Just in case there’s anyone out there that isn’t totally confused about Marvel movie rights, Marvel Studios does not own the film rights to Spider-Man, even though their logo has appeared on three of the most recent Spider-Man movies. It’s a partnership between Marvel and Sony Pictures, who own the movie rights, but if Sony wants a full cut of the box office profits, they need to make their own movies without Marvel Studios’ involvement. Thus, the Venom movies exist, and based on the quality of those movies, I’m not surprised by the crap on display in the latest installment in the Sony-verse/Venom-verse/Lack-of-Quality-Control-verse.
Morbius is the next chapter in Sony’s saga of ruining Spider-Man related characters. Admittedly, there are some aspects of passion and creativity, but there are a lot of other aspects that say the opposite. Let’s start with the good, which is a smaller list. I do like the premise of this movie. Much like Marvel’s green goliath Hulk, Morbius is a character that deals with the monster within. He’s a man with an extremely rare and dreadful disease, and after spending decades researching a cure for it, he finds one, only to discover some horrific side effects–he’s become a vampire. The cure that saved his life also killed people around him. Throughout the story, Morbius tries to fix his vampiric nature, while also having to deal with another monster on the loose. It’s typical Marvel storytelling, but this is where we get into the awfulness of the film. The story seems fairly simple on paper, but plot holes pop up constantly, making a lot of the sequences feel random and disjointed. In fact, the biggest blunder of the whole movie is the ending or lack thereof. The movie tells us what Morbius's fate at the end will be, except the story comes to an abrupt stop before it can happen. Sort of like what happens when a car drives into a giant cement wall, the movie crashes, leaving the audience in shock as to what just happened. The dialogue doesn’t help. I am convinced this is the first draft of the script. It literally has to be. The lines are so bland, cliche, and straight forward. It’s either telling the audience exactly what’s happening or what’s going to happen, or it makes a futile effort to make us laugh. The one thing it has going for it is that its attempt at humor happens less than the Venom movies. I guess that's an improvement. What could have been an interesting look at a relatively unknown character became a waste of time.
Because of the lack of an engaging script, one would assume the acting isn't anything to write home about, and it's a safe assumption here. The actors certainly acted. They did their job. But sometimes I wonder if it was unbearable for them. Let's start with the good doctor himself, Jared Leto. As usual, Leto did method acting for the role, relying on his crutches or a wheelchair offscreen in order to embrace the pain of his character. While that's admirable, it didn't pay off. There are many times where Leto seemed either bored or kind of lost as to what's happening. I think that has more to do with the script. He's doing everything right, but it comes across as corny or just unmemorable. His assistant played by Adria Adjorna is also doing everything she can to do a good job, but if Leto struggled to make a living vampire interesting, she really struggled with her role. She has less to do and is the literal definition of a supporting character--her only purpose is to support the protagonist against the antagonist. Speaking of the antagonist, Matt Smith plays Morbius' childhood friend Milo, and he at least gets to have some fun. There are a couple of times that I imagine the script said something like, "Milo did something silly like a total goofball." And my gosh, he did just that. It's as weird and out-of-place as Spider-Man dancing in front of a clothing store in Spider-Man 3. Actually, I'm pretty sure that's what they were going for. I'm not sure if they were trying to be comedic with him or not. However, I know they were trying to make Al Madrigal's character the comedic relief, to very mixed results. He literally just shows up to spat out a witty line or two, and then he's done. Honestly, if they took his character and his partner out of the movie, it probably wouldn't change a thing. I could go on, but I just feel icky criticizing these wonderful actors. They did the best they could with what they were given, and I hope they at least had a good time and a nice paycheck.
Ok, I'll try to say a few nice things before we end the review. I do think some of the cinematography, set designs, and lighting were very well done. Director Daniel Espinosa seemed to have some fun ideas when making the action scenes, although I think Sony hampered with it along the way. Most notably, there are a couple of moments where a violent thing happened, only for there to not be any blood, which resulted in shots that were just absolutely strange. Espinosa seemed to really want to make a bloody vampire movie, but Sony wanted that sweet PG-13 rating. Besides the awkwardness of the violence, there are some good shots that show off Morbius' monstrous side, most notably his first transformation. I also really liked the execution of his powers. Whenever Morbius used his powers, there's a unique, ghostly, cloudy streak that follows his movements. It's very reminiscent of the directional lines in comic books to emphasize the action. There are some moments that show off artistic creativity, but unfortunately, special effects only go so far. Special effects are meant to complement the story, but if the story isn't captivating, the special effects lose their effectiveness.
Morbius is another disappointing attempt at building a cinematic universe around the Spider-Man franchise. With its forgettable story and uninteresting characters, this vampire movie feels like it drains the life out of you. If the post credit scene is any indication, this won't be the last time we see Morbius…and Sony tarnishing the legacy of its characters.
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