until the bad guy forces them to save the day.

Rehashing these same old story ideas shows that this story is dated. Not a surprise considering they have been trying to make a Morbius film since “Blade” was a hit. Morbius was even supposed to show up in a “Blade” sequel, being hinted at in a deleted scene from the first film.

Many have labeled this film as the worst Marvel movie, matching Leto to how he starred in DC’s worst movie, “Suicide Squad.” Well, it’s definitely bad and maybe fits in Marvel’s top five worst, but I wouldn’t call it the worst one. I keep that honor to 2014’s “Fantastic Four.” That one needs a warning in the beginning that it may cause harm to viewers.

“Morbius” is flat-out underwhelming and just boring. After he gets his powers, Morbius spends most of the time hiding and working on his cure instead of doing anything interesting. Come on, we’re all here to see a vampire do vampire stuff, so bite someone already. And stop complaining about having superpowers when the alternative is dying slowly from a genetic disease. Poor you, being super strong and able to do insane flips in the lab. No wonder your surrogate brother and best friend turned into a bad guy.

There are two mid-credit scenes; both involving a certain Spider-Man enemy from the MCU. Ehh, Sony already spoiled it from the trailers, so I’m calling this free game. Dr. Strange’s spell from “Spider-Man: No Way Home” throws Adrian Toomes, better known as the Vulture, into Morbius’ (and Venom’s) universe. You may be wondering how that makes sense, and that’s a good question. So good that you’ll have to wait for Sony and Marvel to stir up a bogus reason later.

“Morbius” is currently playing in theaters.