“Morbius” is a vampire tale disguised as a Marvel film. Seen in this way, it does well with enough Gothic atmosphere to keep one interested. There is heart and good Saturday Matinee spirit here. It is only in the film’s final act when there are repetitive battle scenes and predictable showdowns that we realize we might have stayed too long at this particular masque.
Youngster Michael (Charlie Shotwell) is entranced by science. A sickly child, he is in and out of the hospital. He has a rare sort of blood disorder that affects his motor control areas. Michael is very weak and is unable to walk. Blood transfusions are the only answer. He forms an immediate bond with Milo (Joseph Essen) who has the same debilitating condition. The two adore each other as intimately as in a romance. There is an affecting scene when Milo craves Michael’s handwritten and origami-styled missive and is badly beaten up.
Michael matures and becomes the pale, serious but spacey Dr. Morbius (Jared Leto) driven to cure himself and his beloved friend. Morbius has discovered that he can cure himself by vampire blood, specially treated. This is where the film excels. Leto has genuine drive here and his emotion manages to give energy to the material.
Leto plays the scientist well, with echoes from “The Fly” to Ray Milland in “The Man with X-Ray Eyes.” He has fun with his role without chewing the scenery.
Morbius is a kind of hybrid between Batman and Dracula. Sadistic people don’t sit well with him, but he also needs human blood to function. He develops feelings for his fellow colleague Martine (Adria Arjona).
Guilt falls on Morbius when he turns and becomes monstrous. As we can guess, humans do not understand the guilt ridden chimerical doctor at all and bring the guns out. These scenes play well with effective haunt and frustration.
Enter Milo (Matt Smith) now all grown up, big-jawed and bitter. Even these initial scenes show promise, giving Milo a chance for angst and pain combined with Morbius’ affection for his friend. A bit of meaningful repartee and some reflection on a New York City street and a park bench does not last long however. The film shifts into pedestrian monster territory as Milo goes werewolf and just wants to kill anyone he sees. Morbius snarls. Milo rages. The pair tumble together, roaring and fighting. Buildings crumble and streets buckle.
This is a Marvel Civil War with vamp trappings.
Stranger still, Milo turns his bloodlust into a dance routine.
The young actors Shotwell, Essen and Leto do so well initially, but it is a shame that the film could not retain its emotional tone while still flying free with its Gothic kitsch and circumstance.
What starts out as satisfying with childhood import, darkness and drear, now is silly and cartoonish. One wishes Morbius hadn’t bared his fangs half as much. The mystery and haunt of childhood and its regrets as depicted in the first hour are all the thrills you need.
Write Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org