Morbius has all the signs of a troubled film production

Thin, disposable secondary characters and a lack of laughs render this Spider-Man villain sub-franchise a sketchy mess.

31 March 2022

By Kim Newman

Jared Leto in Morbius (2022)Jared Leto in Morbius (2022) © Courtesy of Sony
Sight and Sound

Moribus is in UK cinemas now. 

Considered a Spider-Man dependent in the rights split between Disney/Marvel and Sony, Morbius has something of a career independent of Peter Parker, but his film debut doesn’t pursue any of his solo storylines. Instead, Morbius follows the Venom films – Sony’s other stab at giving a Spider-Man villain his own sub-franchise – by hurrying through an origin story.

Ailing genius Morbius tries to cure his blood disease with an experimental serum derived from vampire bats. By 1971, Marvel were already recycling: Jared Leto’s Morbius is easy to confuse with Curt Connors (who first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #6, November 1963 and was played by Rhys Ifans in The Amazing Spider-Man and Spider Man No Way Home) a character who regrows his missing arm thanks to an experimental serum derived from lizards. In both cases, there are monstrous side-effects.

Evidently a troubled production – one giveaway is that snippets in the trailers aren’t in the finished film – Morbius probably went wrong in the planning stage. Leto is an acceptable Jekyll-Hyde hero-villain and CGI renders him into an approximation of Morbius’ flat-nosed, jokeshop-fangs look – though his mode of flight involves smokebursts more like the X-Men’s teleporting Nightcrawler than anything vampirish.

The film falls back on a cobwebbed plot formula (found in The Incredible Hulk but also both Venom movies and many others) whereby the semi-monster protagonist triggers the transformation of a secondary character (here, Matt Smith’s Milo) into a nastier doppelganger who acts out atrocities the hero is able to refrain from. When first in vampire mode, Morbius kills and drains a boatload of mercenaries the audience (and the in-film FBI) don’t care about, but Milo vampirises a single mother/nurse, which motivates the redeemable monster to clash with the irredeemable one.

With extremely thin, disposable secondary characters and repetitive bouts of snarling pixel clouds tearing into each other, Morbius is a sketchy mess – bereft of the humour and oddness that partially redeems Tom Hardy’s Venom outings. The regulation end credits stings promise further developments and a Kraven the Hunter film is in the offing, but this stalled vehicle is most likely to put Morbius back in his coffin for a long rest.

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