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MORBIUS review

MORBIUS is directed by Daniel Espinosa. It stars Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Jared Harris, Al Madrigal, and Tyrese Gibson.

Michael Morbius was born with a debilitating condition making it difficult for him to walk, and him living a long life even seemed unlikely. Having a great deal of potential, he earns a doctoral degree and is widely recognized for his research involving bats, including the creation of artificial blood to save lives. When an experiment to cure his illness goes awry, he finds himself transformed into a vampire of sorts, requiring the consumption of blood to stay alive and maintain himself, but he reaches superhuman levels of strength and ability following this, for a short period. When an old friend with a similar disability attempts to use the same ill-fated cure, he becomes a danger to everyone around him, requiring Dr. Morbius to intervene and keep the city safe.

MORBIUS was one of many movies delayed by the pandemic, with principal photography having been completed nearly three years before its release. Although Sony/Columbia retains an agreement to share Spider-Man and associated characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sony/Columbia has stated their intention to release several films which are only loosely linked to the MCU, and largely their own standalone Spider-Man universe. This started with the two VENOM films, and has continued now with the release of MORBIUS, another film based around a character from Spidey’s colorful gallery of rogues. A film about another Spidey baddie, KRAVEN THE HUNTER, is also in the works.

So after all these delays, how does MORBIUS fare? In some ways it feels like a dated film and a relic of a bygone era… but I enjoyed it. I appreciated getting a comic-based film that didn’t run over two hours, wasn’t a laugh riot from start to finish, and didn’t feature a jam-packed CGI hell finale like every other movie seems required to make. It’s also nice the movie doesn’t throw a ton of unnecessary tertiary characters into the mix. Solid editing keeps the story moving along at a brisk pace, though a few scenes felt inappropriate for the otherwise somber tone of the film.

MORBIUS, of course, stars Jared Leto in its title role, the troubled doctor with a disability but an unrivaled intellect. His experiments, of course, don’t go the way one would expect, and Leto clearly takes the role seriously and gives a good performance, giving us a believable and sympathetic protagonist not sure what he can expect with his vampiric future. The supporting cast members are solid enough, but this is Leto’s movie first and foremost. He does the best he can with the material he’s given, and it shows throughout the film.

Thank you so much to the people at Sony/Columbia for actually giving us a comic book movie that clocks in at under two hours and doesn’t feel like it’s dragging. The pacing here is top-notch, even if you can’t help but feel like a few more scenes of clarification would’ve been nice for certain plot points. When I’m watching a movie I shouldn’t be looking down at my watch. MORBIUS may not quite be a perfect film, but my eyes were always on the screen. Never on my wristwatch.

It's also nice to get a comic book movie that isn’t just a laugh riot from start to finish. I love the MCU, but I won’t deny that the level of humor is excessive at times. MORBIUS does have the occasional humorous moment, but these mostly feel appropriate to the material at hand and never overshadow the grave tone of the film. It’s based on a comic book, but it’s not a colorful movie with heroes in spandex saving the day. And bless it for that. If the movies starring Venom were humor central, MORBIUS is the anti-Venom.

Keeping the stakes slightly smaller is also a smart move, and it’s one of the film’s greatest strengths. This isn’t a hugely epic multi-film saga where heroes have to take on something that could cause the apocalypse. The film is mostly relegated to a single city, and the conflict is mainly between two people. Smaller-scale hero films are always a plus, and it’s a refreshing change from other companies’ films who keep trying to outdo the previous ones with mixed results.

Of course, the film isn’t perfect. One can’t help but feel like there are some things missing here and there that could’ve better explained certain plot points. Much of film feels like a dated relic of a past age, and there’s not quite enough here to really make the move stand out or give it a distinct identity. A handful of scenes feel very out-of-place and inappropriate, with a few bringing to mind those cringe-worthy montage sequences of SPIDER-MAN 3; something I’d rather forget. A scene near the end of the movie falls into the one of the worst and most overused tropes in film; cheating death. I won’t go into more details there as this is a spoiler-free review, though my opinion of the movie is positive overall.

MORBIUS doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s a perfectly serviceable popcorn movie that’s over in less than two hours. I loved the smaller-scale storytelling and that it wasn’t overly comedic; these are welcomed changes to the world of superhero movies. There’s certainly enough here to merit a recommendation, though I admit it won’t be for everyone.

The film features two mid-credits scenes. There isn’t anything after the credits end.

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