I have probably seen more trailers for “Morbius” than any other movie in my entire life. I definitely remember seeing a few before the 2020 lockdown, but it isn’t just a matter of how far back they go. No, I’ve seen them pretty consistently since then, from theaters reopening in August 2020 to last week when I realized that I was seeing one for the last time – the end of an era.
The movie kept getting pushed back, far enough to be out of reach but never so far that it warranted taking the trailer out of rotation. Clearly someone wanted to dump this movie on just the right unremarkable weekend where it would be free of decent competition. To be fair, the strategy paid off, as the movie opened to $39 million this past weekend, but that success came at the expense of letting people know that the movie had no confidence from the studio. Having finally seen “Morbius,” I can say with confidence that the lack of confidence was entirely justified.
Jared Leto stars as Michael Morbius, a brilliant, eccentric doctor obsessed with curing his own rare blood disease. He’s so brilliant that he wins a Nobel Prize, but so eccentric that he tells off the committee in a scene that should have been a highlight of this movie, but bafflingly happens offscreen. He knows the solution involves splicing his human DNA with that of vampire bats, it will just require a moral flexibility and an expensive trip to Costa Rica. Michael only has the former, luckily rich childhood friend and fellow sufferer Milo (Matt Smith) is more than happy to help with the latter, provided Michael shares whatever cure he finds.
Michael’s experiments on himself yield mixed results. On one hand, he’s cured. In fact, he’s better than cured, he develops superpowers like bat wings and bat radar (unlike that other bat-themed action hero with no superpowers, bat-like or otherwise). On the other, he becomes a homicidal vampire that needs to drink blood in ever-shrinking increments of time. He even nearly attacks his partner and girlfriend Martine (Adria Arjona). He’s perfectly fine with being locked away so he can’t hurt anyone, but Milo gets ahold of the treatment and becomes a vampire with far fewer hang-ups about killing people or torturing the audience with out-of-place dancing. The only thing that can stop vampire Milo is vampire Michael, but with two vampires on the loose, the world is in twice as much danger.
Of course, nobody is really seeing “Morbius” just for Morbius. The real attraction here is finding out how he fits in with Spider-Man. The “Living Vampire” is in the rogues gallery of the box office juggernaut, residing in the same universe as Venom. The trailers have given away that that some of Doctor Strange’s universe-tampering has allowed Vulture (Michael Keaton, speaking of that other bat-themed action hero) to switch universes and propose a team-up with Morbius. And… that’s about it. Do not see this movie expecting to see more than the bare minimum of Vulture, anything more than references to Venom, or anything at all with Spider-Man. You will be very disappointed.
Actually, you’ll probably be disappointed with “Morbius” no matter what you expect. The characters aren’t memorable, the action scenes are incomprehensible, and the movie’s color scheme is one of the most drab I’ve ever seen. I think someone wanted the movie to look like it had been drained of all life by a vampire. Mission accomplished, I guess, but isn’t there a way to get a macabre tone without making the movie so ugly and miserable? I mentioned earlier seeing a trailer for “Morbius” in August of 2020 when theaters started reopening. More than anything, this movie reminds me of “The New Mutants,” released around that time: lifeless, pathetic, and only tangentially related to the Marvel property we really want to see.
“Morbius” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, some frightening images and brief strong language. Its running time is 104 minutes.
Robert R. Garver is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. His weekly movie reviews have been published since 2006.