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April 01, 2022

'Morbius' is a forgettable comic book movie entry

Academy Award-winner Jared Leto stars as the Marvel Comics character and is central to the film's shortcomings

What can I say about "Morbius," the latest comic book movie to hit theaters?

Well, uh, it sure is ... something.

The buzz around the film, featuring Jared Leto as the sometimes Spider-Man villain, sometimes sympathetic figure, could not be worse. As of this writing," Morbius," which released on Friday, has a 16% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Is Morbius really that rotten? No, not really, but it's Leto at his most Leto and that's meant in the worst way possible. The plot is nonexistent. It's impossible to tell whether Morbius is meant to be a hero or a villain. That's not meant in some classic antihero sense, like Tony Soprano or Walter White or fellow Marvel Comics characters Wolverine and Punisher. Viewers literally can't tell what to make of Morbius. That's due in part to Leto portraying this character in the most serious manner possible when the whole film could've otherwise acted as a goofy, campy, popcorn flick with horror and surprisingly decent action elements.

Taking a step back, it's worth explaining who Morbius is and how this movie fits in the ultra-crowded superhero landscape dominating pop culture right now. Take this from a guy who's read nearly ever comic book featuring Morbius that's been published in the 21st century. Some spoilers are to follow.

Michael Morbius debuted as an enemy of Spider-Man in Marvel Comics in 1971. He's a doctor with a rare blood disease. Continuously trying to cure himself, the biologist injects himself with vampire bat DNA, and it has disastrous effects, turning him into a "living vampire" with superhuman abilities and a vampiric craving for human blood.

So, since Morbius is a Marvel character, is this movie a part of Disney's blockbuster Marvel Cinematic Universe? No ... but also kind of yes? More on that in a bit. Anyway, to keep this from delving into even more nerd minutiae than it already has, I'll try to keep things quick. 

Sony Pictures holds the rights to make Spider-Man films and films based on Spidey-adjacent characters (like 2018's "Venom" and 2021's "Venom: Let There Be Carnage"). Sony has a deal with Disney that Marvel Studios can share Spider-Man, using him in the MCU films and solo Spidey movies, which Sony continues to distribute. These other Sony films, like "Morbius," seemingly exist in a separate universe, but one that's a part of a large multiverse that Marvel Studios is cultivating.

TL;DR: You're not going to see Thor or the Scarlet Witch pop up in a Venom or Morbius movie and vice versa. Don't think too hard about it and try to enjoy the movie.

Is the movie enjoyable though? I see the movie getting trashed, but, truly, I had a good experience at the theater. watching "Morbius" feels like a relic from a bygone era of comic book movies, one before the genre-defying "The Dark Knight" and before "Iron Man" turned these films into a never-ending saga.

It's very 2006-ish and that can be a good thing. At times. The special effects and fight scenes were, again, better than I anticipated. This isn't 2009's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." It was nice to slam a Coke Zero and some spicy dill pickle-flavored almonds during those scenes! The moments where Leto's Morbius was flying by New York City buildings and trains wouldn't have felt out of place in a normal MCU entry. I like to think that this would've been a great movie to watch on a Saturday afternoon on TNT in seventh grade after I got home from playing a basketball game. 

Movies like that don't exist anymore. Sony could've done something a more unique and tapped into that frazzled energy the Venom movies have to fill that void. It should clear the lowest barrier possible and be a decent action-horror movie to turn on while turning off your brain, but it sort of exists in this nondescript purgatory.

I wish it went way more over-the-top and leaned into its inherent goofiness the way Sony's Venom flicks do, but that illustrates the difference between Tom Hardy's "let's throw the kitchen sink at this" style as Venom and ... whatever Leto thinks he's doing with Morbius. It's a movie about a Spider-Man villain who turns himself into a vampire. It's a silly concept. Be silly!

Hardy knows "Venom" is bad, but revels in that chaos and makes a great "bad" movie. Leto remains one of the least self-aware people on planet Earth. I laughed with Hardy in "Venom: Let There Be Carnage." I laughed at Leto in "Morbius."

One of fans' favorite aspects of these comic book movies is how they all interconnect. These connections are frequently teased in their "post-credit scenes." These have been going on for 14 years, and I still don't know why people leave the theater as the credits start to roll. Alas. Throwing up another spoiler warning!

The post-credit scene for "Morbius" connects to the fracturing of the multiverse seen in this past December's "Spider-Man: No Way Home," a shared Sony and Disney property (I know it's confusing, just bear with me). Michael Keaton's Vulture, the foil for Peter Parker in 2017's "Spider-Man: Homecoming," is randomly sent from the universe seen in the MCU movies to the one used in the Venom movies and "Morbius."

Keaton, in full Vulture armor, meets up with Morbius to talk to him about Spider-Man (How would Morbius know about Spider-Man given he's never referenced in Venom or his own movie?) and how there should be a team-up to take him down. This hints at an eventual "Sinister Six" movie featuring a large group of Spidey villains. "Kraven the Hunter," another Spider-Man villain-centric movie from Sony, is slated to release in January and viewers can bank on more "Sinister Six" connections in that.

Anyway ... the talk of this being the worst movie based on a Marvel property is off base. The 2015 version of "Fantastic Four," the X-Men snoozer "Dark Phoenix" and the bonkers Nicolas Cage outing "Ghost Rider: Spirt of Vengeance" are all noticeably worse and in a tier to themselves. Whatever.

The ultimate "Morbius" take: kind of bad, not the worst comic book movie you'll ever see and maybe entertaining enough that you won't be angry you paid to see it.

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