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'Morbius' review: A comic book movie you can surely skip

A poorly made and long-delayed movie with a ghostly lead performance in an overstuffed genre equals "hard pass" from this St. Louis film critic.
Credit: Sony Motion Pictures Group/Marvel

A biochemist with a rare blood disease tries to cure himself of a deadly ailment, yet accidentally infects himself with a form of vampirism instead. Moviegoers went into "Morbius" to cure themselves of a lack of entertainment but accidentally infected themselves with a bad movie instead.

Daniel Espinosa's film isn't awful by definition, but it's another reminder that when a comic book adaptation is produced poorly and without a real identity, the stink is much worse when you leave the theater. Since Hollywood is feeding off the overload of comic flicks at the moment, we can expect this ratio to hold up. All one can really hope for is that future products are better than "Morbius."

Played by Jared Leto with only a small quiver of personality, Dr. Michael Morbius has spent his entire life hunting for a cure to a blood condition that affects him and his best friend, Milo (Matt Smith). Michael is smart and cunning yet running out of time so when a test of a new drug on a mouse reviews a level of success, the good doctor gambles with the hopes of curing not only him and his friend, but everybody else dealing with the problem. If you've watched one of these types of movies before, you know things do not go according to plan.

As a man reborn into something he's not quite sure of, Leto doesn't run with the role. He seems more confused and hesitant than usual. Gone is the guy who invented four different accents in "House of Gucci," and in his place is a guy staring down a paycheck performance that took years to find audiences due to the pandemic. Michael's eyes start to change shape and color when he flips to vampire mode; only if the movie got better too. In some cases, an Oscar-winning star can save a pile of junk like this. Instead, it looks like he filmed this while on tour with 30 Seconds to Mars.

One can only wonder if he had switched roles with the charismatic Smith, who seems to be acting in another movie entirely. Initially, Smith's Milo is a feeble yet earnest friend of Michael's who hopes there is a cure. Once in possession, Milo becomes this dancing, bumbling Joker type. I didn't buy it. The filmmakers could have really dug into the construct of a friendship dissolving into madness, but it just follows the playbook written by other, much better movies.

Outside of a couple impressive special effects sequences, nothing in "Morbius" is fresh. It's recycled, familiar, and worst of all, forgettable. The feeling given is that this is a movie Sony and Marvel pushed out into the lion's pit to be devoured by critics, even releasing it fully into theaters on April Fool's Day. But it's not a joke. The movie isn't good at all.

It also rips off themes and action setups from "The Matrix," and not in a "that's cool" sort of way. Seeing Leto's face shift from human to mad vamp loses its allure after a couple glimpses, and the same goes for Smith. Their makeup jobs aren't bad, but way too campy for the movie they're in. Little fits together in Espinosa's movie, which remarkably only has two sets of hands on the screenplay.

Those showing up expecting a decent portion of Michael Keaton's superb villain Adrian Toomes from "Spider-Man: Homecoming" will be disappointed when he shows up very late. Tyrese Gibson and Al Madrigal's hapless cops also seem to be in another remote B-movie about cops always being three steps behind. The esteemed Jared Harris is wasted in a supporting role, playing a part only created to prop up the angst between the hero and his adversary.

There are two credits sequences, both of which add little to the story, even if they do try and tease a sequel. Now, few people I know would confuse me with a gambler but a long-delayed movie with a ghostly lead performance with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 19% may not garner a second look. "Morbius" isn't the movie you need to forget exists altogether, but it definitely should be the sixth choice at your neighborhood Redbox in a few weeks.

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