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Directed by Daniel Espinosa
Written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless
Starring Jared Leto, Matt Smith and Tyrese Gibson
Classification PG; 104 minutes
Opens in theatres April 1
It is kind of fun witnessing the absolute nadir of a cinematic genre. Watching an entire multibillion-dollar movement burn to the ground in such spectacularly stupid fashion – with the only arsonists to blame being the filmmakers themselves – there is a cathartic sense of relief. Finally, we can stop subjecting ourselves to this slop-bucket idiocy. At least, that is the hope: Hitting rock bottom should be the end of things, right? Unless, to borrow a now-ancient Simpsons gag, someone in Hollywood tries to “dig up.”
Ahem, sorry, I needed to clear my postscreening rage. This is all a semi-tortured way of saying that there is absolutely nothing to admire or appreciate in the truly dreadful new superhero film Morbius. A hack-tastic effort in turning golden intellectual property into lung-clogging coal, director Daniel Espinosa’s movie is irredeemable in every fashion. It is charmless, incoherent, ugly and so aggressively stupid that it defies any attempt to shove it into the desperate “guilty pleasure” box. There is simply no joy here, even for those (like me!) who can appreciate a nonsensical CGI spectacle that knows it is silly nothingness, and only asks its audience to forget their worries for 90 minutes and play along. In Morbius, there is no playing along, no guilty pleasures to be found – only dreadfully boring pain. So much pain.
Focusing on one of Marvel’s lesser-known Spider-Man frenemies, Morbius follows the origin story of one Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), a brilliant scientist who is almost as good at his job as he is at wearing unbuttoned shirts and keeping his hair silky smooth. As Michael searches for a cure to his lifelong ailment (which goes unnamed, but involves being unable to walk without assistance and the need for regular blood transfusions), he creates a bat-human DNA hybrid serum that just might cure all of humanity’s illnesses. The catch (there’s always a catch!): Michael’s formula turns him into a vampire every now and then. Hate how that happens.
This all sets up a battle between Michael, the skeptical authorities (led by a sleepwalking Tyrese Gibson, missing his more charismatic Fast & Furious co-stars and their dumb-but-fun megafranchise), and Michael’s benefactor/best friend, the fabulously rich Lucien (Matt Smith), whose wealth – like every other plot point in this film – is never clearly explained. Will Michael find a cure for his vampirism before he resorts to draining innocents of their blood? Will Lucien turn Michael’s invention against him? Will the hundreds of CGI artists responsible for creating the film’s many blurry digital bats ever recover from the mundane task set before them?
You don’t need to subject yourself to a viewing of Morbius to figure out the answers. This is a bloodless vampire film, a cardboard-cheap superhero spectacle and a star vehicle for a star caught asleep at the wheel. Where is that bonkers House of Gucci energy at, Jared Leto? I’ll even take your cringe-y Joker act over Morbius’s aggravating blah-ness.
Still, you might be tempted to watch Morbius in order to complete your understanding of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as this film is being marketed as a quasi Spider-Man spin-off, much like last year’s also-bad-but-not-nearly-as-terrible Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Sure, that is sort of vaguely true, thanks to the complicated mechanics of the licensing deals between Sony Pictures and Disney. But, please, I am begging you: Just search for the Morbius postcredits scene online (it’s already leaked on Twitter) and leave it at that.
Actually, no: You won’t even be able to “leave it at that,” because Morbius’s postcredits bit of corporate synergy – which has been reworked from the small bits and pieces glimpsed in the film’s original trailers – makes no real canonical sense from even a multiverse perspective. Take it from me, an almost talmudic scholar of these things: There is nothing in Morbius that will further your appreciation or understanding of Spider-Man: No Way Home, or Venom, or any other Marvel movie. The film’s few final seconds represent a middle finger of a tease to fans, and if there is any justice in Hollywood – a long shot these smack-down days, I realize – Morbius will be retconned to the margins of superhero-cinema history.
If the film doesn’t bury the genre alive first, that is.
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