Marvel’s New Vampire Flick ‘Morbius’ Is One Better To Avoid


I had high hopes for Morbius when I first read of the project. A key antihero in the Spider-Man universe, he is a “living vampire” who is always on the edge between good and evil. The problem is that the movie is on the edge between boring and “maybe I can sit through the rest of this because there might be a point.” Or at least one that goes beyond the computer-generated fangs of the lead character. This is not only a film to avoid when having to pay in the theater, it is one that can be easily skipped when it plays at home.

Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) is a genius, suffering from a rare blood disease that both cripples and disfigures him. He is, to make it simple, anti-social, except for his friend Lucien (Matt Smith), who has the same disease. Both are getting near death when he tries out a new serum mixing human blood with, guess what? Blood of a vampire bat. You expected a spider, maybe? In that case, he might do some good. Here, well, he doesn’t do all that much that’s really good. He does hate his thirst for human blood and has developed a substitute that holds off, somewhat, the need for the real thing.

But his buddy Lucien, called Milo for much of the movie, gets some of the serum and turns into a real baddie, having fun doing the whole Dracula thing. Actually, the “real” Dracula, Vlad Tepes, did not drink blood at all. He was just a really nasty fighter who is a folk hero in his native Transylvania/Wallachia. Our picture of him comes from Victorian-era writer Bram Stoker. But Milo embraces all of the decadence of the caricature, even boasting about how good it feels to bite into human necks. Most of what Morbius does is trying a bit to mitigate the damage. That includes fighting Milo after his buddy attacks Morbius’ lab partner Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona), who he loves. They also deal with a couple of seemingly not very interested investigators (Al Madrigal, Tyrese Gibson).

Leto’s acting is over the top most of the time. He enjoys playing extreme characters and does them very well. But at times, Morbius is simply dull, and at others he is over the top. So, at times, we are rather bored… it might have been a better picture if they focused on a vampire-like guy who created artificial blood that could both save lives through transfusions and handle all vampires and their wannabees. Smith is far better, getting a lot of fun out of his role. Unlike Leto, he can let it “all hang out,” having a great time doing the blood-sucking bit as the real villain. Most of the others do sort of fade away, although Jared Harris in a relatively small role as a mentor/father figure to Morbius, does stand out.

The big problem is that Morbius is neither hero nor villain. He does work to save his lab partner, but that is mostly for more personal reasons and because he might have guilt that she died because his friend stole the formula. He uses his super strength and flying ability for some interesting fight scenes, but they really go nowhere. The only bad guys he really goes after are some who are creating fake copies of his artificial blood, and even then the real reason is not to protect the public but because he wants the lab. Who do you root for in a movie where the most important character is a pseudo-vampire who does not like being in that position? I liked the bad Milo more than our so-called hero.

Marvel has made many good movies over the last decade and a half. Several of them have been exceptional. And last year’s Spider-Man: No Way Home clearly demonstrated that complex issues can be handled in ways that are not as simple as we usually find in these kinds of movies.

I guess it finally is time for Marvel to have a clunker, and they found it in Morbius. They’ve done the Venom movies where anti-heroes have taken the lead, but those were entertaining. Here the main character is boring, the effects meaningless.

Skip this one. There are many more superhero movies coming this year, and we can hope all will be better than this one.