Coming off the high of breathing life back into cinema with ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, Sony Pictures releases ‘Morbius’ which proves dead on arrival.
Such are the slings and arrows of fate when making or viewing franchise blockbusters. Creativity pumps in the veins of the people who made this, but search the film and there is barely a pulse to be found.
Jared Leto stars, (and think how rarely he actually does that) in this comic book movie about the brilliant Doctor Morbius with a crippling disease who, in experimenting with a cure, is essentially cursed with the powers and broodiness of a vampire.
Early on, two characters with walking sticks and crutches make their way through a crowded New York Street comfortable in their banter and pace. A casual observation of their friendship and their challenges that shows the themes of the story and an ambition on the part of the filmmakers. If you had been at death’s door your whole life and then became superhuman would you be happy to kill to live? A scenario played out in countless vampire tales but given a fresh coat of paint here.
Director Daniel Espinosa enjoys himself, choosing a colour palette that is dark and moody. He frames his actor in close-ups, revelling in their sickly gaunt pale faces and then their ravenous beastly visages. Callbacks to Dracula and Frankenstein and a gazillion horror films are on display here. Staying true to the concept, depictions of the character’s superhuman powers are lovingly realised and even a little gross.
Jared here affects a genuine doctor’s bedside manner; he cares deeply about the lives of others while only softening his demeanour in flickers. Arrogant and aloof, comfortable more with research than human relationships and yet driven reckless in pursuit of saving others.
Vampires throughout their lore have been inescapably sensual, what with the exchange of fluids and the pumping of blood and all that. This may be the first time we have ever encountered a vampire who, despite his inevitable 'I got ripped at the gym' shirtless scene, is pathologically sexless. A clearly intended choice to contrast against the villain enjoying his powers and giving into his id, although even that guy seems to be more interested in feeding than, well. . . You get the idea.
The notes are all there on the page, but the music never sings. Speaking of, Jon Ekstrand’s score could not be accused of being subtle, yet it brings a little verve to proceedings. Tonally the film is all over the place, alternating between comedic lines and brooding dissertations. Comic relief can bring a welcome sense of fun, but not when in denial of a character’s emotional truth.
The feature also alternates in scale, an early scene on a mountaintop is painfully obvious blue screen with a prop helicopter spinning rotors so slowly none of the actors pay it mind. Over the first half, locations are limited and confined, even after Dr Morbius gains his powers, he mostly works out of a lab. That is an interesting reflection of his professional approach, but not really exciting! Then, the film literally takes flight over the New York City skyline and suddenly the money is there on the screen.
It seems very much that Jared, Daniel, and all involved wanted to give us a vampire, and a comic book movie, with a difference. That is commendable, but ‘Morbius’ fails to excite, a perfectly disposable blockbuster in the conveyor belt of blockbusters that not even a Michael Keaton cameo can save.