Suck, You Ducker
Directed by Daniel Espinosa
UK cinema release print.
Okay, so I managed to get a relatively Covid safe screening of Morbius with only two other people in the audience, due to my suspicion that, a) nobody wants to go to the cinema on a Thursday morning and b) nobody liked this film enough to go for a repeat screening. And I really have nothing against this movie... I don’t know the character all that well (I think I had a Marvel comics sticker of him on a wardrobe somewhere in the early to mid 1970s and I possibly may have read his first appearance in a reprint of a Spider-Man story) but, really, all I went into this movie with was that he always used to be called Morbius, The Living Vampire (which would have been much more of an audience magnet of a title for this movie, I suspect) and that he was a Spider-Man villain, back in the day.
The film is not great, it has to be said but, neither is it terrible. I don’t like Jared Leto in pretty much anything I’ve seen him in, except for Requiem For A Dream where he really did a good job but, yeah, I’ve not enjoyed any of his performances since then, to be honest. In this, playing the title role, he says his lines with conviction and gives a more than adequate performance of the character as written on the page. He’s really not bad in this although the screenplay and dialogue is... well, it’s not great and somewhat out of its time, I thought...
By that I mean, it feels like it was made in the early to mid 1980s and it all seems very simple and, I dunno, somewhat flatly presented. I can imagine this fitting in well with certain things Marvel were doing in TV land and in their attempts to translate those properties into cinematic terms in the late 1970s to early 1980s... so it feels a little like a companion piece to something like the old, Nicholas Hammond Spider-Man TV show or that Dolph Lundgren attempt at a movie of The Punisher. It’s all a bit lifeless and like something you might feel a little cheated by in terms of ticket prices these days, at least that’s the way I felt about it.
Again, though, nothing wrong with it. One of the problems about the lack of any real stand up personality in the form of Leto’s, quite acceptable, turn as Morbius would be the possible mistake of putting an actor with a true powerhouse personality up against him as the villain. I remember when the previews of the Kevin Costner version of Robin Hood were screened and the studio had to slice out a lot of Alan Rickman’s scenes as the Sheriff of Nottingham out of the movie before it got released, because everyone in the preview audiences liked his character a heck of a lot better than the main hero. Well, it feels like something that maybe should have happened here because, well, they’ve put former Doctor Who incarnation Matt Smith in as the villain. And so, as you would expect with a giant personality like that, the only person you are watching when he’s on the screen is Matt Smith... the other characters all kind of go out the window. Personally, I think the studio should have had Leto and Smith switch roles if they wanted a better shot at a lucrative franchise out of this thing.
Which is something they obviously are going for because there are shout outs in here to the Marvel 'blip' plus both Venom and Spider-Man, including two mid-post credit scenes featuring a returning villain from one of the MCU Spider-Man films (in a couple of moments which completely contradict the way that character would logically be imported into this facet of the multiverse and, also in a way which, if the writers aren’t careful, may completely contradict the wonderful way in which that character was left in the post credit scene of an earlier movie).
There are some nice things about the movie... such as a line paraphrasing the Bill Bixby catch phrase of the old TV show of The Incredible Hulk, where Morbius says to a policeman, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry.”... but there are also lots of not so great things, such as the editing and lucidity of the big confrontations scenes between Leto and Smith where, frankly, I was confused as to what was going on half the time. There could have perhaps been a bit more visual clarification in the action set pieces.
Another curious thing is, it sometimes feels more like a DC universe movie than something starring a Marvel comics character. The night time setting on most of it and the frequent shots of swarms of bats certainly are reminiscent of one of DC’s flagship characters, for sure. But more than that, in some of those scenes, the music almost feels just like what James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer were doing for Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy so, yeah, it just felt a little like I was watching one of ‘the other company’s’ movies at some points in the story.
And there’s not much more for me to say on Morbius, I think. At the end of the day, it wasn’t a bad movie and, if they feature Leto in the role in upcoming team-up movies (which I’m sure is the plan), then I’ll happily go along and watch them in the hopes the writing gets better. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this one but, hey, if you’re big on the superhero and super villain movies right now then, you’ll probably have an okay time with this one and it’s just nice seeing someone like Matt Smith on the big screen. They really need to get him in some bigger title roles, for sure.