Any time is morbin’ time with “Morbius” on home video.

Created by writer Roy Thomas and penciler Gil Kane, the vampiric villain Dr. Michael Morbius was debuted by Marvel Comics as an adversary to Spider-Man in 1971. Since then, Morbius has shifted from enemy of Spider-Man and vampire hunter Blade to hero, working alongside Doctor Strange, Man-Thing, and Ghost Rider. Until Jared Leto (House of Gucci) appeared on-screen in the role, Morbius had only transitioned to appearing officially in animated Spider-Man programs and video games, with live-action performances left on the cutting room floor in Stephen Norrington’s Blade (1997). Now, as part of Sony’s growing Spider-Man Universe, Morbius gets a proper live-action origin story that’s full of the kind of fantastical hijinks that make Venom (2018) and Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) popcorn delights, except where the nonsense in those films felt like part of the charm, here it’s an utter drag. Thanks to the nearly 42 minutes of bonus materials included on the home release, audiences can get a peek behind the curtain and see that director Daniel Espinosa (Life) really did have big ideas that may have gotten squashed by the Sony moviemaking machine.

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Jared Leto as Dr. Michael Morbius in Columbia Pictures’ MORBIUS. Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures. © 2021 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Born with a rare condition that requires multiple blood transfusion a day, Michael Morbius (Leto) pushes himself to discover a cure for his condition. Along the way, he earns accolades for his life-saving artificial blood, but a cure always seems illusive. That is, until he considers an unorthodox idea to combine the genes of a vampire bat found in Costa Rica with human genes in hopes that the mammals’ unique blood coagulation ability might correct his condition. Though it works, it works too well, turning Michael into a living vampire possessing incredible superhuman strength and abilities with none of the weaknesses of vampiric myth. It’s bad enough that Michael has to figure out how to address his rising bloodlust that his artificial blood can’t quench, but when his similarly afflicted best friend Milo (Matt Smith) takes the cure for himself and holds a far stronger constitution for violence, it’s up to Michael to stop him from rampaging through New York and beyond.

Having not been able to see Morbius until home video, there’s a lot about the film that got spoiled prior to seeing it. I’m not talking narrative beats (really nothing to spoil), but reactions to or thoughts on the VFX, characters, and the changes made to Morbius vs what the trailers indicated. Most commenters spoke on the false look of the vampire design of Morbius and Milo, comparing it to something from the long-running Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which ended in 2003. On this, I would disagree, with the transitions from human to vampire visage being far smoother and less rubbery in appearance with the practical applications being of smart design. As for the characters — yes, there’s a lot of trouble here as almost all of them are in a different movie. Leto is, at least, consistent throughout the film, playing a character driven by a long-held desire to correct what he perceives as a debilitating wrong. Given how frequently characters with disabilities are treated as either props for a central character, used as inspiration, or presented as entirely selfish, screenwriters Matt Sazama (Power Rangers) and Burk Sharpless (Power Rangers) designed a version of Morbius that is caring, connected, and, though driven to cure himself, is not interested in doing it at the expense of others. In this respect, Leto carries the responsibility well, keeping Morbius grounded even when things are at their most unhinged. Of course, Matt Smith, most famous for playing the Eleventh Doctor on the BBC’s Doctor Who, knows exactly what kind of movie he’s in and what kind of villain he’s to play, clearly having a blast once his Milo takes Michael’s treatment and becomes a living vampire as well. Unfettered by the same sense of conscience that Michael is, Milo’s desires for life are as amplified as his physical form, making for some sequences that Smith just gets to let loose in. Sadly, the supporting cast of Adria Arjona (Pacific Rim: Uprising), Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), Tyrese Gibson (Fast 9), and Al Madrigal (The Way Back) either seem to be in a different genre of film than the other two or are underutilized to the point of being there as a trope-filled sidekick/adversary. These four, especially, could bring some really good weight to their roles, adding some conflict to Michael in one greater way or another, yet the film seems more interested in what comes next post­-Morbius than what’s happening within the runtime. The entire MCU has been accused time and again of merely being a setup for the next film, but none of them, even the origin stories, have so egregiously wasted its cast as the final film version of Morbius does.

