Morbius movie review: Jared Leto’s Marvel outing is a bloodless corpse of a film


t’s ironic really. There were rumours that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield might show up in Spider-Man: No Way Home, yet cast and crew denied it. No, no, no, they said. Fans shouldn’t expect extra treats. Then – ta da! – there were treats galore. With this Sony production, the third feature in the SSU (Sony’s Spider-Man Universe), director Daniel Espinosa implied there might be treats. And – ta da! – we get zilch. At press screenings, movies connected to Marvel comic book characters generally receive a round of applause. At Morbius, there was actual boo-ing.

Just to be clear, neither Maguire, Garfield or Tom Holland are in this stinking mess of an “adventure” which is a relief. The lovely trio have not been soiled by a cash-grab so sloppy it makes you wonder if the top brass at Sony are nihilistic members of the undead.

This is the origin story of one of Spider-Man’s foes, a blood-sucking anti-hero/villain who started appearing in Marvel comic books in 1971. The film was meant to be released in 2020 – before the hugely popular Venom 2 and Spider-Man: No Way Home (in which Tom Hardy’s Venom has a cameo). The delay hasn’t done Morbius any favours – we can’t help but make invidious comparisons.

At the start of the movie, sickly scientist Dr Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) is in Costa Rica, bonding with bats. I’m not going to make jokes about him being bat shit, because Michael seems disappointingly grounded. He wants to cure himself – along with lots of wide-eyed, bed-bound kids – of a rare blood disorder. He’ll make a serum that mixes his DNA with that of a vampire bat. What could possibly go wrong?

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The first third of the film is bearable. We get flashbacks to Michael’s youth and his friendship with fellow invalid, Lucius/Milo. Back in modern-day New York, Morbius is still in touch with Lucius/Milo (Matt Smith), now a peevish Mockney who not only funds his old pal’s research, but seems to have a crush on him. And might the pair’s soft-spoken mentor, Nicholas (Jared Harris), who lives with Lucius/Milo, have incestuous feelings towards his adopted son?

If you’re intrigued by these hot-house dynamics, don’t be. The film has no intention of exploring them. Morbius takes the serum and suddenly looks like a 90s pop star. Morbius also has a buff chest and a tan. Naturally, Lucius/Milo is jealous, so he finds a way to take the serum. Suddenly both men are zooming around, growling and causing chaos on subways, etc.

The CGI fails to dazzle, (though I did like Morbius’s clever ears, which resemble the insides of a mushroom and are as strangely attractive as the webbed feet of The Man From Atlantis). In terms of the acting, the usually good-value Leto seems like his mind is elsewhere. Even the gorgeous Smith, lively at first, runs out of steam.

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As for the script, it gets stupider by the second. Dumb movies can be so much fun, but there’s just nothing and no-one to invest in. One death aside, Morbius the movie isn’t scary or tense. A boat is called The Murnau, a jokey reference to the German film-maker who gave us Nosferatu. That 1922 classic has fuelled so many nightmares. There’s no danger of Morbius doing that.

It certainly isn’t sexy. Michael has a dull girlfriend, Martine (Adria Arjona; who must be so envious of Zendaya and Zoe Kravitz). Martine whispers, gormlessly, that she’s always found Dracula “romantic”. Good for her. There’s certainly no spark between her and Michael.

Though Morbius is interminable, it also feels like big chunks are missing. My jaw dropped as I realised one particularly lacklustre kerfuffle was the last battle. A mid-credits scene, involving Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture (last seen in the Sony/MCU collaboration, Spider-Man: Homecoming), is the final insult. It. Makes. No. Sense.

Fans love it when the SSU and MCU collide. But only crazed Marvel completists will be able to stomach Morbius. Tom Hardy’s blood-guzzling Venom earned the right to join the MCU party; Leto’s living vampire is the worst kind of gate-crasher. May he be escorted from the premises and never spoken of again.

104 mins, cert 12A

In cinemas

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