"...a totally underwhelming mixture of the superhero and horror genre tropes..."

Not Enough of Anything for Anyone

(040722) During the pandemic, Marvel cancelled some decent horror hero comics specifically Ghost Rider and Morbius right in the middle of interesting major storylines that were never finished (Johnny Blaze ended up being ruler of a hell). Marvel has a long history of under publicizing, mishandling, and under using its horror characters. I think that if Marvel had published Alan Moore’s classic Swamp Thing it would not have lasted five issues. For more commentary on this subject see my article: "Does Marvel Hate its Horror Fans?"

The shows and films featuring Marvel horror characters have fared little better. The Nicolas Cage Ghost Rider films were mediocre (although Cage and Peter Fonda were not bad in them), and the Ghost Rider TV show was cancelled before we got to judge it because of a whim of Kevin Feige. Although it often was a watered down, muddled imitation of the Evil series, the Hulu Helstorm series might have fared better if it had been part of a shared horror universe which was also shelved, and it was cancelled after one season.

Now Marvel has disappointed its horror fans again. Sony squandered most of the Morbius film's possible momentum as a first entry in their horror Spider-verse with bad trailers. Postponing the film several times because of Covid probably didn’t help the film either. Now the film has arrived, and it is a totally underwhelming mixture of the superhero and horror genre tropes with special effects so dismal that it is often hard to figure out what is going on. This is the 2020's and I don't think most audience members will be thrilled with seeing countless shots of blurry, indistinct human figures hovering in the air.

Both the  film  and comic series takes some plot elements from the obscure 1957 film: The Vampire, in which a doctor makes himself a scientific vampire by taking pills that contain vampire bat blood. Add to the mix some Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula, and maybe even a little from the Incredible Hulk TV show (instead of being pursued by a reporter, Morbius is pursued by a police investigator named Simon Stroud). There is even a scene that directly alludes to the Hulk TV series in which Michael Morbius in his human form warns: “You wouldn’t want to see me hungry.” But don’t get excited, this is the only clever line in the film.

The basic premise is that a Nobel prize winning scientist tries to cure his rare terminal blood condition by combining bat and human DNA with a chemical cure that contains bat blood. In one of the stupidest lines in the film he says: "Vampire bats weigh almost nothing, but they can take an animal ten times larger." That is just bad science since actual vampire bats don't kill their prey; they just suck a little blood out of them while they are asleep.

When Michael takes the cure the once crippled doctor gains some unforeseen abilities. His speed increases immeasurably and when he is moving, he is so fast that most people see him as a blur. Also, he gains super strength and a super healing ability plus flight, but the degree that he has of all these abilities seem to depend on how much blood he has had at any given time. Later on, he learns about even more acquired abilities which at some point makes him more powerful than his comic book counterpart. Sometimes the addition of the powers scenes seem like they were being made up as the film went along.

But Morbius also lacks many of the traditional vampire weaknesses. The Cross and garlic do not effect him, and he cannot be killed by sunlight-although it does cause him some pain. The whole "kind of but not totally a vampire" idea was handled better and seemed fresher in the first two Blade films (the rumor mill has said the Blade and Morbius would team up in the future.)

Matt Smith (one of my least favorite Dr. Who actors) plays Morbius's main adversary, Lucien. Michael's best friend took the same cure as Morbius but that causes him to become an evil vampire (perhaps Morbius does not lose his human persona so much because he takes artificial blood). Lucien is kind of like Venom (Sony's other Spider Franchise star) who is essentially an evil doppelganger of Spiderman. Like Venom, Lucien also becomes the dark mirror reflection of Morbius except. here he appears to be a somewhat de-powered Morbius. He shares some of the same abilities but is missing Morbius bat sonar and bat summoning abilities. All of which makes him a not really a worthy or interesting opponent for the living vampire.

Michael also has a love interest imported from the comics-Martine played by Adria Arjona (here she is a brunette instead of a blonde). Unlike the comics, she is a fellow doctor but ultimately seems to be in the movie only to play a victim, to provide sympathy for Morbius and provide eye candy for the audience.

In conclusion, this sanitized vampire superhero flick is too dark for family viewers and not frightening or bloody enough for bona fide hardcore horror fans (modern vampire plans should have some blood), so it should not please most audience members. This is kind of a predictable outcome when you make a PG 13 horror film (the film
World War Z suffered from the same problems) with minimal gore. While it is not terrible this rather bloodless film lacks bite, and it is not by any means one of Marvel's better cinematic efforts.

Directed by:    Daniel Espinoza
Written by:    Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless. Based on the
 Marvel Comics characters created by Roy Thomas,
 Stan Lee and Gil Kane
Starring:    Jaret Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona
Released:    040122 (USA)
Length:    104 minutes
Rating:    Rated PG-13 for some violence, strong language, a
 sexual reference and brief drug references

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to and His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

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Review © 2023 Alternate Reality, Inc.



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