Bestinau got that-
There’s nothing like on-screen text like a crystal-clear shot to tell you exactly how stupid a filmmaker thinks his audience is. Sometimes it’s the big, bold “PARIS, FRANCE” chyron above an aerial view of the Eiffel Tower; sometimes we get a widescreen view of the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Capital Building with a helpful “WASHINGTON, DC” In “morbius”, our title character explains to his best friend that an experimental procedure has to be performed in international waters, after which director Daniel Spinoza cuts to a giant shipboat, in the middle of the ocean, with the words “INTERNATIONAL WATERS, EASTERN SEABOARD” plastered on the bottom of the screen. Did they think we’d be confused?
In defense, however, they are making a film for an audience ready to pour down their hard-earned cash for a Jared Leto comic book movie, so maybe it’s best not to overestimate one’s intelligence. Leto stars as Dr. Michael Morbius, whom we first meet while capturing a slew of vampire bats in Costa Rica before jumping back into a flashback of his hospital-bound childhood. Morbius has a rare blood disorder that causes exhaustion and constant pain, and he has great difficulty walking. But he has a gift for science and mechanics; his mentor, Emil Nikols (oh no, Jared Harris) sends him to a school for gifted children and tells him, “You have a gift, Michael. It would be a shame to see it go to waste.”
And then we’re back to the present day, where we find out that Morbius won the Nobel Prize for developing a life-saving “artificial blood”, but that was just a byproduct of his ultimate goal, which was to connect human and vampire bat. DNA to cure his blood disease. (Uh, ok?) Yadda yadda yadda, scientific explanation, he’s approaching a “highly experimental, morally questionable” cure, and so we get on that boat in international waters for that old comic book movie standby, the experiment-out of order. His “cure” fills Morbius from a bony weakling to a boastful beefcake, but he kills eight boys and drinks their blood during the transition, oopsie doodle. (The ship is called the Murnau, the film’s only bright idea and a single indication that the creators have ever seen a non-comic book movie.)
The vampire gimmick is established, Leto starts lugging blood bags, attaches himself to the vampire bats he spins around in a glass box all the time (he’s something of a bat… Man?) and goes through blood draw, which gives him all kinds of opportunities to grotesquely exaggerate, growl and scream (“I CAN’T CONTROL IT!”) and whisper (“It’s a curse”), or just glow intensely while his face and eyes have a special effect. Leto’s performance, like his work in “House of Gucci” and “Suicide Squad”, is the kind of twisted acting that only an Oscar winner can get away with, the kind of mischievous “go for it” that impresses high school drama kids and no one else; he really has become the kind of actor Nicholas Cage is falsely accused of being, all upset, agitated, weird intensity – but with none of Cage’s sense of craft, sense of humor or fun of performing.
The one thing that could make “Morbius” unique among its comic book movie brethren — or at least less of something we’ve seen a million times before — is the less ubiquitous idea of a supervillain movie (rather than a superhero movie). Unfortunately, and despite the carefully misleading advertisements, Morbius is not Real the bad guy; that would be Milo (Matt Smithpoor Matt Smith), Morbius’ childhood friend and partner-in-sickness, who also helps himself to the “cure” and worse super vampire, more cold-blooded and bloodthirsty, not all as angry as his wet blanket friend. So Morbius becomes the lesser of two evils and has to stop Milo so the public can have a proper root interest, etc.
But before that, we get multiple, hair-raising scenes of Smith dancing and mugging and trying to steal the show, under the woefully misleading notion that he’s Nicholson in “Batman” or something. He’s not the only artist adrift here; as a detective, Al Madrigaldear dear Al Madrigal, tries his hardest to fulfill the role of comic relief without the handy tool of “jokes”, or any feedback from Tyrese Gibson, at his most wooden as a partner of Madrigal. Not much to say about it Adria Arjonasaddled with no discernible character traits and the most perfunctory romance in comic book history, that is to say something† †Michael Keatonwhose trailers look like a full-fledged opponent appears before could be a minute – at the close of credit scenes.)
Talented filmmakers have spent time and energy on this – Oliver Wood shot it, Pietro Scalia cut it – though director Espinoza (“Life”) is not one of them. Action scenes are poorly staged, sloppily animated, jerkily edited (complete with random moments of slow-motion), and clumsily shot; at the end of one the film just seems to give up and the camera just shakes for a few seconds. Once the vampire plot begins, it goes from badly imitating the tropes of superhero movies to poorly imitating the tropes of horror movies, just as incompetently. In the end, it all goes on autopilot; they get so desperate, they run out of bullet time. (Several times!)
“Morbius” is bad, yes, but it’s not even fun-bad, like the “venom” movies; it’s just a little depressing. There isn’t a single thrilling, surprising, or entertaining moment in it from start to finish, because comic books have reached a point of longevity and saturation that all of them (even the marginally entertaining ones, like “The Batter”) are pure painting by numbers: the laborious origin stories, the faded color palettes, the bombastic scores, the daddy issues, the climax, dimly lit, CGI-heavy final fights to the death (I’m just unspeakably tired of dimly lit, CGI- tough final battles to the death), and the mid-credit sequences to set up future episodes (as if someone who’s just sat through “Morbius” even briefly harbors the idea of sitting through another). The best thing I can say about it is that it is short. [D-]