Jared Leto is Michael Morbius, an esteemed genetic scientist trying to cure a rare blood disease that ails both himself and his childhood friend Milo as played by Matt Smith. So far, he has created a synthetic blood substitute. With the real prize of an absolute cure still eluding him, this is where the blood of a rare Costa Rican bat might save them. However, every scientific path to salvation can bring unforeseen side effects…
...[Jared Leto] is so insular that his performance seems to be stuck under his skin.
So, delayed several times by the pandemic, director Daniel Espinosa‘s Morbius is neither the shocker nor the scarlet-dipped surprise I had been hoping for. Instead, existing as if some purgatorial state between the irreverent glee of Tom Hardy’s Venom and faux seriousness of Zack Snyder’s DC universe, Morbius comes across as a flatter version of Dr Strange meets Spider-man. Both characters are medics and like Spider-man, an animal bite goes on to bestow him with superhuman powers. Yet, the thing that is missing is the challenge to its original character’s identity. By becoming superhuman, Spider-man must face some harsh philosophical questions and fatal consequences for his actions and yet in this adaptation of the Morbius comics, any hint of that conflict is lost.
That said, in reading the early tweets and reviews for Morbius, it is not as wholly anaemic as some other superhero entries (looking you at Josh Trank for Fantastic Four and also Halle Berry in Catwoman). Sure, it’s lacking the nuanced anti-hero pedigree that many of the other top-tier comic book characters have, but I guess that might come in time, should there be any sequels – and yes, the post-credit scene would seem to point that way but we’ll come onto that in a bit.
On the positive side, where things really start to kick off is when Morbius withholds his discovery from Matt Smith who is excellent as his childhood friend, Milo. Delivering as the wronged brother hell-bent on mayhem, it has to be said that Matt Smith comes dangerously to overshadowing the whole enterprise by clearly being the best thing in the movie. Also competing with him is Jared Harris as the boy’s guardian who similarly strolls off with the acting silverware, leaving Jared Leto shivering on the ceiling.
You see, if ever there was a case of trying-too-hard-and-yet-not-enough when it matters, then Jared Leto seems to be fast intent on making that category his own. Last seen lampooning the Italian accent in Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci, this time his Michael Morbius is so insular that his performance seems to be stuck under his skin.
That said, set aside a crate load of raspberries for Al Madrigal and Gibson as possibly the vaguest Policemen ever to cover vast distances of logic or distance whenever the script requires. Blandly and blindly buying into the whole vampires-are-actually-real schtick without a single moment of introspection or doubt, their characters harpoon the film whilst it was already listing to one side.
And then we come to tying up of ends.
You see, to survive and flourish in the superhero savannah of origin story movies, any new superhero flick can’t just be “good” – they have to be exceptional – and bizarrely it’s Morbius’s crowbarred post-credit scenes that do the most damage. Up until their arrival, the trajectory of Jared Leto’s character makes some sense and then, in a gasp of sequel-baiting obligations, everything that Jared Leto had been working for gets sacrificed.
So, here it is, your dubious mission should you choose to accept it. Watch Morbius, flaws and all and don’t wait for the post credits teasers. Don’t linger. Don’t tarry. Just walk away. Because to take in the screen any longer will undo the previous two hours of work.
You’re probably curious now, aren’t you? Well, it’s a new situation to be in. Quite often the post-credit scenes can save matters with the promise of further intrigue and a possibly better movie to follow – but, not this time.