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Laramie Movie Scope: Morbius

Marvel decline and superhero saturation

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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April 7, 2022 – With the exception of “The Fantastic Four” movies, Marvel Studios had a remarkable winning streak in terms of quality and popularity, beginning with “Iron Man” in 2008 and ending with another in a string of great successes with “Avengers Endgame” in 2019, one of the last films in phase three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Quality and popularity began to slip in phase four with the release of “Eternals” (2021) with a metacritic rating of 52 out of a hundred. It's box office success was good, however, for a film released during the pandemic. With “Morbius” (2022) opening pretty soft, despite a lack of heavy competition, and a dismal rating of 35 of 100 at Metacritic, things are not looking up.

It should be pointed out, however that Morbius is not an official part of the MCU, even though it is a Marvel product. Instead, it is part of the Sony's related Spider-Man Universe (SSU) film franchise, which had its own mega hit in 2021 with “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which is closing in on the $2 billion mark worldwide.

Morbius, played by Academy Award-winning actor Jared Leto, is a doctor who takes an experimental compound to cure his life-threatening illness. The cure works, but the cure, composed of genetically engineered vampire bat DNA, turns him into a vampire. The science is ridiculous. The traditional supernatural explanation for vampire power is simpler and more believable.

Morbius needs frequent ingestions of blood to stay alive, but the cure also gives him bat-like echolocation, super speed and strength, and an ability to fly on the wind. He's not really what you'd call a hero, however, as his insatiable hunger for human blood makes him a threat to everyone.

When his best friend with the same affliction, Milo (Matt Smith of the “Dr. Who” series) steals his formula and takes the cure, he also becomes a vampire. Milo fully embraces the evil of his vampirism, while Morbius feels it is his responsibility to stop Milo's gleeful killing spree.

Character development in this film is superficial. Morbius doesn't seem heroic. He knows he has done something wrong, but he is actively trying to get away with murder. Certainly I had some sympathy for the two vampire characters, Morbius and Milo. Fate did deal them a bad hand, but they overreacted, and that's putting it mildly.

The appealing thing about Marvel superheroes is that “with great power comes great responsibility” ethic. We have all seen harmless people turn into tyrants when they get some power. In this movie, we see great power on display, but not a lot of responsibility or restraint when it comes to using that power.

The other main characters in the movie, FBI Agent Simon Stroud (played by Tyrese Gibson of the “Fast and Furious” movies) Agent Rodriguez (Al Madrigal of “The Way Back”) fellow scientist Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona of “Pacific Rim: Uprising”) and Dr. Emil Nicholas (Jared Harris of “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”) are all given very little to do in this story except for being victimized and expressing frustration.

Superficial character development, and shady morals, means it is hard to work up much sympathy for most of the characters in this movie, including Morbius himself. Who are we intended to identify with — who are we intended to respect or admire?

On the positive side, the action scenes in the movie feature some imaginative special effects to indicate rapid motion or flying. The “echo location” effect was pretty good. There are some good fight scenes and vampire attack scenes. Jared Leto seems to undergo a remarkable physical transformation in the movie. There are some bad guys who get their comeuppance. Other bad guys are killed, along with some others who don't really seem deserving of a violent death.

This movie has a kind of mad scientist vibe to it, a bit like a version of Frankenstein where the scientist creates a monster, while also becoming a monster himself. It ought to feel more like a tragic story than it does. Instead, it is just a mess.

While the movie succeeds on a pure action film level, it fails to provide what I want from a superhero movie. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2022 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]