I’m honestly a little surprised that the first theatrical movie that I watched in 2022 was this one. Not only that, but it was this one despite the fact that the critically and fan acclaimed The Batman came out just a couple weeks ago and I let that one pass me by. It was for a couple reasons, one is that we do have an infant in the house so getting out to the theater is a little more difficult, even moreso for a nearly three hour movie. It was a little less guilt-inducing to pop out of the house by myself to watch a film that my wife had zero interest in that only ran for about 90 minutes. And I’m saying all of this because of how maligned this film was even years before release. It didn’t help that it was more or less supposed to come out sometime around 2020, was delayed six separate times and only half of those were delays due to covid. The trailers, the delays, and just starring Jared Leto himself were all plenty of potential turn-offs. But despite all of those, the movie still made a middling amount in the box office. Which by all accounts is more or less what the studio was expecting as it’s not an MCU movie or even a big name Spider-Man character. With all of this anti-hype surrounding the movie, I went in with fairly low expectations, and I must admit that I enjoyed my visit to the theater. I can’t sit here and call this film a good movie, but it hit some personal high marks and the low marks didn’t get too deep under my skin. And as is the case with new release movies, I will be discussing the story and end credits scene so beyond lays spoilers.
Unfortunately for this movie, the multiple delays didn’t seem to help it, in fact it seemed to hinder it instead. There was an overall lack of cohesion and flow, there were character moments and story beats that felt like they were missing in favor of a shorter run time and/or more action scenes. One of the most egregious was the entire conceit of Matt Smith’s character being named Milo. When the film starts out in flashback, Michael is already a seasoned veteran of this medical ward and when Milo, or technically Lucien arrives Michael immediately calls him Milo and mentions that he’s on the fourth or fifth Milo now. This is actually a pretty dark implication that the other Milos passed away from medical complications so frequently that Michael didn’t bother to learn their names so he wouldn’t get too attached. It’s only when this Milo suffers a near fatal mishap with his blood transfusing medical device that young Michael desperately calls him Loxias (pronounced Lucius) before his temporary fuse replacement gets the machine working again. And yet, after this scene he immediately reverts back to calling him Milo for the rest of the film, as does the head of the facility with no further comment. It’s not until the end of the movie when Milo is once again about to die under different circumstances that Michael calls him Loxias once again.
What does work the best in this film are the two lead characters, Michael Morbius and Milo. Jared Leto and Matt Smith work well against each other with Leto’s Morbius playing the cool under pressure scientist who wants to heal the world and cause no harm. Which is a shame that we don’t see him do anything to help along his co-worker and later love interest Martine while she’s in a concussion-related coma, and we also see them put one of their young patients into an induced coma to save her yet she is never seen again. Meanwhile Smith’s Milo is the longtime friend who becomes the villain when he secretly takes the additional dose of the serum to become a living vampire. Only he comes to enjoy the killing and gets a Magneto-esque ego about how they have evolved to the next stage and are suddenly better than the rest of the population. It’s a quick leap, but Smith revels in the comic book ludicrosity of it all. The biggest downside is that their rivalry goes from zero to one-hundred in a matter of minutes. One minute, Milo is checking in on Morbius in jail, the next minute he has killed their life-long doctor and mentor, and the next minute he has killed Morbius’s love interest to bring on the climactic battle.
Not much has been said about the love interest, Dr. Bancroft as she doesn’t get a whole lot of personality or screen time. She finds Morbius’s secret bat research, sees that it works, then immediately agrees to run the human experiment on Morbius himself out in international waters with a team of dangerous mercenaries for “protection” and also morally ambiguous cannon fodder for Morbius’s initial vampire monstrous turn. She’s then unconscious from falling and hitting her head for the next few days, aka about 20 minutes of screen time while Morbius has his learning to be a living vampire montage. She then shows up to help him out until they kiss practically out of nowhere before becoming hero bait and a sacrificial lamb so Morbius can “drink the red” and be strong enough to defeat Milo. There is really so much cliched storytelling alongside the whole naming convention of the blue vs red when describing the artificial blood that Morbius drinks to stave off his bloodthirsty rage and to avoid drinking the “red” human blood, whether from the blood bank or from a human body. It’s borderline silly even as it’s the necessary ticking clock as the artificial blood only satiates Morbius’s thirst for a few hours, and that time is shortening each day.
While it’s easy to go on and on about the flaws in this film, the overall experience is not nearly as bad as the sum of its parts. Leto and Smith play against each other quite well and the smoky effects used for the vampiric senses looks very stylish. The action and fight sequences are also entertaining with some interesting choices in location like down in the subway tunnels. The flying is a little ludicrous but it’s nothing too far out of the ordinary in a comic book universe. This film is not for everyone by far, but if you can stretch your incredulity and enjoy a good rival vampire flick, there’s a little something here to enjoy. And the less said about the post credits scene with Michael Keaton’s Vulture popping in as what feels like a contractually obligated teaser for a Sinister Six movie that has been teased way too many times and has yet to actually come to pass, the better. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.