“Morbus”? Rather moribund. It’s just fucked up

Marvel’s latest hero is hard to explain. He is a man and yet also a bat. No, not Batman. Let me try again: it’s a day-walking vampire, but no, not that cool cat Blade. This guy is good but also very bad. Look, he’s clearly having an identity crisis, and his movie is in trouble, too.

“Morbius” is a forgettable, often laughable, entry in Sony’s attempt to fill its own Spider-Man-adjacent cinematic universe with a poorly edited spin-off time, pun intended.

This wastes the considerable talents of Jared Leto, who is often left here looking like the surly lead singer of a death metal band. The execution of the movie is so confusing that it looks more like a horror movie than a superhero movie.

Leto plays Dr. Michael Morbius, a frail, brilliant, and wealthy biochemist with a rare blood disease whose desperate search for a cure leads to a serum that makes him strong but also turns him into a bloodthirsty vampire.

After a shot of serum, he goes from needing crutches to swinging in the air on pipes like an Olympic athlete. “I don’t know what I’m capable of,” he says. One downside: he has to swallow blood bags, so there you have it. He also appears to be able to transform into a bat and fly, but why he didn’t make it out of this movie is unfathomable.

The filmmakers — director Daniel Espinosa, hampered by a twisty script from Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless — just don’t know what to do with this creature once they give us its backstory. They start a rivalry with his best friend (Matt Smith) and a love interest (Adria Arjona) in hopes of achieving something Shakespearean, but they tread water.

Instead of a tight, cohesive visual style, we’re given choppy camerawork and a buffet of previous films — “The Matrix,” “American Psycho,” “The Usual Suspects,” and “An American Werewolf in London.” Typical Marvel violence is unleashed, including so much muscle our hero smashes through the concrete streets of New York City to the subway system below.

What’s amazing is that despite being a movie, very little is known about Morbius. He’s so principled that he turns down a Nobel Prize but is all for killing goons. He makes delicate origami animals for sick children and, despite spending tons of money inventing artificial blood, wears an inexpensive Casio watch. At one point, Morbius loses focus as the main character when Smith’s rival character hijacks the film entirely.

The special effects team works overtime to give Leto, who unfortunately wears a messy manbun throughout the film, a kind of bat – his pupils blur and his ear hair vibrates as if he used sonar. His skin will suddenly stretch over the bones and he will growl a lot too. For some reason, every time he jumps, he’s enveloped in a slimy cloud. He can also slow down and dodge bullets, and action sequences turn into moments where everything is suddenly stylistically still and quiet, like inside the eye of a hurricane.

“It’s a curse,” Leto says at one point and you wonder if he might be talking about the role and where it fits in his career. But he will be fine. He just has to ignore moments like when Morbius is chained to a desk in a police department’s interrogation room and says, “I’m getting hungry and you don’t want to see me when I’m hungry.”

There will be a lot of debate about where “Morbius” fits into Marvel canon. There are hints that he’s got a future Spider-Man fighter, but maybe the best thing for our vampire antihero is to just ignore him or kick him like a wayward bat.

“Morbius,” a Sony Pictures release slated for theaters Friday, is rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of violence, chilling visuals, and brief strong language.” Duration: 104 minutes. One out of four stars.


MPAA Definition of PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some content may be inappropriate for children under 13.


In line: https://www.morbius.movie/


Marc Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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