Review: In ‘Morbius,’ The Darkness Beckons

Jared Leto stars in a Marvel movie adventure, directed by Daniel Espinosa. 

A dark adventure that gets darker as it goes, Morbius flexes its action muscles early and often, telling the story of a brilliant doctor who is desperately searching for a cure to a rare, blood-borne disease. His latest experiment goes disastrously wrong, turning him into a ‘living vampire’ with an insatiable appetite for human blood. 

Scripted by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, a writing team whose credits include Lost in Space, Gods of Egypt and Dracula Untold, based on a Marvel comic-book character, created by Roy Thomas, that first appeared in 1971, Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) is presented as someone whose life was shaped by a rare, disabling medical condition. In his youth, he met Milo (Matt Smith), who suffered from the same disease, but came from a far more privileged background. The two became lifelong friends, and Milo continues to fund Mobius’ medical experiments. 

Lately, Dr. Morbius has been focusing his research on vampire bats, and believes he may have found a cure. He is seriously mistaken, resulting in a disturbing collection of corpses that have all been drained of their blood, save for a sole survivor, Dr. Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona), Morbius’ colleague and a romantic interest. 

As soon as Milo learns of the Morbius solution, and sees for himself that the ‘solution’ leads to a fantastic, permanent uptick into the superhuman realm for whoever takes it, he ignores Morbius’ pleas for restraint, leading to a series of destructive battles between the two in the skies above New York City. Much blood is shed, amidst an endless array of colorful vapor trails in the night sky. 

Director Daniel Espinosa is a Swedish filmmaker who broke out big with Snabba Cash (2010), established himself in Hollywood with Safe House (2012), and followed that with the European crime-drama Child 44 (2015) and the sci-fi horror Life (2017), the latter of which showed he could take a vaguely familiar premise and turn it into a roundly entertaining thriller.  Taken purely as escapist entertainment, Morbius fits neatly into Espinosa’s filmography. 

The action sequences are well-executed showcases for the visual effects, which consistently divert the eyes, though without engaging much thought beyond the simple command: “See, dog! Fetch!” Jared Leto and Matt Smith are well matched as snarling face pitted against each other; Jared Harris lends his grounded authenticity as a longtime physician; Adria Arjona ably contributes in her character’s various thin roles as ‘doctor’ and ‘romantic interest,’ as well as ‘sensible and caring person.’  

On the big screen, the dark palette looks appropriate for the dark story that is told. We are living in dark days, so it is fitting to see a dark antihero who is doing his best to resist his impulse to do dark things. 

The film opens in Dallas, Fort Worth and surrounding cities on Friday, April 1, via Sony Pictures. For more information about the film, visit the official site.

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