Morbius Movie Reaction – A Fun Film That’s Not Sure What It Wants To Be
Upon seeing the Morbius trailer the first time, a typical reaction was it looks like a movie released too late. Not because the movie ended up delayed seven times, but because Morbius feels like a film that belongs in the early 2000s era of superhero cinema. During that time, the films were haphazard, because some studios and filmmakers still hadn’t cracked the formula for adapting these kinds of stories. From this perspective, the Morbius movie is quite good. Yet, if you go by Rotten Tomatoes, the movie is a flop. While Morbius likely won’t be the hit that Sony Pictures wants it to be, the reputation this film already has is undeserved.
There is also the question of what happened during the delays. As one of the stars, British actor Matt Smith, said, they made it “yonks ago,” and that left time for tinkering. Star Jared Leto said in January of 2021 that the film would undergo some reshoots to adjust script issues. In December, Batman and Vulture actor Michael Keaton revealed he was shooting more “Vulture stuff,” presumably for this film. Many shots from the first trailers for Morbius are not in the movie. There comes a time in the storytelling process when you just have to let the thing be what it is. Some of the hiccups in this movie smack of that kind of over-thinking.
Lastly, this is a PG-13 film that really should be R-rated. Vampires are synonymous with human blood and there is very little of that. The action sequences have a kind of scary power to them, yet the CG visual effects added, while dynamic and fun to look at, muddy the action. Let’s get into the specifics of the good and bad reaction to the Morbius movie.
Spoilers to follow.
The Morbius Movie Forgot the Comic Book Formula that Works
Much is made of the MCU formula for origin movies, but there is no denying that this story structure works. It’s not unoriginal nor is it a sign that the movies are factory-made not-cinema garbage. Many movies have formulas from horror to the romcom. Some elements are there, specifically that Morbius ends up facing a “darker” version of himself in the film. This character, Milo, was my favorite in the film based solely on Matt Smith’s performance. The 11th Doctor went for it and was the only character in the movie to have that scene where he’s just psyched to have superpowers.
Image via Sony Pictures
Also, the relationship between Milo and Morbius is the emotional heart of the film. One element that didn’t work for me was the relationship between Morbius and Dr. Martine Bancroft, played by Adria Arjona of Good Omens fame. While it’s okay to have same-sex characters be friends, this movie would have worked better if Milo and Morbius were a couple or at least interested in each other that way. Of course, this isn’t the case because studios are still afraid of gay leads for mainstream films. Also, without Martine, there would be no woman character in every act of the film.
While the visual effects are pretty to look at, what this movie misses the mark on is the emotional stakes. The fights are fun, but we have to care about the characters. And in the final act, I found myself rooting for Milo more than Morbius. While the hero of the movie, we don’t get a moment from Morbius in the movie where he has the reaction or revelatory moment where he realizes with great power comes, well, a sense of duty to do more than just clean up your own mess.
Sony Pictures Should Embrace The B-Movie Qualities That Make The Morbius Film Fun
Image via Sony Pictures
Hands down, Matt Smith is the best part of the movie. He looks like the only actor have fun while playing the role. He embraces his over-the-top villainy. Milo’s motivations aren’t always clear, but his story is the one I related to most. He wants to live, enjoys his powers, and doesn’t feel any guilt about harming or killing people while doing it. Part of the reason the reaction to the Morbius movie is so harsh is that this is a B-movie with a blockbuster budget. If you like your superhero sci-fi to have a plot that makes logical and ‘scientific’ sense, this is not it.
There are moments of meta-awareness, such as when Morbius walks into a counterfeiting operation to steal their lab. “Is this the part of the movie where the mysterious guy in the hoodie kicks everyone’s asses?” he asks. It wasn’t because he just intimidated the main baddie, and the rest run off. Yet, it’s not as meta as say Deadpool, and thus it furthers that sense this is a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be. The other great moments were the parts that leaned into the horror elements. Yet, with a PG-13 rating, this Marvel vampire movie pales in comparison to something like the original Blade.
Lastly, as fun as Tyrese Gibson and Al Madrigal’s FBI Agents Stroud and Rodriguez, they are superfluous to the film. We spend time with them as they investigate the antics of Morbius in the movie, but they are only there to provide a reaction from the ‘real world’ to this sci-fi business. It’s honestly a waste of great performances on characters who are, at best, tangential to the story. Also, shoutout to Jared Harris who does what he does, which is deliver an emotional performance and then die.
Will the Reaction to Morbius Kill Another Sony Pictures Movie Franchise?
Image via Sony Pictures
As one of the films impacted by the pandemic, Morbius may be forgiven for a lackluster critical performance. The Thursday previews box office was about $6 million, around what the first Shazam did. The David F. Sandberg DC film had a budget of $100 million compared to Morbius’s $75 million. If it opens at the near $40 million it’s expected to, it could end up (at least) breaking even, with no real competition save for Sonic 2 and Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore. Actually, that’s some stiff competition. Still, I explained the Morbius post-credits scenes as clearly evidence that Sony Pictures wants this character to live on past this movie. While it will almost certainly not be a success on the level of Venom, Sony Pictures may want another bite at the neck apple.
Whether or not Morbius returns as part of a team project or a second solo movie, however, may depend on the reaction. Not from critics, of course, but from the audience. There are many films that get dogged by critics that the audiences-at-large enjoy a lot more. We critics like to analyze the product, look for meaning, and so on. Which is fine and good (though I may be biased). That said, the real test of the film will be how many people enjoy Morbius in the theater, especially more than once.
Yet, if it fails, Sony Pictures (and David Espinosa, Jared Leto, and others) may be unhappy, but there is still a deep well of Marvel characters that they can pull from.
Morbius is currently playing in theaters.
What do you think? Tell us your reaction to the Morbius movie and let us know if you think it is going to get the franchise treatment or be relegated to the Marvel dustbin in the comments below.
Featured image via Sony Pictures
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book of superhero short stories, Tales of Adventure & Fantasy: Book One is available as an ebook or paperback from Amazon.