★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Daniel Espinosa.
It’s a new form of vampirism! It’s vampirism without vampires! Morbius is that oh-so-special vampire that’s content with Gatorade mountain blueberry blast-looking blood and who doesn’t burst in to flames every time he sees a crucifix. The dawning of a new and decidedly less malevolent Dracula.
Morbius, taken straight from the pages of The Amazing Spiderman, first burst on to the scene as a Spidey-foe, 51 years ago. Over the years Dr. Michael Morbius would go through a number of character changes as he dealt with both his conflicted relationship with vampirism as well as the cure to his blood-borne malady.
The film, which largely follows the original two story Spidey-arch, introduces Dr. Morbius (Jared Leto) as he searches high and low for a cure to his baffling blood disease. Not just himself, mind you, but for all the other kids he’s encountered throughout his life dealing with the same crippling trauma. His research, drive, and tenacity all point him to financial greatness in the world of hematology. Eventually Dr. Morbius stumbles upon a concoction involving DNA pieces and parts from — you guessed it — vampire bats!
Pseudo-science aside, the Marvel medical magic that wafts over Morbius is rather thin, rather patronizing, and as my 11-year old son pointed out “…I’m pretty sure that’s not how science works.” But Morbius is both immediately undeterred and deeply conflicted about the vampire monster that he manufactured out of his normally weakened state.
Eventually Morbius is faced with a villain, of sorts, in the form of his old childhood pal who suffers from the same blood-related malady. He too takes the bat potion and turns in to a super-vampire. This ultimately becomes a case of not all Marvel villains being equal. His vampire foe is barely menacing, a little annoying, and never really threatening. While it’s nice to see Marvel moving from the tried and true “THE WORLD IS ENDING AND THE PLANET IS GOING TO EXPLODE” trope, it’s also a pretty underwhelming story.
Marvel has it’s share of lesser-known characters and that’s fine. Not everyone gets their day in the sun. Just as the Marvel disco-heroine Dazzler doesn’t need a film, Morbius probably didn’t need a shot on the big screen. Actually a Dazzler film does sound pretty darn cool…but we digress.
Morbius as a film is a competent outing that looks well put together. Great title sequences, alongside a wonderful soundtrack from Jon Ekstrand, give Morbius a really coo sheen. Unfortunately, there’s very little story behind this sheen and we’re left with a passably interesting character.
Most importantly, there’s no horror. We’re not talking Hereditary, Exorcist, or Halloween-level horror either. Even the horror basics have been stripped out of Morbius. There are no scares — jump scares or otherwise. The villain isn’t frightening, the vampirism is underplayed, and we’re left with a weird on/off vampiric transformation that seems to flicker like a fading light bulb.
We fully understand that Marvel is beholden to a PG-13 mindset and will unlikely ever offer us a real honest-to-god horror show. It’s just sad to think that they’d take a truly horrifying character and wipe away the horror. Maybe this is a testament for slowly goading children in to the horror genre, but what it really tastes like is a fantastically missed opportunity.
Morbius is PG-13 and available everywhere!