Friday, April 1, 2022

Review: "MORBIUS" is Anemic, But Jared Leto is Hot Blooded

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 18 of 2022 (No. 1830) by Leroy Douresseaux

Morbius (2022)
Running time:  104 minutes (1 hour, 44 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, some frightening images, and brief strong language
DIRECTOR:  Daniel Espinosa
WRITERS:  Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless; from a story by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (based on the Marvel Comics)
PRODUCERS:  Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach, and Lucas Foster
EDITOR:  Pietro Scalia
COMPOSER:  Joe Ekstrand


Starring:  Jared Leto, Adria Arjona, Jared Harris, Matt Smith, Al Madrigal, Charlie Shotwell, Joseph Esson, and Tyrese Harris and Michael Keaton

Morbius is a 2022 superhero fantasy-horror and action film directed by Daniel Espinosa.  The movie is based on the Marvel Comics character, “Morbius, the Living Vampire”/Dr. Michael Morbius, which was created by writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane and first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #101 (cover dated: October 1971).  This is also the third film in “Sony's Spider-Man Universe” (SSU) series.  Morbius the film focuses on a scientist who tries to cure himself of a rare blood disease but instead turns himself into a new kind of vampire.

Morbius introduces Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto).  He is a genius, a scientist, and has a talent for fabricating technology.  He is also suffering from a rare blood disease and has spent his adult life looking for a cure to that disease which often kills those afflicted with it at a young age.  Michael is 35-years-old, and he recently refused a Nobel Prize.

Michael is currently engaged in illegal experiments involving vampire bats that he stole from a cave in Costa Rica.  Although she is critical of him for these experiments, Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona), Michael's fellow scientist and girlfriend, works with him.  Once he believes that he has finally created the cure for his rare blood disease, Michael injects himself with the formula.  Michael's body is transformed into that of an Olympic-level athlete, but the cure also turns him into a vampire – one with a powerful blood lust.  Now, the bodies of people with the blood drained from their bodies are being found all over the city.  Is Morbius the killer … or is Morbius responsible?

Morbius is about Morbius.  The only other character that this film allows any traction is Martine Bancroft.  It isn't that the screenplay is shallow; I find that it attempts a serious contemplation of both Dr. Michael Morbius' character and Morbius the vampire's dilemma.  I wish the film's story had taken more time with the two FBI agents hunting Morbius, comic relief Alberto “Al” Rodriguez (Al Madrigal) and the really serious Black man, Simon Stroud (Tyrese Gibson).

Morbius may be Jared Leto's best performance in a film in years.  I prefer Leto's Dr. Michael Morbius to “Rayon,” the drug addicted, HIV-positive trans woman he played in the 2013 film, Dallas Buyers Club.  Leto won a “Best Supporting Actor” Oscar for playing Rayon, a character I found shallow.  In Morbius, Leto's good looks, his vanity, his obvious acting talent, and his imaginative approach to fashioning characters and performances serve both him and film, quite well.  I found both Dr. Michael Morbius and Morbius the vampire to be endlessly fascinating characters and not at all shallow.

It feels weird for me to recommend this film for Jared Leto's performance, but I am.  Morbius is officially part of a superhero film universe.  Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Michael Keaton) from the 2017 film, Spider-Man: Homecoming, even makes an appearance in Morbius in order to solidify some connections between Sony's Spider-Man Universe (SSU) and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  That connection thrills the fanboy in me.  I like Morbius, and I am giving it a higher grade than I probably would.  And that is because of Jared Leto's outstanding work in Morbius.

6 of 10

Friday, April 1, 2022

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