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Review: Dear God, Put Us Out of ‘Morbius’ Misery

To say the Morbius joke has gone on too long is an understatement. After all, the movie was released on April 1st, more than two months ago. It struggled at the box office and became a punchline on the internet. The subject of many memes, Morbius did not find its audience. So it was a surprise when Sony/Columbia announced the film would return to 1000 theaters in the first weekend of June. How would the film fair this time around, and would I go and watch it? The answer to the second question was, unfortunately, yes.

For those unaware, Morbius follows the story of Doctor Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), a scientist suffering from genetic diseases. In hopes of curing himself and his best friend Lucien/Milo (Matt Smith), Leto performs illegal experiments and trials that may offer him a cure for his disorder. With the help of Milo’s money and fellow doctor Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona), Morbius begins human trials for a new treatment for himself. However, the formula does not have the intended effect, instead of turning him into a creature that obtains vampiric powers. After feeding on the boat’s crew and discovering new bodies are turning up in New York, Morbius must race against the clock to find a cure to his latest condition.

My Morbius nightmare over, having gone to see it for a second time, I had reaffirmed my feelings towards the film. I initially saw the movie on its opening day. Bad buzz was abound, but I had avoided reviews to have as clean of a viewing experience as possible. I did not have a visceral reaction to the quality when it was over. While I had not been overly impressed, I thought it was flat. Nothing had been so bad it appalled me, and nothing wowed me. I had hoped that two months would help the air clear and potentially open the door for a better viewing experience. I was wrong.

Morbius remains a shockingly dull and boring film. Most of the issues stem from the early 2000s approach to the film. As Morbius progresses, the active campaign to distance its characters from their comic book origins becomes increasingly frustrating. One wonders why Daniel Espinosa was interested in the film if he simply wanted to strip the comic book content from it at every turn. Instead, Morbius intends to be a tragedy with an edgy protagonist that wallows in black and gray costumes. The lack of color extends to most scenes, with the lone exception coming during flying sequences (where purple and orange accents help liven the film). The film actively chooses the most tedious path for the story at nearly every opportunity.

The action sequences quickly become the highlight of the film, adding some of the only dynamic visuals to the film as a whole. However, they are often bogged down by the inconsistent CGI throughout the film. Slow-motion streaks appear in the sky when Morbius flies, but when he fights a second vampire, the colors blend together to create a sludge that runs across the screen. Even when the film gets this right, it fumbles away an interesting gimmick. The CG only gets worse, especially during transformations that make Angel look like An American Werewolf in London-level makeup.

Leto can be blamed for most issues, but there’s too much wrong to lay it all on his shoulders. He does little to lift the material, but there’s not much to the screenplay. After all, either he ad-libbed “the stinky pinky” line, or it was in the script from the start. Either way, not ideal. Additionally, he appears bored on-screen, which extends to sequences with Arojna. Leto and Arjona have no chemistry, despite the film telling us ad nauseum that they do.

Perhaps the only good aspect of the film comes from Smith. He seems to get the movie’s vibe on the page, even as everyone else around him turns it into a laborious task. His energy is infectious and overcomes the tedious aspects of the film, but his lack of screen time forces us to wait for his return. He plays a Verbal Kint moment well, and sadly the film lets him die on a vine (instead of finding ways to incorporate him more in the movie).

The actual text of the film suffers from illogical moments from most of its characters and apparent studio interference. There’s a question about whether the studio stripped even more extraneous plotlines from the film or if they realized that any longer in the theater was only going to have audiences even angrier about the time they would lose to this film.

Morbius suffers from a case of the doldrums, and with very few opportunities for the cast to liven up the material, the movie simply languishes towards an unappealing ending. When you then tack on the worst back-to-back post-credit scenes of the last decade, Morbius achieves nothing and becomes too forgettable to build a franchise on its discarded bones. Sadly, the fiasco and the memes will force us all to waste our breathe on a film that does not deserve the slightest attention.

Alan’s Grade: 2 out of 10

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