After several delays, Sony’s Morbius finally made it into the theater. After even more delays, I got a chance to see it. The really short version of this review is that it’s good, but not great. For a bit more in depth commentary, read on. I do my best to avoid spoilers, so we’ll see how I do as we go. There is one minor spoiler for Spider-Man: No Way Home at the end below, so be prepared for that if you haven’t seen that one.
In the comics, Morbius is “the living vampire.” He gained his abilities from a scientific experiment (another in the tradition of “brilliant scientist experiments on him/herself”). He is not a mystical, traditional vampire. They blur that line a few times, despite the fact that they make jokes about it throughout the movie, and that was one bit that left me puzzled a few times.
Michael Morbius had a rare blood disorder which was inevitably fatal, it’s just a matter of when. We see from a very early age that he’s incredibly brilliant, and he makes an important friend. We also see early on that said friend has issues going beyond the physical. Growing up, Morbius becomes a doctor, nominated for the Nobel Prize for his work, as he relentlessly pushes the boundaries of science seeking a cure for himself and others afflicted with this disease. Like many fictional scientists (and I really hope few if any real-world ones), he takes some chances and does some ethically questionable things in his pursuit of the cure. Unlike many of his kind, he consistently seeks to minimize the damage from his discovery when things go bad, so point for him there.
We see his desperate research, the important people in his life, and his commitment to his work both as researcher and physician. Eventually, of course, he decides to inject himself with the experimental solution, and things go predictably badly after that. There is an initial rampage, but it’s arguably not his fault, and then he goes to great lengths to contain his violence and the dangers of his serum getting out into the world. Things happen thanks to the choices of others, and there’s a lot of confusion and deaths. At one point, one minor subplot/point of tension happens because there apparently aren’t security cameras in the New York City subway, which I find hard to believe. But then that plot gets cleared up about two scenes later, so I don’t know what the point was of introducing it. There’s a villain to oppose the hero, because of course there is, and some other antagonists that complicate Morbius’ life, even though they are doing the right thing by any reasonable standard. The movie ends with what could easily be the setup for at least one more movie, if not more.
But wait, there’s more. Pretty much ever since Iron Man back in 2008, people expect end/mid-credit scenes in their superhero movies, and this is no exception. There are, as is often the case, two. The first is a direct spin-off from Spider-Man: No Way Home, and makes some degree of sense, although Dr. Strange’s spell seems to get increasingly sloppy in each post-credit scene it involves (Venom, for example, has never met Spider-Man in the movies, let alone knowing who Peter Parker is, so shouldn’t have been summoned by the spell, let alone ending up in Mexico or wherever he was instead of New York). The second scene builds on the first, and both goes against a character’s growth in their earlier movie appearance, and creates some real continuity issues about their equipment.
What I liked: Morbius himself is an interesting character. He’s brilliant and compassionate, which is rare in tv shows and movies these days. He tries to keep himself under control and does his best to limit the damage from his discovery. There’s some great physical acting from Leto/Morbius and Matt Smith/Milo. The end scenes were fun, despite not making sense the more you think about them. Morbius actually tries to carefully figure out what he can do in controlled circumstances, rather than wandering around and endangering other people and/or himself, which I liked. We get references to Venom, both directly and indirectly, and see the Daily Bugle. One of the end scenes at least implies Morbius knows is aware of Spider-Man, although I’m not sure either how that works or which one.
What I didn’t: There were some issues here. As I said, logic falls apart for the end scenes. A character finds another one, in New York City, somehow boarding a bus before that character does when they picked it at random (I can hear the Pitch Meeting now: “How does that happen?” “Unclear.”). Bat-style hearing doesn’t work like Superman’s, and the characters shouldn’t be picking up specific voices from a fair distance away in the busy, noisy place that is New York City. One character seems to have an interesting enhancement that gets indirectly mentioned once, visually shown in about the last scene of the movie, and never actually does anything. Two sort of back-up antagonists seems to go back and forth between being FBI agents and NYPD detectives. Morbius’ abilities seem to vacillate between his more scientifically-based background and the more supernatural versions of a vampire. When you’re doing a Marvel movie and you mention “a school for gifted youngsters” in New York, it sets up some expectations that they never followed up on. There was a weird blurring effect around Morbius a lot of the time. You might think it was a speed thing, ala Flash or Quicksilver, but sometimes he had it when standing still, so I really don’t know what that was aside from “it looked cool.”
It was entertaining enough, although certainly not on the level of the MCU films. I’d give it a 3 out of 5. If there are more in the series, I’ll watch them, although I hope they have slightly better quality control.