The 2022 epic Morbius was in cinemas the same time as Matt Reeve’s The Batman and it’s embarrassing to say so. Directed by Daniel Espinosa (who is known for 2017’s Life and 2012’s Safe House), Morbius sticks out in his filmography like a sore thumb, as he tries to find his feet into the over-saturated Superhero film market.
Featuring 30 Seconds to Mars frontman and cult leader Jared Leto, Morbius is filled with questionable filmmaking choices and odd script writing. It’s not offensively bad like some films can be, but it does make you think about the point of its existence, and about what this film is trying to achieve in the grand scope of Sony’s “Spiderman Universe” that they are trying to force feed down our throats with other mediocore films such as Venom (2018) and future projects they have planned.
The problem with Morbius can be summarised within the first ten minutes of the film. The first three minutes show Michael Morbius arriving on a random cliffside in the middle of nowhere gathering bats. Then after this, we are given a 25 year flashback introducing Morbius as a child, and his fellow friend Milo (Matt Smith). We then cut back to the present day (25 years later), and now Morbius is at an awards ceremony, completely different to the cliffside location where he was seven minutes ago. Why did the director, writers, and editors feel the need for this flashforward-flashback-flashforward? This narrative device ruins the pacing of the film before it has even begun, and foreshadows future editing problems the film is plagued with.
All throughout the film jump-cut editing is used to link together scenes that have no relation to each other, leading to some confusing sequences that don’t make any sense. While watching, I genuinely thought some scenes had been cut out of the film to try and squeeze it into an hour and a half run time, similar to Venom: Let There Be Carnage which was released the year before. With Morbius though, this doesn’t work. It’s confusing at some points, particularly later on in the film. For example, when the film cuts from a medium shot of Morbius’s assistant – Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona) – staring out of her apartment window, to her then being chased by a detective and ending up on a random bus that Morbius is also coincidentally on. With no explanation.
The plot of this film is all over the place. It’s clear with the amount of jump cuts featured here that the filmmakers wanted to try and jump directly into the action without developing their characters or the world around them. You would have no idea that this was part of Spiderman’s Universe if it wasn’t for them advertising it as so, or for the lame ‘Daily Bugle’ being splattered about throughout the film. It’s like “hey guys this is the Daily Bugle! You know, the newspaper from Spiderman!” I know they are trying to be cool with this, but it makes me want to watch Spiderman instead.
You would also have no idea that this is a ‘Superhero’ film without outside knowledge. Is Morbius even a Superhero? If anything he is more like a villain because of his necessity for eating humans. The film never plays with this moral dilemma he finds himself in, instead it forces a lacklustre villain into the role of ‘evil’, which is ultimately stupid in the end as Morbius embraces the vampire he has become – effectively relegating him to being a human eater for the rest of his life.
The film never fully explores the themes it tries to implement, which leads to a mess of genre hybridity. Sometimes it tries to be a horror film, then an action film, then a Superhero film, then an anti-hero film, then a straight up vampire romance flick that makes Twilight look good. I have no idea what this film is trying to achieve or what it is trying to make me feel, and I don’t think the filmmakers had any idea what they were going for either.
The script is also bad and doesn’t make any sense. Milo, Morbius’s best friend is the worst affected character by the script. His real name is Lucian, and Morbius just gives him the name Milo because he genuinely can’t be arsed learning his real name. So why does Lucian’s doctor keep calling him Milo?! It makes no sense. This might be a minor thing, but it urkes me the wrong way. Milo is also the main villain for the film, and his primary motivation for wanting to kill humans and eat them is the fact he was bullied as a child for being ill. We are shown this briefly within the first ten minutes of the film, and then never again. Due to him being bullied as a child for approximately one minute, he wants to kill innocent civilians that have had no interaction with him at all. That have no idea of his existence or the trauma he has been through. Before turning into a vampire, he seemed like a nice guy, now he is a questionable character who doesn’t make any sense. It’s pretty mad to go from a normal human to a raging vampire who wants to kill everybody with the only development being that you were beaten up and made fun of 25 years ago.
It also bugs me that his primary motivation is the fact children who bullied him for being ill. Who does that?! I genuinely refuse to believe children can be that evil to make fun of someone for being terminally ill! That’s like making fun of someone for having cancer! Even as a child you know what is going too far, and I just feel like this is so out of the realms of possibility and that it’s a stupid motivation that it makes Milo being the villain dumb. Also the fact that it happened 25 years ago! Grow up man. Kids are stupid, get over yourself. You don’t need to take it out on people that have no idea who you are. Milo is an underdeveloped, laughably poor villain that I feel no sympathy towards.
The film’s setting is also a mad one. At the beginning of the film when Morbius is in hospital, I thought he was in Italy or somewhere like that due to the architecture and lighting, but no he is supposed to be in New York! Then later on in the film, when he is fighting Milo in the subway, it is so clearly the London Underground that it removed me from the experience. Take a film like The Batman, a film that uses various location shots from Liverpool (UK) and seamlessly blends it into the film’s world without taking you out of the experience. Morbius can’t do this, and instead takes one of the most recognisable underground locations in the world and tries to play it off like it’s in New York!
I guess it was out of the realms of possibility for the special effects team to try and change the locale and make it more Americanised and reminiscent of something found over there, and you can tell because the rest of the effects in the film suck too. Whether it’s Jared Leto or Matt Smith’s faces shapeshifting into a vampire, or the poor use of slow-mo and CGI during fighting sequences, you can’t help but feel sorry for the team that they thought this was passable. It gives embarrassing B movie vibes, and that’s the nicest thing I can say about it.
Ending on a positive note, I found the acting to be decent. There wasn’t anything wrong with Jared Leto as the lead, or Matt Smith as the villain. I found their child actors to be rather poor though, they’re so static it’s like they’re reading directly off the page. I think there is supposed to be some comedy in here (like Morbius proclaiming he is Venom to a random person), but all the actors take themselves so seriously that it is hard to muster up the energy to even let out a light smile, which is a shame.
Morbius is not so bad it’s good, and it’s not a good film either, it is simply bad. Filled with questionable filmmaking choices, this film will quickly be forgotten about by almost everybody once the memes die down and the “Sony Spiderverse” implodes on itself. I would not be sad if we never received another Morbius film again, or if Sony sneakily wrote out Morbius from their Universe and pretended that the awful mid-credit scene (which doesn’t make any sense) never happened.