Superheroes, as marketing professionals have been told, have made their way into conspiracy thrillers, family comedies, grief dramas, and other genres beyond the specific confines of bodysuit rock-’em-sock-’em. So it’s a natural evolution that a superhero would be in the realm of horror. Enter Dr. Michael Morbius, the titular figurehead of the new movie morbius (in theaters on April 1). Morbius, a dying scientist who mutates himself into a half-human, half-bat creature in an attempt to cure himself of a blood disease, is a vampire in every way. Boo!
The curious pleasure of daniel espinosa‘s film is in how it embraces the Gothic mythology that inspired it. morbius ends up being a messy brawl, as all things should. But for much of its run, it’s a classy, intriguing-tinged tale of a man trying to thwart mortality.
The film opens in an ominous cavern in a remote Costa Rican jungle. It then jumps back in time to a stately residential children’s hospital in Greece that seems more 1930s than 1995, before catching up to the present in a looming and night-lit version of New York City. morbius has a sense of place—and interest in places of interest—that sets it apart from the shiny, faceless Atlanta pop of so many other superhero movies.
Is doing morbius You know, with all its shivers and ominous and moody eyes and long hair, it’s kind of silly? I think so – a few vampire jokes peppered through it suggest so much. Likewise the presence of Jared Leto, our aging screamo prince and a devoted actor’s chameleon. But thankfully, the film tries to condemn unwitting chuckles; there is none of these venomis cracking snore here. morbius has serious intent and is all the more attractive to it.
dr. Morbius is steadfastly committed to his work and principled in it. He just turned down a Nobel Prize for not accepting accolades for an unfinished experiment. He has good bedside manners with children, a soft touch in contrast to the fact that he is usually dressed as Johnny Cash during Milan Fashion Week. There is a possible romantic interest in his job, fellow Doctor Martine (Adria Arjona), but the real love of his life is Milo (Matt Smith), a childhood friend from that Greek hospital who lives in frustrated opulence in an ornately decorated Manhattan apartment.
Milo has a Sebastian Flyte around him. He is a bored aristocrat, morose about his declining health (he has the same vague condition as Morbius) and invests as much money as possible into Morbius’s research. Bonded by their lonely childhood and now a growing desperation to escape their circumstances, Morbius and Milo share a more complicated rapport — and a deeper homosociality — than many a hero-villain couple in films like this one. Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes wish they had this chemistry of brothers in misery, with all its boarding-fear and platonic passion.
This also makes Milo a better villain than we often get from the CGI content factories; he gives morbius something like a literary effort. While Leto humbly moves out of the way, Smith—who already looks like a vampire without all the makeup—plays his part with a seductively haughty menace. Especially in a well-worded scene where Milo argues with his old caretaker/father figure, played by Jared Harris† †Matt Sazama and the gloriously named Burk Sharpless wrote the screenplay.) There is something strangely sophisticated about the milieu of morbius, are sad beautiful boys who pour their resources into a mad attempt to gain control of their destiny. It’s almost Mary Shelley.
Espinosa – who tends to elevate the standard genre movies he’s been given (check out his horribly disturbing and underrated alien thriller Life for the most compelling evidence of that) – brings this haunted human drama to the fore while surrounded by the whizbang required for a studio project. The New York he’s cobbled together from locations in London and Manchester is aptly teeming and sinister, while the special effects are mostly used with a pleasing visual purpose.
Once Morbius undergoes a cure of his own, mixing his DNA with that of Costa Rican vampire bats, he quickly develops new skills, including acrobatics and, eventually, flying. To illustrate that speed, Morbius flying high produces a vapor trail, much like the Death Eaters do in the Harry Potter franchisee. The device is a little distracted that way, but it looks nice even when the battle sequence’s necessary climax stagnates in incoherence.