de facto film reviews 1.5 stars

Created in 1971 by Roy Thomas, the Spider-Man villain, Morbius, the Living Vampire has now received similar treatment to fellow villain/anti-hero, Venom, in getting his own standalone feature. Existing within the same muddled Sony universe that is but isn’t MCU-adjacent, the character of Morbius is given the origin treatment that feels like it’s ripped directly from 2003. Any hope of a lasting new hero is quickly squandered in an immensely forgettable and uninspired 104 minutes.

Jared Leto is Dr. Michael Morbius, a brilliant doctor known for his revolutionary creation of synthetic blood. Morbius was born with a rare blood disorder that his leaves him frail and in ailing health. With the little time he has left, he develops a serum to create a cure by mixing bat DNA. After injecting himself, Morbius turns into an actual vampire with newfound superhuman abilities and a powerful craving for human blood. Choosing not to kill innocent lives, Morbius instead decides to feed off his synthetic blood. His childhood friend, billionaire Milo (Matt Smith), also suffering from the same disease, gets his hands on the serum and begins to take the opposite approach and quench his thirst for human blood.

What begins as a generic origin story with an underdeveloped, but intriguing Jekyll and Hyde twist turns into a dull, dreary slog. Morbius feels like the kind of superhero film commonly found in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Trading in memorable characters for bland exposition and muddled action sequences, Morbius does have potential for something unique, but is squandered at nearly every opportunity.

Director Daniel Espinosa (the undervalued Safe House and the mildly entertaining Life) establishes a generically plotted origin story with little in terms of freshness or originality. At just 104 minutes, Morbius suffers from shoddy pacing that makes the film feel both rushed and overlong.

Spending the greater part of a decade giving performances that receive equal acclaim and vitriol, Jared Leto makes for a likable tortured hero. Arguably his most restraint performance in years, Leto does gives depth to Michael Morbius whenever he can and his makes the initial moments of his transformation slightly effective.

Once the film moves past its initial set up, Morbius becomes a chore to sit through. The largely self-serious tone and completely bloodless action doesn’t make things go down smoother, either. There really are no, ahem, stakes or any thrills here. Director Espinosa doesn’t lean heavily enough into the character’s horror roots to make any of this scary and any attempt at a lasting horror visual is drowned in cheap CG.

We’re not given much character development, which doesn’t help the films already stranded supporting cast. Jared Harris is relegated to blatant exposition in his few scenes. Adria Arjona (Triple Frontier) is saddled with the thin love interest role. Tyrese Gibson is stuck to the sidelines playing the film’s detective investigating Dr. Morbius, in which the film goes out of its way to mention Gibson’s character as an ex-marine who lost his arm and has now been replaced with a metal one and doesn’t even end up using it. Only Matt Smith seems to understand what level of insanity this film should’ve aimed for, making his scenery-chewing far more interesting than the rest of the film.

Morbius isn’t a hideous disaster or some sort of memorable flop, but a generic, utterly forgettable origin story. With dull effects and an even duller plot line, this is one of the cheapest feeling superhero blockbusters in a long while.