Morbius: A hollow plot that misses all the marks
By Tomas Einarsson
Another superhero film about a good-looking and morally ambiguous genius obsessed with bats has hit cinemas this year, except that Morbius misses all the marks The Batman doesn’t.
The newest Marvel romp, in which Jared Leto turns himself into a vampire-creature of some kind, has all the bells and whistles the genre demands; and although it lacks neither stars nor special effects, it’s still somehow profoundly unspectacular.
Dr Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) finds a cure for his rare blood disease by splicing bat DNA with his own, inadvertently making himself into a blood-thirsty monster in the process. His lifelong friend and fellow sufferer Milo (Matt Smith) also takes a dose of the serum, although he becomes far more evil than Morbius.
There isn’t much more to say about the plot: old friends are pitted against each other, superpowers are explored, and a double-dose post-credit scene lingers at the end as a reward for those who managed to sit through it all.
The whole thing is ultimately just a bit underwhelming because the film feels like it’s ticking things off a checklist. In the wider scope of things, especially in terms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU), it becomes obvious why the film doesn’t deliver.
Morbius’ job as a movie is to introduce a new character into Marvel’s roster and isn’t given much elbow room to really experiment
There are two prominent issues that plague Morbius. Firstly, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is still in its post-Endgame depression era; it had its big climactic showdown in 2019 in which all the biggest heroes faced off against a Thanos-shaped cataclysmic threat. Since then, it seems to have run out of steam. Yes, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man films have created a new momentum but most releases that have come after Avengers: Endgame have all suffered from post-climax sluggishness. But the MCU needs to keep pumping out films regardless.
Secondly (and this is a persistent issue for the MCU perhaps best exemplified by Morbius), it’s a filler film. Morbius’ job as a movie, so to speak, is to introduce a new character into Marvel’s roster and isn’t given much elbow room to really experiment. All it can do is go through the formulaic motions of the superhero/villain origin story.
A down-in-the-dumps protagonist suddenly gains superpowers; he must navigate all the unforeseen consequences thereof; he must come to terms with his new responsibility; he must defeat an antagonist, or it wouldn’t make for a story at all.
Hence why the script feels so simple. You would think that with such a rich shared universe to build on, Morbius would be able to firmly ground its action in the MCU’s lore-heavy filmography. But it doesn’t. It instead holds your hand to make sure you catch every detail of Morbius’ character and powers so that he can be seamlessly inserted into the plot of a different film further down the line. In doing so, it’s about as cookie-cutter as it gets.
With a plot this hollow, Jared Leto and Matt Smith only have so much to work with
Lucky for the writers that Michael Morbius is a doctor; even in moments where the film could have created some kind of atmosphere, you instead get him reading his own scientific notes or literally speaking into a doctorly voice recorder to deliver further exposition about the plot and himself.
That being said, I don’t think Jared Leto or Matt Smith should catch too much flak for their performances. With a plot this hollow, the pair only have so much to work with - making Morbius a squandered opportunity to make the Living Vampire’s origin story something worth seeing. Genuinely captivating moments are few and far between and many of their interactions and lines of dialogue are so wooden that it feels like you’re at a rehearsal rather than seeing a blockbuster.
It's a corporate film through and through whose express purpose is to fill a spot in Marvel’s release schedule and set up a character for a bigger and better superhero to beat later. Marvel has made many movies like Morbius before and (more likely than not) will continue to make in the future.
The post-Endgame MCU is a train that must keep on rolling and therefore needs an endless stream of filler films and hollow origin stories like an engine needs fuel. Morbius, exemplary of this model of movie-making, still sticks out of the crowd as a substance-less set-piece for bigger story arcs to come. Even if you’re a Marvel fanatic, you might be better off reading the plot synopsis on Wikipedia.