‘Morbius’ is a hit on Netflix, but is it any good?

Editor’s note: this the review was originally published on April 1, 2022 when “Morbius” hit theaters. It has been edited and republished in light of the film’s recent premiere on Netflix, where it quickly made it to the streamer’s top 10 list. Should you add it to your queue? Read on to find out.

It’s an accepted part of modern superhero cinema that trailers are going to lie a bit. Saving the CGI reveals or cutting out a big climactic fight is a reasonable way to preserve a sense of fun and surprise for the final audience. But trailers for the Jared Leto-directed superhero movie “Morbius” take things a step further. They imply that Michael Keaton’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” character Adrian Toomes will be a major presence throughout the film when, in fact, he only appears in an unrelated post-credits sequence.

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Taken by itself, that’s just some hilariously blatant marketing manipulation. But it also reflects the general sense of despair that hangs over the film, which seems to be in full damage control mode from the moment it begins. Whatever bits of originality that initially motivated this project have been reduced to something vague (and vaguely enjoyable) designed to get audiences in and out in less than two hours.

Originally planned for a July 2020 release before the pandemic delayed it, “Morbius” is apparently Sony Pictures’ attempt to recapture the “Spider-Man”-adjacent success of its gonzo “Venom” franchise. Instead, he feels just as sticky and formless as the symbiote itself.

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On ‘Morbius’: Interview with a Vampire

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Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) in MORBIUS from Columbia Pictures.

The hook of “Morbius” is that it mixes superhero and vampire tropes when Dr. Michael Morbius (Leto) sets out to cure his rare and debilitating blood disease and accidentally turns himself into a superpowered bat creature. Putting aside that Wesley Snipes’ “Blade” vehicle already offered that particular comic book combo back in the ’90s (as Mahershala Ali’s upcoming MCU reboot will), “Morbius” has a steep hill to climb given that the Superheroes and vampires are two of the most popular genres of live action pop culture.

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Whether your reference point is “Angel,” “Twilight,” or “The Vampire Diaries,” Morbius’ crisis of conscience over drinking human blood will feel terrifyingly familiar; as well as his whole “reluctant hero” gimmick will feel like a garden variety to anyone who’s seen a superhero movie before. (So ​​everyone.) Also, since this is first and foremost a Hulk-style science gone wrong story, “Morbius” misses out on some of the coolest bits of vampire lore, like the idea of ​​living a immortal life through the centuries. of human history. Instead, all we get is a man who decides to cure his blood disorder by casually splicing human and bat DNA; you know, how one does it.

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What remains is a superhero origin story that never finds its center due to being choppyly edited and narratively inert. There’s no driving plot or point character study, just lots, lots of incident. The film clumsily rushes through setting him up to bring Morbius into his enhanced vampire state. But once he does, he doesn’t seem to have a clue what to do with it.

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Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) in MORBIUS from Columbia Pictures.

It doesn’t help that, unlike Tom Hardy’s banana performance in “Venom,” Leto is a bit of a bore as the film’s central antihero. After his incredible supporting roles in 2016’s “Suicide Squad” and 2021’s “House of Gucci,” Leto is trying to sell himself as a muscular, mainstream movie star here. And while it’s not a bad performance per se (it gives Morbius a fundamental sympathy that’s compelling to watch), the restraint means that Leto gets a bit lost in the shuffle of all the vampiric madness that surrounds him. It’s weird to see a character slurping bags of blood and thinking, “Oh yeah, he seems like a nice, normal guy.”

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Watch ‘Morbius’ for: Matt Smith having fun

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Milo (Matt Smith) in Columbia Pictures’ MORBIUS.

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Instead, the featured turn comes from “House of the Dragon” star Matt Smith, who would very much like people to remember that he played Patrick Bateman in the West End musical version of “American Psycho,” thank you very much. Smith struts in style as Milo, Morbius’ rich childhood best friend who suffers from the same blood disorder and has far fewer moral qualms when it comes to figuring out how to cure it.

As with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in “Interview with the Vampire,” there is an undercurrent of romantic longing to the brotherly bond between Milo and Morbius. And it seems like a better version of “Morbius” would have put its complicated dynamic even more front and center. Unfortunately, “Morbius” is too tied to comic book movie convention to become the overt gay vampire superhero melodrama it probably should have been. Instead, Adria Arjona is there because Morbius needs a (female) love interest. Jared Harris is there because he needs a father figure. Y Tyrese Gibson and Al Madrigal are there because these kinds of movies usually have cops, right?

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“Morbius” features an occasional hint of visual flair; these moments are useful enough, if hardly a reason to watch the movie. Stylized slow-motion random bursts echo a “Matrix” sequel or Zack Snyder movie, while Morbius’ vampiric abilities are highlighted with colored smoke trails reminiscent of Nightcrawler in the “X-Men” movies. “.

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In fact, “Morbius” often conjures up those forgettable last-day X-Men movies like “Dark Phoenix” or “The New Mutants,” movies that barely seem to have existed. Innocuous at best and laughable at worst, “Morbius” has no legs, or wings, to stand on. No wonder the trailers had to lie.

Grade: C-

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Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) in MORBIUS from Columbia Pictures.

Rated PG-13. 108 minutes. Direction: Daniel Espinosa. Presenting: Jared Leto, matt smithAdrian Arjona, Jared Harris, Tyrese Gibson, Al Madrigal, Michael Keaton.

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How to watch “Morbius”

“Morbius” is streaming on Netflix for a limited time. Plans start at $9.99 per month; higher tiers include better quality video and the ability to stream to multiple devices simultaneously. “Morbius” is also available to rent through places like Redbox, Apple TV, Vudu, and Amazon Prime Video.

About the writer: Caroline Siede is a film and television critic in Chicago, where the cold never bothers her anyway. A member of the Chicago Film Critics Association, she lovingly dissects the romantic comedy genre one movie at a time in her ongoing column When Romance Met Comedy on The AV Club. She is also a co-host of the film’s podcast, role calland shares his thoughts on pop culture on Twitter (@carolinsiede).

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