Morbius achieves a rare double feat: Over the course of its punishing 104 minutes, Daniel Espinosa’s middling, piddling vampire epic manages to be glum, but without any dramatic heft. At the same time, it’s also groin-punchingly preposterous, but without a single ounce of kitschy fun. If good movies offer something for everyone, then Morbius serves up a silver platter of nothing for nobody. Watch this one with caution, lest you find all the blood draining from your body, as well.
Based on the Marvel anti-hero, Morbius regales us with the sad tale of Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto). As the film begins, the good doctor is slowly withering from an incurable illness. His skeletal frame can barely muster the strength to hobble on crutches. The opening scene whisks us to some exotic land, where Dr. Morbius stands at the mouth of a cave. It seems the cure for his illness can be found in the vampire bats who dwell there.
Flashback a couple decades. Sickly young Michael occupies a bed in the kind of children’s hospital where the patients either become superheroes or monstrous killers. (Or, in this film’s case, some marketable hybrid of the two.) He meets Lucien (Joseph Esson), the ward’s new kid. Michael nicknames the boy Milo, for some reason, and the boys strike up a lifelong friendship. The hospital’s chief physician (Jared Harris) spots Michael’s obvious intelligence, and ships him to a school for gifted youngsters. As Michael leaves, he vows to Milo that he will some day find a cure for them both.
Cut back to the now. Morbius is nearing that very breakthrough. Naturally, the moral and ethical implications of said cure will put place him in the same territory as Dr. Frankenstein. Still, both men are sick and tired of being sick and tired, so Morbius decides to inject himself with just a smidge of bat DNA. Dr. Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona), a colleague of Morbius, has strong objections to the procedure. But, as luck would have it, the script needs a love interest to humanize its lead character (who often comes across as a self-righteous ding dong), so Martine goes along with Morbius’s shenanigans.
You guys will never guess what happens next! The procedure goes off the rails, imbuing Morbius with the blessing and curse of vampirism: He immediately transforms into a hunky gym-rat, with bouncy pecs and flowing soap opera hair. His strength and senses get dialed to eleven. The downside? Well, Morbius also has an uncontrollable thirst for human blood. That means that every six hours or so, our anti-hero has to go find a movable feast.
Now, I don’t want to spoil the movie’s big surprise. At the same time, this milk is already nice and curdled. The best I can do is tell you not to drink from this stanky carton in the first place. Still, if you insist, I’ll just say Morbius pulls a twist in its choice of villain. I mean, this is a hangin’ curveball you’ll spot from a mile away. And the way this character breaks bad on a dime is one of the most ludicrous things about this movie, and that is sayin’ something, my friends.
Honestly, I’m still trying to process Morbius‘s awesome badness. I feel like the computer in my head still has that hourglass spinning in the middle of the screen. (And the blue screen of death is still a distinct possibility, you guys.) My mind pores every terrible component of this movie: That starts with Leto’s bizarre performance, which makes Morbius feel like a creepy yoga instructor who doesn’t know when to stop hitting on his clients. Like much of his recent work, I can’t tell if Leto is great or terrible. If he’s truly dicking with the audience, I might add a full star to this review. That goes ditto for Matt Smith, as the adult version of Milo. His character does a smarmy, shirtless vampire dance, and it has to be seen to be believed. Toss in the scene where Morbius flies through a subway tunnel like a floating spider monkey, and you all the makings of a camp masterpiece. If they still do bad movie festivals in a post-Covid world, Morbius might become a staple.
104 min. PG-13. In theaters only.