The movies come out with the plot of Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) trying to treat his unique blood illness by infusing vampire bat DNA into himself. The scheme succeeds, but it also transforms him into a bloodthirsty superhuman. He has control over his bloodlust, but his similarly afflicted closest buddy Milo (Matt Smith), who exploits his talents for evil, does not.
After watching the whole movie, here are some thoughts that came to my mind. You have to hand it to Sony – the Spider-Verse (or, as they call it, Sony’s Spider-Man Universe) has far exceeded everyone’s expectations. Venom and its sequel overcame some negative reviews to become box office smashes, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse went on to become a classic. The sky is the limit now that Spider-Man: No Way Home has opened the door for the expanded Spidey world to mix with the legitimate MCU franchise lead by Tom Holland. Morbius was shot before No Way Home, but there are enough hints here to place it within the expanded Spider-Man universe, implying that Leto’s Morbius may face off against Spider-Man in the near future. However, after audiences watch this long-awaited superhero film, they will undoubtedly wonder which version is the best.
Morbius reminds me of the Venom movies. This is light, fast-paced superhero action that runs a lean 100 minutes, which is more modest in size than anything in the MCU. It’ll probably cost a third of what No Way Home did, so don’t anticipate a large-scale superhero epic. Morbius, on the other hand, assuming you don’t mind a minor addition to the franchise, works rather well as entertainment.
Michael Morbius is played by Jared Leto, who is likable. He’s rarely seen in heroic roles, preferring instead to play villains, yet he’s delightfully clear as the valiant Morbius before his metamorphosis. Morbius is shown as a caring doctor who wants to help others, despite the fact that he is aware that his life is on the point of being cut short by his sickness. In detailing his connection with Adria Arjona’s Martine, he also bristles at his physical constraints. She’s a medical associate with a large torch, but he refuses to accompany her since he believes he’ll die shortly. His only true connection is with Milo, played by Matt Smith, a similarly troubled millionaire who finances his work. Simultaneously, Jared Harris, who has been underused, portrays their father figure, a doctor who is Milo’s full-time caregiver.
The bond between Morbius and Milo helps to ground the picture, and the latter’s final turn into a villain adds a layer of sadness to our hero’s struggle against his sole true friend. Leto demonstrates a physicality we haven’t seen in many of his previous performances once Morbius grows powerful, with him unbelievably chiseled while he gets to mix it up in a few brief battle sequences. Morbius‘ metamorphosis into a vampire is done with CGI, with the vampire half of the character peeking out whenever he starts to want human blood. Leto is a contentious personality, but I believe he will appeal to a large number of people in this town. He’s even low-key at times.
Meanwhile, Matt Smith appears to be having a blast playing the scenery-eating baddie, purposely going over the top as Milo comes to appreciate his new abilities. Similarly, director Daniel Espinosa has a good time with the comic book origins. The cinematography gives it a bright, vivid aesthetic that’s a big cry from something like The Batman, which has a more noirish style. Espinosa also embraces the plot’s horror elements, including an iris-out at one point and staging one particularly interesting assault scenario in the style of An American Werewolf in London.
Morbius, on the other hand, has a few flaws. Both Harris and Arjona are noticeably underutilized. Both characters are absent for long periods of the film and might have benefited from greater screen time. Tyrese and Al Madrigal portray a fighting cop couple who bring little to the story other than a little tacked-on comedy relief. Tyrese shouldn’t be in a film like this if he’s not going to have any action. Morbius likewise rushes to its conclusion, much like the last Venom feature, as if they were running out of time and needed to tie things up swiftly. I wish Sony had increased the budget a little more to give the character a bigger debut, but keeping it modest means it won’t need to open to The Batman levels to be a success and sustain the franchise.
In the end, Morbius is a nice enough start for Sony’s upcoming Spider-Man installment. While I doubt fans would be clamoring for him to join the MCU straight soon, it would be interesting to see him appear in another Spider-Man spin-off, especially if Sony can get Andrew Garfield to reprise the role in a legitimate The Amazing Spider-Man 3 film.