Jared Leto is more of an enigma than a chameleon. Although he can hit that sweet spot between an on-screen annoyance and critical acclaim, his off-screen antics are infamous to the point where he can potentially become a liability. Morbius isn’t exactly one of those cases, but Leto isn’t enough to elevate the schlock.
The problem with Morbius mostly lies at the feet of the separate Sony Spider-Man universe. As a comic fan, one could argue that Morbius himself is a supporting character that’s best played off of other people, like Spider-Man and Blade. But with a starring vehicle that’s paying the big bucks to Jared Leto, it obviously can’t adhere to that principle and suffers from it.
I’m not quite sure what Sony is doing here, other than attempting to do the bare minimum to keep the rights to these characters. In at least one spoiler sequence that was teased in the trailer campaign, it’s maddening to see how tenuous the link really is. Morbius is very similar to 2014’s Dracula Untold (another tent pole vampire story), in that it’s clearly setting up bigger events without being able to stand on its own.
We get a very basic vampire origin story here, with Jared Leto as Michael Morbius curing his rare blood condition via what I can only describe as hokey “scientific vampirism.” At the crux of the tale is the relationship between Michael and Milo (Matt Smith), who grew up in the same hospital with the same condition. We’re meant to immediately become attached to them as “brothers” in the first half, which sets up the conflict therein when they embrace their vampiric nature in different ways. I just don’t buy their relationship on and off the screen, despite their decent individual performances.
“Morbius is very similar to 2014’s Dracula Untold (another tent pole vampire story), in that it’s clearly setting up bigger events without being able to stand on its own.”
Even for vampire fans, it’s all really tiring outside a few action sequences that depict his powers in a few fun ways (the smoke trails are a nice touch, as is his eco-location ability depicted by a visual pulse). Notably, the film simply takes itself way too seriously. We’re meant to sympathize with Morbius dealing with his condition (now, essentially two conditions), but with a distinct lack of lightning, we’re unable to properly follow along when it counts.
I don’t want to see Morbius run away from endless and faceless FBI agents and soldiers: I want to see him tangle mentally and physically with someone formidable like Spider-Man. Possibly in a non-PG-13 format.
Of course, there’s plenty of obvious exposition from Leto on how his powers work via a lengthy audio log sequence. It even has the “I’ve done things…I’ve killed people” line. It both shows and tells to the extreme, and is simultaneously not long enough, yet too short at just over an hour and a half.
Like Leto, Morbius is an enigma of a film that barely justifies its existence. Hopefully, one day these characters will revert to Marvel proper, and we’ll get Morbius as a supporting cast member at most.