Friday, April 1, 2022


Opening this weekend...

Morbius--Jared Leto certainly has the physique and facial bones to play the title character in this Marvel flick. His performance as the hapless vampiric hematologist is good, too; quiet and haunted yet not oppressive, tinged with grim humor. The movie, however, could use a transfusion of originality platelets.

Michael Morbius, the cadaverous "Living Vampire," was introduced in comics in the early '70s as a nemesis to Spider-Man...

...and eventually headlined Marvel titles of his own. Like Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows, he was a reluctant and tormented blood-drinker. Michael had brought on his condition, which includes superhuman strength and batlike gliding and echolocation ability, through a serum intended to cure the rare blood disease that was killing him. He craved blood but didn't want to hurt anyone, and, as with The Lizard (with whom Morbius notably clashed), Spidey empathized with him and tried not to harm him.

There are other strong performances in the film, directed by Daniel Espinosa from a script by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (the team behind 2014's Dracula Untold). Matt Smith slyly plays Milo, Michael's mega-rich pal and research patron, who suffers from the same disease and soon notices the same side effects from Michael's serum, but feels less guilt over his bloodlust. Adria Arjona has a lovely sober quality as Martine, Michael's partner and romantic interest; her gravity seems to bring out a hint of playfulness in Leto.

I really wanted to like this one; I'm fond of the comic character. And for the first half or so it cruises along enjoyably enough, though there's nothing really new to it, just standard spooky gothic flourishes. The corn is as high as a vampire's eye, too; repeatedly, when they're in bloodsucker mode, both Michael and Milo strike a scary pose and go "RAAAAAH!" like the bully kid in A Christmas Story, and after a while they seem like the performers in a Halloween haunted house.

Then, as the movie progresses, the questionable logic increases. Why, for instance, would a boat on which secret medical experiments were being conducted require a large team of heavily armed mercenaries? Why would Michael want to commandeer a counterfeiting workshop's equipment to adapt into scientific equipment?

In the later scenes, as Michael and Milo battle in the shadowy streets of New York--The Batman has nothing on this movie for gloominess--Morbius descends into an unexciting muddle. It has a truncated, cut-down feel to it, a suspicion supported by the presence of scenes in the trailer that didn't show up in the finished film.

The most disappointing of these is the paucity of Michael Keaton, as Adrian Toomes aka The Vulture; he's shown in the trailer and I figured that if nothing else worked in the movie, Keaton would at least goose a little life into it. But [spoiler alert!] he only appears very briefly at the very end, and adds almost nothing to the picture (unless I nodded off when he said it, even the line he speaks in the trailer was cut). In the sequel, if there is a sequel, I certainly hope Keaton gets a much bigger role.

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