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Morbius review – not so super | reviews, news & interviews

Morbius review – not so super

Morbius review – not so super

The anti-hero's hurried debut is an opportunity lost

Bad blood: Jared Leto in 'Morbius'

Following the much-maligned Venom (2018) and Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021), the third film in Sony’s Spider-Man Universe stars Jared Leto as Nobel Prize-winning scientist Dr Michael Morbius. Suffering from a rare blood condition that threatens to take his life, Morbius self-enrols in an experimental cure, combining his DNA with that of a vampire bat and so destining himself for a future as a living vampire.

Symptoms of Morbius’s newfound condition are as follows: super-human speed, super-human strength, echolocation and, as he ultimately discovers, flight. Morbius, for all intents and purposes, is a bat-man.

The caveat? Like his animal donors, Morbius finds himself dependent on an atypical single-food diet. Blood, specifically of the human variety, is a must-have for the doctor if he is to stave off his underlying ill-health and keep at bay the primal monster that now lies dormant within. Artificial blood, upon which Morbius has established his medical reputation, is a useful makeshift. But not only does it lack potency, it delivers increasingly diminishing returns. It is within the context of this "kill or be killed" ultimatum that Morbius generates its tension.

First mentioned in The Amazing Spider-Man #101 comic, Morbius is the eponymous figure’s screen debut. An uncommon privilege within a genre that seems to throw up re-boots with ever-increasing frequency, this blank slate offers director Daniel Espinosa a unique opportunity for imaginative character development. It is one he ignores, however, opting instead for a hurried backstory that sees Morbius rapidly propelled from his ill-sketched youth, spent in a children’s medical facility in Greece, to New York.

The result leaves the audience feeling cheated, for what is given in time (and ticket entry) is never repaid; the doctor, devoid of depth, generates only the most superficial of emotional engagements. Like a more developed spidey-sense, Morbius’s echolocation is one of Marvel’s more unorthodox superpower creations – and initially, at least, special effects are put to good use to visualize this on screen. Over-indulgence quickly sets in, however, and the effect is quickly lessened.

We aren’t the only ones unsure of who we’re dealing with. Falling somewhere in the vague category of anti-hero, Morbius struggles to come to terms with his own identity. But, like Espinosa, he prefers to brush the issue away. Asked by one unfortunate petty criminal “Who the fuck are you?”, Morbius replies: “I am… Venom” (one of several indiscreetly placed easter eggs). (Pictured above: Jared Leto as Dr Morbius)

Morbius’s childhood friend and fellow patient Milo suffers no such problem. Instead, rendered with Matt Smith’s trademark quirkiness, his revelry in bloodlust fulfils the apparent need for a more textbook villain and gifts the film with some of its most memorable scenes. In one, the freshly cured Milo dances around a walk-in-wardrobe fixing his suit-and-tie and combing his hair, as if to recall the maniacal Patrick Bateman of Mary Harron's American Psycho (2000).

Before viewing, one might have figured the role as Morbius as a strong fit for Leto, whose award-winning performances as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club (2013) and, more recently, the eccentric Paolo Gucci in Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci (2021), should on paper translate well into this bloodsucking mad scientist. Sadly, his own performance is conservative, even austere. With it, Morbius joins the glaring disappointments of Suicide Squad (2016) and the yakuza drama The Outsider (2018) as the latest instalment in a hit-and-miss career.

Devoid of depth, 'Morbius' generates only the most superficial of emotional engagements


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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