Greetings again from the darkness. Trust the science, they said. Dr. Michael Morbius is a brilliant doctor/scientist who has devoted his life to formulating a cure for the rare and crippling blood disease he and his friend Milo were born with. This is an origin story pulled from the Marvel comic book characters created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane. The film is directed by Daniel Espinosa (LIFE 2017, SAFE HOUSE 2012) with a script adapted by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, who previously collaborated on DRACULA UNTOLD (2014) THE LAST WITCH HUNTER (2015) and GODS OF EGYPT (2016). Sometimes past work tells you what you need to know.
An opening sequence features the always cool shots of a helicopter zipping around the water and cliffs of Costa Rica, before landing at the mouth of a cave that houses zillions (I counted) of vampire bats. The brilliant Dr. Morbius (Jared Leto) plans to blend vampire at blood with human blood in his latest try at finding a cure. All of his work is funded by the ultra-rich and equally suffering Milo, both men desperate for relief from their deteriorating bodies. We flashback 25 years to a clinic in Greece where young Michael (Charlie Shotwell, CAPTAIN FANTASTIC, 2016) and Milo (Joseph Esson) first meet as they are being treated with regular blood transfusions by Dr. Nikolis (Jared Harris, “Mad Men”).
Jared Leto stars as Dr. Michael Morbius, who is known in Marvel comics as “The Living Vampire”, so we kinda know where things are headed. It’s a surprisingly subdued performance by an actor renowned for his characterizations that are anything but. His grown-up friend Milo is played by the always entertaining Matt Smith, and Morbius’ love interest and research partner is Dr. Martine Bancroft (an excellent Adria Ariona). You’ve probably guessed that the blood blend works … right up until it turns Morbius into a blood thirsty killing machine. This puts FBI agents played by Tyrese Gibson and (master of wisecracks) Al Madrigal on his trail. And yes, we know this is headed to the high noon (or midnight) showdown between childhood blood buddies and it’s the do-the-right-thing Morbius versus the ‘hey, I like this superhuman power’ Milo.
The first segment of the film does a terrific job of setting the stage, but the story, the characters, and the execution let us down for the final two acts. The fight scenes feature some of the worst special effects I’ve seen in years. Sure, the film’s release has been delayed a couple of years, but that’s no excuse for what we see. On the bright side, some of the effects do work, and Matt Smith is fun to watch in a couple of his scenes. We do wish for more of Martine’s story, and for a better story overall (after the intro). The film is part of the SSU (Sony Spider-man Universe) and perhaps its best comparison is VENOM, sans the chuckles. It’s clear this film’s mission was to set the stage for a sequel, and that becomes even more obvious in the mid-credit scenes. Normally, I wouldn’t mention this, but since the director has already discussed, and an appearance was made in SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME, I believe it’s fair game. The great Michael Keaton pops in as Adrian Toomes (aka Vulture), giving us an indication where the sequel is headed.
Opening in theaters April 1, 2022