ATTENTION: This blog contains a slight spoiler concerning who the villain of the movie is (which will not be a spoiler to fans of the Morbius comic). Read on at your own risk.
Morbius, which is based on a Marvel character but distributed by Sony, plays out more like a horror film than it does the typical sort of superhero film that we’re used to seeing about Marvel characters. The third film in Sony’s Spider-man Universe (following Venom and Venom: Let There Be Carnage), Morbius features a darker, bloodier theme and the creepy reality of its protagonist needing to consume blood in order to survive, making the film more aligned with stereotypical vampire films than anything else.
Morbius centers around Dr. Michael Morbius, portrayed by Jared Leto, who is an intelligent biochemist with a rare, crippling blood disease that he’s dedicated his life to finding a cure for. His research is funded by his beloved and wealthy surrogate brother, Milo (played by Matt Smith), who also suffers from the same disease.
Morbius looking deathly ill due to his blood disease
Having both lived past their expected expiration dates, Milo agrees to fund Morbius’ latest idea for a cure, even though Morbius warns him that it is highly illegal and crosses ethical lines. Knowing that it is most likely their last and best shot at living a normal quality of life, Morbius boards a container ship in international waters along with his colleague, Dr. Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona Torres), where he asks her to administer the providential cure that he has created, which contains the blood of vampire bats.
Predictably, things don’t go quite as hoped because, while Morbius gains super strength and speed as well as a few other bat-like abilities, he also experiences a violent lust for human blood. It’s that desire for fresh human blood conflicting with his doctoral creed to save lives that truly defines the character of Morbius from this point on.
Matt Smith in Morbius
(The following contains the before-mentioned spoiler!)
Inspired by his friend’s seemingly miraculous transformation, Milo ignores Morbius’ warning about the cure’s terrible side effects and injects himself with it, unbeknownst to Morbius. Having lived his entire life restricted by the shackles of his debilitating disease, Milo is consumed by his new abilities and, unlike Morbius, is unconcerned with the price with which they come. Once Morbius discovers how changed his friend has become, the two are fiercely at odds.
At this point, the dynamic between Morbius and Milo strongly reminded me of the relationship between Louis and Lestat in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. Lestat flourished as a vampire and made an artform out of taking human lives in order to consume their blood, whereas Louis despised killing and would do anything he could to deny his vampiric instincts, eventually growing to despise Lestat. The main difference between the films, however, is that, while Interview allowed centuries to pass to slowly build up that dynamic, Morbius attempted to do it within the span of only a day or two.
As a Doctor Who fan, seeing Matt Smith as the villainous, scrupulous Milo felt a bit off to me. Not that Smith did a bad job or anything, it was just hard to reconcile his face with that of someone who would kill with abandon. However, I had no problem accepting fellow Doctor Who alum David Tennant as villain Kilgrave in Marvel’s Jessica Jones series, so I suspect that the real issue here is the lack of character building that went into Milo and his friendship with Morbius.
David Tennant as Kilgrave in Jessica Jones
While Milo, it seems, readily accepts that he’s got vampire-like traits now, Morbius tries to scientifically understand his new abilities by conducting tests on himself, which felt to me like an authentic thing that a doctor would do and was also a convenient way to explain his abilities to viewers. It also explained why, ultimately, he exhibits a better mastery over himself and his abilities than Milo does. However, even despite Morbius’ self-conducted tests, there were some elements to his abilities that just didn’t make sense or were very inconsistent.
I also feel that it’s worth mentioning that this film suffers a bit from the fact that Covid caused its release date to be pushed back so that now it somewhat coincides with the release of another familiar bat-related superhero in DC’s The Batman movie. Comparing and contrasting the two is both unavoidable and inevitable, and Morbius is at a disadvantage by being the lesser known of the two.
Although for the most part the special effects in the film where pretty good, one thing that I don't feel worked very well was the way in which Morbius and Milo’s movements were portrayed once they became vampire-like. Because they are moving faster than sound, the film shows streaks of smokey color coming off of them. It’s very hard to describe. However, it made things very murky and caused it to be difficult to tell what was happening, especially during scenes that took place at night (which, for some reason, was nearly the entire movie, even though Morbius demonstrates that he has no aversion to sunlight).
Ultimately, parts of Morbius felt rushed and, to me, and it seemed that the film ended right when it had finally gotten its groove. It will be interesting to see if there’s a longer, uncut version released when it becomes available for purchase, because I would definitely watch that.
In the end, this isn’t my favorite superhero film (or anti-hero film, as the case may ultimately be). And while it is a fairly stereotypical vampire film in terms of Morbius’ abilities and limitations and I enjoyed it for that, it isn’t my favorite vampire film, either.
There are two extra scenes during the credits that are worth sticking around for as they hint at some really interesting possibilities within the Sony Spider-man Universe. It should also be noted that there isn’t an after credits scene, so there’s no reason to stick around after the second mid-credits scene.
Angela “LaLa” Rairden is an avid fan of comic books, Star Wars, and most things nerdy. A cosplayer, she loves to attend comic cons dressed as her favorite fictional characters, particularly Harley Quinn. Although her day job is at a grocery store, writing has always been her true calling. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is currently writing her first novel.