Marvel's Morbius: 'Unoriginal Spider-Verse spin-off a non event apart from Matt Smith'

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

Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) in Columbia Pictures' MORBIUS. - Credit: Sony Pictures

Morbius (15)
Director: Daniel Espinosa 
Starring: Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Al Madrigal, Tyrese Gibson, Jared Harris and Michael Keaton
Running time: 104 mins 
In cinemas
**

Morbeii, there's a lot of them about. A character in Forbidden Planet, a villain in Doctor Who, a French artist.

It's a fun name, you enjoy the feel of it on your tongue: Moibeyus, with heavy stress in the oi. This incarnation, something in the expanding Sony/Marvel Spider-Verse, is a living vampire. After the unprecedented, cinema reviving, Covid-be-damned, success of Spider-Man: No Way Home, this spin-off is a total non-event. It's so stubbornly unoriginal, uneventful and unimaginative you might almost believe it was made out of spite.

The running time is a bit of a giveaway – these days any comic book movie that doesn't get close to two and a half hours is probably a stinker. Michael Morbius (Leto) is the genius, maverick scientist desperately searching for a cure to the rare blood condition that has left him unable to walk without sticks and needing transfusions several times a day. Funding his research is a maverick rich guy and surrogate brother Milo (Smith) who suffers from the same condition. Morbius' solution is a serum taken from vampire bat's blood which gives him superhuman abilities but a craving for blood and something of a temper.

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

Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) in Columbia Pictures' MORBIUS. - Credit: Sony Pictures

Vampires are just about the most overworked genre still being employed by the cinema, but Morbius doesn't stop there: it lines up plenty more dead horses for a good flogging. He's The Fly's Seth Brundle, recklessly using himself as a guinea pig for his experiment. He’s the Hulk, trying to control the destructive powers he's given himself. There's even a bit of Matrix-style bullet-time imagery crammed in there.

With no new ideas to offer, the material needs to be delivered with a bit of flash, but the action sequences, set design and special effects all seem to belong to a distant past when comic book movies were dashed off quickly and on the cheap.

Of course, all these criticisms were levelled at the previous Spider spin-off, Venom, and that went on to be a surprise hit. That though had Tom Hardy doing a Jekyll and Hyde turn in the main role. This has a perfectly fine, rather dignified performance by Leto which would be perfect in a good movie, but can’t lift a drab one. This is tough on Leto, who deserves a break after the reception to his performance as the Joker.

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Another performer deserving a break is Matt Smith. Since leaving Doctor Who, his choice of big-screen projects has been unerringly bad. He's been in the execrable Terminator Genysis, Ryan Gosling’s derided directorial debut Lost River and then wasn't in the last Star Wars film (perhaps a lucky break). He is playing the villain here and I think he's the best thing in it, the only element adding a bit of fun and energy to proceedings. The delivery of his last line is beautifully judged and very touching.