When I was a child, reading Marvel comics in the seventies, I discovered horror comics with a sense of controversy. Not being allowed to watch horror films due to my age, this was the only chance to get close to scares. Morbius, the Living Vampire, was one such comic character who was originally a villain in Spider-Man. After being given his own series of books, we now have the big-screen outing, which should take the Marvel Spidey-verse into a darker realm. Unfortunately, the film fails miserably to deliver any of the horrors that the character should bring with him, and we get a rather dull origins story that falls flat after the success of Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Doctor Michael Morbius is a scientist researching a cure for his rare blood disorder. Mixing the intestines of a vampire bat with human blood, he injects himself and finds a side effect: he turns into a vampire. However, being a doctor, the thought of drinking human blood is problematic. When a series of grisly murders start happening in New York, the police turn to Morbius, yet there could be someone else who has taken the same serum.

This was a perfect opportunity for the Marvel brand to move into another genre. Instead, we get an uninvolving origins tale that just ticks the boxes as it goes along: the childhood journey, the discovery of the serum that changes the taker, the avoiding of the police leading to the final act, the CGI showdown! So generic is the storyline; you could replace Morbius with any superheroes who have mild-mannered humans with superhuman alter egos. (Hulk instantly springs to mind).

Director Daniel Espinosa, whose previous work includes the sci-fi drama Life, does a workmanlike job that seems as if he was afraid to try anything different. The script is riddled with cliches and poor lines, while the effects are, quite frankly, woeful. The transformations just look amateurish and could have been created by anyone with a computer and a little knowledge. The fight sequences are filmed in near darkness, leaving you wondering what exactly is going on. None more so than in the final confrontation.

Many are pointing the blame at lead actor Jared Leto. Admittedly, Leto has been disappointed in the past. He created a terrible Joker in Suicide Squad, and we will move on very quickly from his performance in House of Gucci. Here, as Morbius, he is given very little to do except being quietly pleasant while his alter ego goes flying through the air growling. At least he didn’t give us another dodgy comedy accent. Jared Harris, who plays the Doctor’s mentor, isn’t given enough to do.

Thank goodness then for Matt Smith. The former Doctor Who plays Morbius’s best friend and fellow patient coping with the same disease, Milo. Smith single-handedly saves the film from utter boredom with a gloriously over-the-top performance that thankfully doesn’t seem out of place or awkward. He lights up the screen every time he appears, and hopefully, this will be his chance to break the American market, and someone will give him a lead role somewhere down the line.

Morbius is a dreary and dull entry to the Spider-Man universe; even the two post-credit sequences leave you caring less. A missed chance from all involved, apart from Matt Smith, as this could be the best career move, he’s ever made.

2 out of 5

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Starring: Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Jared Harris, Tyrese Gibson, Al Madrigal, Michael Keaton

Written by: (and screen story) Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless

Running Time: 104 mins

Cert: 15

Release date: 1st April 2022


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