Even “Dracula Untold” from the ill-fated Dark Universe did a vampire origin story better.
The movie follows the titular character Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), who’s lived with a debilitating blood illness his whole life. It’s something he shares with his surrogate brother Lucien (Matt Smith), with the two meeting at a hospital as children to be treated for the same disease.
As adults, Lucien has become a wealthy businessman while Michael is a world-renowned doctor specialized in treating blood-related diseases. Michael’s latest experiment to treat illnesses, including his own, turns out to be a mistake, though, as he is transformed into a vampire.
What a wasted opportunity. Here was a chance to make an interesting, moody picture, and the “Morbius” creative team instead put out the most cookie cutter comic book adaptation in recent memory.
It’s true that many superhero origin films follow a similar playbook, but usually the director, writer and rest of the crew can give it a unique style or throw in some curveballs. “Morbius,” meanwhile, feels like the bare minimum.
It’s so paint-by-numbers, to the point where a person can pinpoint who the villain will be, when they will become a bad guy and what will be the end result. If a movie is going to go on such a generic path, at least up the flair factor.
There have been plenty of comic book-based films that have embraced dark and Gothic aspects, while boasting noir elements. “The Crow” from 1994, as well as Tim Burton’s “Batman” movies and the first two “Blade” films, included these aspects, enhancing them and making them memorable pieces of cinema.
Unlike those features, “Morbius” is rather lacking in style. Outside of a blueish-grey color palette, the movie is void of the grit and bleakness that could’ve given it a more unique visual identity.
Likely the most disappointing part of the whole production is the film’s star, Academy Award winner Jared Leto. He’s shown a great deal of range in the last decade, from “Dallas Buyers Club,” to the new “Blade Runner 2049” and last year’s “House of Gucci.”
Even Leto’s performance as the Joker in “Suicide Squad” was memorable. The film didn’t utilize him correctly, yet Leto did provide the character with plenty of personality and with a few tweaks to the villain’s appearance, that Joker could have been much more well received.
Yet in this film, Leto’s Morbius seems lifeless, and not just because the character becomes a vampire. It’s fine to have a protagonist in this type of role be the quiet, subdued, brooding type of character, but Leto doesn’t even reach that level.
Leto seems more stilted because of the script and direction, though. As the film goes on, it seems like the character was being pulled in a few directions. At some points, Morbius appears to be a brash rebel, with him publicly turning down a Nobel Prize.
Yet he’s also an anxious, saddened, gloomy character at points, a major difference from the confident and somewhat arrogant scientist he is at other times in the movie. This inconsistency ultimately dooms the character and Leto’s portrayal.
The unfortunate thing is Morbius is one of the better characters of the film. Morbius’ girlfriend, for example, is basically interchangeable with any of the other women sidekick characters who’ve become a staple of this genre. Adria Arjona who portrays the character isn’t bad, she’s just given little to actually do.
However, the worst performance in the movie comes from Tyrese Gibson, who plays an FBI agent investigating the cases related to Morbius’ vampiric activities. Gibson does nothing more than keep the same grumpy expression and mutter some detective babble.
Gibson never seems to react to what’s going on around him. He sees what is clearly a superhuman and possible mythical creature and he looks like he’s watching paint dry. Why take an actor who can bring so much energy to a role and place them in a position to do nothing more than be stoic.
One can’t even appreciate the movie as a big budget action romp, since a viewer can’t really see what’s happening on screen. During the action scenes, the vampire characters have a misty aura around them, created by CGI, and it makes all of the fights look blurry.
Those looking for any iconic action set pieces will be disappointed. As will people interested in seeing more intense, bloody vampire battles, since “Morbius” is limited in what it can show by its PG-13 rating.
There are few, if any, redeeming qualities that makes “Morbius” worth watching. The movie is a disaster, and if not for its capable cast, would have been hard to finish. 1 out of 5.