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After two years of delays and many more in development, we've finally arrived at Morbius release week, giving fans a chance to see what Sony Pictures is cooking up for the next chapter of their long-developing universe of Spider-Man allies and adversaries. Like the Venom films before it, Morbius is an attempt to take a one-time Spider-Man foe-turned-antihero and develop him into a standalone character who can not only carry his own films, but intertwine with other characters for potentially bigger adventures down the line, with a bona fide movie star at the center of it all.
This time around, the movie star is Jared Leto as Dr. Michael Morbius, a scientist trying to cure his own rare blood disease through experiments with vampire bats. As you may have guessed, it all goes very wrong, and Morbius' attempts to use the bats' biological gifts to fix his own body lead to a strange genetic merge that makes him into a living vampire with a craving for human blood. So, even as other dangers develop around him, Morbius has a choice to make: Will he be a bloodthirsty bad guy, or a living vampire with principles?
For the answer to that dilemma, you'll have to check out the movie yourself. What we're here to parse out today is how critics took to the film, and unfortunately...the news isn't good. Early reviews for Morbius have dropped the film to a dismal 19% (as of this writing) over on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics lamenting that the film just doesn't have the same sense of fun that made the Venom films into a franchise all their own. Though there are some bright spots -- namely Matt Smith as Morbius' best friend Milo -- this film feels like an adequate movie experience and more like a launching pad for more sequels.
"No one wants to watch a lousy movie, but an unmitigated disaster can often be more interesting than something that’s just mediocre. Morbius falls into the latter category, a run-of-the-mill origin story that’s capably acted and professionally mounted, but mostly lifeless up on screen—and feels more disappointing after two years of anticipation for its release," Todd Gilchrist wrote for The AV Club.
"Morbius has a few good ideas in it and the action scenes are decent, but even the good stuff just makes the other stuff look worse in comparison. Jared Leto is coasting on his movie-star status, Smith blows everyone else off the screen, and [Adria] Arjona is completely underused. Outside of those action scenes, there’s very little about Morbius that distinguishes it in any way, even in terms of its connection with fellow Spider-Man films. All told, it’s a messy void that isn’t terrible when you’re watching it, but leaves a bad taste in your mouth by the end," Germain Lussier wrote for io9.
"Morbius is unspectacular in ways that waste the potential of what could be an intriguing hybrid of sinister horror and superhero thrills. One single scene recalls David F. Sandberg’s Lights Out for a suitable fright, but otherwise horror accents are limited to cheesy jokes about Dracula. That’s the approach the whole film takes, in fact. Everything feels superfluous and uninterested in thoughtful storytelling because the mission at hand is to get to the end credits where the meat exists. Morbius is so focused on building Sony’s Spider-Man Universe and hopeful sequels — which could very well be better now that the foundation exists — that it forgets about enthusiastically engaging its audience from the start," Matt Donato wrote for IGN.
"In an oversaturated space of superhero cinema, Morbius sits smack in the middle. It’s not terrible, but it’s not memorable either. Leto mistakes a lack of emotion for stoicism, and it’s up to the VFX to do the heavy lifting to imbue the living vampire with any identity or temperament. Without, say, someone like Tom Hardy embracing the weirdness of the character in Venom, it’s tough to find rooting interest or muster any excitement for the vampiric bat man. At best, it’s a serviceable placeholder until the next installment of this expanding universe," Meagan Navarro wrote for Bloody Disgusting.
But, with superhero movies as with every other blockbuster, there are always defenders, always people for whom the story just works. That means there's still some praise to be found out there for Morbius overall, and from some high-profile critics.
"Logic and plot flow are generally treated like civilian casualties, but the movie, with its canny mix of whiz-bang violence, goth atmosphere, and high camp, feels pleasingly pulpy and urgent up until its last minutes, when the narrative doesn't so much wind down as run smack into the final title card," Leah Greenblatt wrote for Entertainment Weekly.
"The curious fun of Daniel Espinosa’s film is in how it embraces the gothic mythology that inspired it. Morbius does eventually become a cluttered slugfest, as all things must. But for much of its run it is a stylish, intriguingly toned story of a man trying to thwart mortality," Richard Lawson wrote for Vanity Fair.
So, where will you end up landing on the Morbius review spectrum? You can find out when the film takes a bite out of theaters this weekend.