Following the headache of a sequel that was Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Sony is back with another botched attempt to convince you that they can, in fact, make fully-fledged movies without Spider-Man. Morbius, starring the topical Jared Leto, is indeed a movie that much I can tell you. It’s got a story built on a twisted tragedy, all the action beats you would expect from a modern superhero film, and even some interesting character dynamics sprinkled throughout! Though, unlike any blockbuster that’s actually striving for something – literally anything beyond the bare minimum – Morbius leaves you with exactly nothing. It just kind of begins and drags its feet until it ends, the very definition of a studio product designed only to take your money on the promise of a greater “universe” on the horizon.
The most deceiving aspect of Morbius is that it doesn’t seem like a total misfire right from the get-go. The introduction of Jared Leto’s Dr. Michael Morbius, his life-decaying disease, and the rest of his supporting cast gives you at least the idea that Sony might have been initially onto something (again, anything that’s not just made to sell promises). But once Jared Leto tests a possible cure to his illness on himself, made from vampire bat DNA because of course, it becomes pretty transparent that, once again, Sony was just looking for a quick buck. The studio has funny enough become successful in this regard as of late, with Let There Be Carnage actually breaking box office-covid era records last year. Throw all the usual ingredients in the blender and you’ve got yourself a hit! However, where the Venom movies had the safety net of Tom Hardy’s widespread likability and comedic charm, Morbius has Jared Leto… and his angst?
It’s quite clear as to why Morbius lacks the irony-infused edge of Sony’s usual formula, it’s just simply boring – not even the usual lazy Marvel universe pandering can work here. Jared Leto playing it mostly straight and serious, spare for a few moments where he quips about being a vampire when flirting with his love interest (don’t worry, Sony didn’t forget the vampire sex appeal), is just not entertaining enough when everyone else is mostly playing it safe too. And this is really saying something when you have Tyrese Gibson, one of the most recognizable faces from the Fast Saga, playing a vampire-hunting detective who can’t even leave an impression. The only name who gets a moment to let loose and break out is Matt Smith, which is during a scene that will surely go viral once the film hits digital but will quickly disappoint those interested when they find out that more of the movie isn’t like that. That worked with both Venom films, it won’t work here.
When looking back at all the film’s promotion, from its first trailer in early 2020 to its final release, it becomes painfully obvious how Morbius has been edited to pieces. So many lines and snippets of footage from the trailers are absent in the final product, particularly those that teased a meeting between Michael Keaton’s Vulture and Morbius himself. Entertaining lines from Tyrese – “You don’t take lives doctor, you save them!” – are also nowhere to be found. Morbius breezes through its edit so haphazardly to the point where you literally forget major plot elements, such as how the main villain gets his powers or the fact that Tyrese is supposed to have a weapon-infused bionic arm? This is not a joke, Tyrese teased these “special effects and powers” back in 2020 and yet, this is only relegated to one line of dialogue in the final cut.
The evident reason behind all this mass cutting comes back to what Sony is trying to do in the first place – build an interconnected universe of their own. In the time since Morbius was originally greenlit, Sony and Marvel Studios ended their shared Spider-Man deal, made up and signed a new agreement, released the sixth highest-grossing film of all time with Spider-Man: No Way Home, which of course used the multiverse to cross over with Sony’s previous films. Then, we have to count the multiple delays Morbius faced under a global pandemic. Because this film was seemingly always meant to be just a cash grab and building block for a greater universe, key plot points were constantly up in the air, changing on the whiff of whatever studio decision came next. Plenty of films that were long delayed due to covid have since been released to great reception, because when you aim to tell a good story first and foremost, time won’t always be such a damning issue. This isn’t the case with lifeless products like Morbius.
Through all of its chaotic editing and by-the-books franchise setup, Morbius is perhaps the most damning recent example of how prioritizing franchise fulfillment can truly kill a movie. This isn’t how studio filmmaking should work, and a half-assed job like this surely isn’t what audiences should be settling for when paying for today’s ticket prices. Furthermore, Sony really isn’t setting any bar whatsoever for their upcoming Madame Web movie as well. Morbius doesn’t even boast some of the cheeky qualities that have given the Venom films somewhat of a cult status in the superhero genre. Perhaps the coolest thing this has to offer you are the vampire effects, but who wants to pay to see Jared Leto fly around in slow motion for two hours, I mean, unless you’re down for that? There’s not much left to say, other than you’ve seen this movie dozens of times before and you don’t need to see it again. For his first comic book film, Tyrese deserved better.