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L-R: Adria Arjona and Director Daniel Espinosa on the set of Columbia Pictures’ MORBIUS. Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures/Jay Maidment. ©2022 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Then, of course, there’s the changes in the trailers. Considering how often in the history of trailers changes have been made or alternate/deleted scenes have been used to entice audiences to come to the theater, I’m willing to forgive the way (going all the way back to the first teaser for Morbius) the marketing implied a connection to Tom Holland’s Spider-Man: Homecoming trilogy by way of the graffiti tag calling Spider-Man a murderer and the use of Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes, a.k.a. the Vulture. Except the tag is gone in the final film and the interaction shown in the trailer is gone, replaced with two mid-credit scenes that, in-film context, make no sense. If the film itself had more logical sense on its own, I might be more willing to forgive the obvious setup for Sony’s long-gestated Sinister Six film, except there’s no logic at all within Morbius, so the attempt at building toward something larger just comes off as an insult.

To what am I referring?

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L-R: Tyrese Gibson as Agent Stroud and Al Madrigal as Agent Rodriguez in Columbia Pictures’ MORBIUS. Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures/Jay Maidment. © 2022 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

How about the fact that the script wants the audience to believe that somehow, not even using CRISPER gene editing to somehow explain the mutation, that adding vampire bat genes to a human would turn them into a superpowered individual. I know we’re just supposed to go with the whole “radioactive spider bite” thing, but the films usually explain just enough so that we have a logical foundation before we get Maguire, Garfield, or Holland swinging through their neighborhood. There’s literally no explanation for why Michael is suddenly stronger, more agile, or thirsts for blood (as vampire bats aren’t like that). Also, while I will give credit for the visual representation of Michael’s echolocation ability in-ear and the color waves used to represent air currents, echolocation doesn’t work like fluid dynamics. Sure, Captain America’s shield may break the laws of physics, but there’s enough groundwork laid for how Cap operates and enough mystery to allow us to go along with how vibranium works that we can go with it. There isn’t a single moment in the film that accounts for why Michael becomes like he does other than to make Victor Frankenstein into his own monster or an André Delambre/Seth Brundle-type into a tragic monster made of his own hubris (The Fly). Seriously, it’s the kind of bad science that makes EoM editor Crystal Davidson *seethe*. Though Leto plays the conflicted/regretful Michael well, there’s nothing in the script that implies he’s on the trajectory of a hero, let alone an anti-hero. None of this even touches the bigger, more theatrical touches on the film, like the case of bats in Michael’s lab that Arjona’s Dr. Bancroft initially discusses like it’s a secret (his office is mostly clear windows) or how they “treat him [Michael] like a brother” when that’s not how bats function.

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Matt Smith as Milo in Columbia Pictures’ MORBIUS. Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures/Jay Maidment. © 2022 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

As this is a home release review, there’s an opportunity within the bonus materials to see if some of the frustrations, irritations, or downright flabbergasting things within the film are explained. Through the six featurettes and single gag/blooper reel, there are plenty of discussions over the making of the film, but I can’t truly say there are any insights. Most of what we get are either spontaneous moments on-set or staged interviews, so the bulk of the bonus materials read like an extended piece of promotional material for the film rather than an in-depth look at its making. We do learn some things regarding the stunt work and the ideation behind the VFX work, but the real gems come from the totality of Espinosa’s words across the featurettes which imply a completely different artistic idea for Morbius versus the generic action/fantasy film we receive.

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Director Daniel Espinosa on the set of Columbia Pictures’ MORBIUS. Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures/Jay Maidment. © 2022 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Look, Morbius may be as bad as critics have said, but there’s a strange boldness about it, as though whomever made the editorial decisions (not film editor Pietro Scalia (Gladiator), but the person above Scalia) to use Morbius as a platform seriously misjudged the plan. Instead of thinking of the next film, focus on this one. Make a solid origin story that inspires audiences to go on an adventure with Michael and *want* to see what comes next. Sadly, even when one laughs at dreadful choices that make no sense, there’s little desire, scant curiosity to see what Toomes wants with Michael mostly because there’s no reason to care. Doesn’t matter if I can morb any time I want, why would I want to?

Morbius Special Features

4K Ultra HD, Blu-Ray, and digital

  • Outtakes & Bloopers (2:36)
  • Lights, Camera, Action (5:26)
  • Defining The Antihero (4:44)
  • Doing the Stunt Work (4:39)
  • The Good, Bad & Ugly – Supporting Cast (3:30)
  • Nocturnal Easter Eggs (2:23)
  • From Human to Vampire – Visual Effects (5:13)
  • Theatrical Marketing Materials (5:30)
  • Sony Pictures Previews (14:31)

DVD

  • Defining The Antihero (4:44)
  • Doing the Stunt Work (4:39)
  • The Good, Bad & Ugly – Supporting Cast (3:30)

Available on digital May 17th, 2022.
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD June 14th, 2022.

For more information, head to the official Sony Pictures Morbius website.

Final Score: 2.5 out of 5.



Categories: Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews, streaming

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