The whole idea of Sony’s Spider-Man Universe seems wrong-headed. Starting off with 2018’s Venom, the Tom Hardy-starred origin story of one of Spider-Man’s greatest villains, did not actually include the wall-crawler. That film was so successful that it only led to its own sequel, but Sony began their own shared universe, based on various Marvel Comics properties associated with Spider-Man. Venom is one of the few exceptions that have a life of his own, spawning a long-running comic book series. But a number of characters – from Kraven the Hunter and Madame Web – don’t have much of a life outside of Spider-Man’s world, yet Sony is pushing to get these characters their own solo outing.
Created by writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane, and first appearing as an enemy of Spider-Man, there had been previous attempts of bringing Morbius, the Living Vampire to the big screen and I’m sad to report that the movie that we got – after being delayed several times from an initial 2020 release date – was not worth the wait.
Played by former Joker Jared Leto, Dr Michael Morbius tries to cure himself of a rare blood disease. Funded by childhood friend Milo (Matt Smith) and with the help of colleague Martine (Adria Arjona), Morbius combines human DNA with that of a vampire bat, resulting some superhuman side effects and is placed into a Jekyll-and-Hyde scenario where he has to control his animalistic nature.
Despite its well-worn, but intriguing premise of a good-natured scientist becoming an antagonistic victim of his own experiment, it actually falls into familiar trappings of the Venom movies and not just with his comic book connections to Spidey that never play a cinematic part. Like Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock, Michael Morbius is in conflict with his powers and while his performance isn’t as all over the place as Hardy’s, Jared Leto is rather a bland presence, even with the CGI makeover when he goes vampiric, which is more silly than scary.
While this isn’t as schizophrenic as Venom, Morbius can never decide on a tone; for example, it tries to be serious through the conflict of its titular character, even if the movie itself seems to be in a rush to the uninspired CGI spectacle. As well as feeling like a generic superhero movie that goes through all the cliches – though Matt Smith steals the show with a hammy villainy performance – Morbius feels outdated as if it is in the vein of one of those vampire movies from the 2000s. Even the screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless basically rehash the same climax that their previous vampire outing, Dracula Untold.
Considering how choppy the film is, whether it is the lack of interest towards getting to know any of the characters, or removing sequences that were clearly suggested in the trailers, it doesn’t know how to approach its role in this shared universe. Sony wants their Marvel franchise to have a life of its own and yet seems to have ties with the MCU as suggested through the messy mid-credits sequences. By this point, the endgame for Sony’s Spider-Man Universe is unknowable and the only thing that is worth caring about is that we are getting that Spider-Verse sequel later this year.
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