The relationship between Sony and Morbius is… complicated.
As they lean further into their SPUMC (or ‘Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters’), Sony continues to fight for their share of the Marvel box office pie. After the success of the Venom films, one can almost see Sony salivate over the potential of creating their own extended universe of super-characters. Plans to merge characters such as Spider-Woman, Kraven the Huner, Vulture and even the rumoured return of Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man into the Venom-verse have driven this (sub)Marvel franchise forward with surprising speed over the last couple of years.
But things hit a speedbump with Morbius.
Morbius tells the story of Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), a brilliant doctor that has suffered from a rare blood disorder since childhood. Determined to save himself and others who are suffering from the same fate, Morbius allows his DNA to be fused with that of vampire bats in the hopes of creating a cure. However, while his experiment seems to be successful, the effects on him are far worse than he could have imagined. Now with a taste for human blood, Morbius must decide if he can quell his evil urges and become the hero he wants to be.
After a disastrous run in theatres, Morbius didn’t take well with audiences for any number of reasons. Whether it’s Jared Leto’s more serious tone, bad writing or removed Spider-Man teases, the Living Vampire was not seen as a success in taking their plans to the next level.
But that’s when things took a turn. All of a sudden, the Twitter-verse took over. Memes and TikTok clips celebrating ‘Morbin’ Time’ began to mock the film constantly. Tweets about the hilarious nature of the film seemed to make it trend popularly once again. Unable to recognize the fact that the film’s trending popularity was due to the brutal mocking of internet trolls, Sony even re-released the film in theatres, trying to capitalize on the film’s (sarcastic) buzz. When the film failed again to garner money, they seemed surprised. (Personally, my favourite response from one TikTok’r was ‘We were busy that weekend. Please release it a third time.’)
They may have missed the memo.
But seriously, is Morbius misunderstood? Misguided? Or just plain awful?
In truth, it’s probably a bit of all three. Directed by Daniel Espinoza, Morbius is an ambitious project that continues to develop the more horrifying aspects of Sony’s universe. However, whereas Venom appears to own its silliness (especially in its second film), Morbius leans into the seriousness of its darker tone. Frankly, it doesn’t work. While Leto seems committed to his character, his performance is somewhat joyless in the midst of a ridiculous concept. (At least Tom Hardy appears to be having some fun with his evil symbiote…) While one can’t expect (or even potentially, want) Sony’s superhero universe to mimic Marvel’s blend of action and humour, one would hope that they would understand that their characters lack both the grit of Batman or the silliness of Iron Man.
They’re something different. And different can be great, if done well.
As with Venom, Morbius has the opportunity to explore what it means to battle our darkest impulses and even potentially use them for good. Is it possible to find redemption after our inner demons have been unleashed? As Morbius wrestles his own desire for human blood, Espinoza could have used the character to take a deep dive into the human experience. It’s ripe with potential. Yet, unfortunately, all that we’re given is a bland photocopy of other films we’ve received over the last decade, without the fun that could’ve been had along the way.
Admittedly, the disc transfer does look good. Morbius features a lot of heavy shadows and backlit areas, yet the film is clear and looks surprisingly sharp onscreen. However, special features are lacking. While Defining the Antihero is a relatively interesting look at the dark side of heroes, few other features are notable. (If anything, this is a project which needs to have a director’s commentary attached, especially one that acknowledges the mixed reaction to the film.)
So, while Morbius may not a ‘good’ film (or even a ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ film), it may make for a night of laughs with friends who are in on the joke.
Because, apparently, Sony is not.
Morbius is available on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD on Tuesday, June 14, 2022