Movie Review: Morbius

Sooner or later your legs give way, you hit the ground

Save it for later, don't run away and let me down

Sooner or later you'll hit the deck, you'll get found out

Save it for later, don't run away and let me down, you let me down

– The English Beat, “Save it For Later”

My pet peeve with movies lately are all the needle drops they do of classic rock songs trying for a hip factor. Morbius only plays this one song, a terrific tune from the English Beat, and the lyrics even work for some of the characters.

Yet critics always fall for that, and praise filmmakers like Edgar Wright and Tarantino who have disappointed me in their last few films, but hey – they play lots of catchy tunes that naive critics get sucked into praising. Those same critics are surprising me by dissing this very enjoyable film. It may have an obvious plot with a few holes, and might not be the most original script in the world; but it’s surprisingly entertaining. Many will compare it to Spider-man, since the main character uses bat blood and becomes part bat. I felt like it was a lot more like The Fly, and just as I loved that movie, I enjoyed this one. Watching him turn into the creature at times reminded me of the fun I had in 8th grade when I saw An American Werewolf in London.

Jared Leto disappointed me when he played the Joker, because it felt like he was just trying to take what Heath Ledger did up a notch. And the script for that film was weak. As a caring doctor/scientist in this, you’re intrigued by him from the get-go. It helps that it’s a restrained performance and he seems to have these caring eyes, off-set by his rockstar hair. 

Since I’m not well-versed in the many original backstories of all these comic book characters they keep throwing at us, it was nice to know the movie works for those of us that know nothing about the brilliant Dr. Michael Morbius. We first see him in a hospital as a child, becoming friends with Milo, the new kid brought in that has the same rare blood disorder, which means they need multiple blood transfusions daily. Not only do they have to use crutches and can barely walk even with those, they won’t live much past the age of 40. And since Morbius is a brilliant mind (as a kid, he fixed one of the machines the doctors had been struggling with), he tries everything to come up with a cure. When his bat research leads him to combine human blood with bat blood, well…let the shenanigans begin. As you can imagine, it’s a lot more productive for society if you can shoot webs out of your hands and fight crime then walking around craving O+. That means this becomes a bit more of a horror movie at times. 

I mentioned The Fly earlier. Well, when he has super-human strength and is bouncing off the walls in his office, or tells a female doctor he’s chummy with, “You should probably leave now. It’s not safe for you here,” it brought back all those memories of Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis.

Director Daniel Espinosa (Life, Safe House) might borrow from a few other films, I have no problem with that. 

I was especially impressed with the comedic moments that all worked (one of those involves a joke about The Notebook). One of the few things that didn’t work was his best friend (Matt Smith of Doctor Who and Last Night in Soho). The character was interesting. He’s the rich benefactor as an adult, and we’re led to believe he’s involved in some shady stuff. Once he starts taking the bat blood serum, his character isn’t menacing enough. It was more like Jim Carey in The Mask. It would have been much more compelling for us to be fearing him, not laughing at his goofy dance as he stands over some bodies he just disposed of.

The romance with Martine (Adria Arjona) feels organic and works well. A few of the scary scenes are terrific. One of them involves motion-detecting lights, and it’s brilliantly done. Another scene involves the bad guy questioning a woman, and hearing her heartbeat, to tell if she’s lying as the beats increase. I’m sure many won’t even realize what’s happening at that moment.

Watching a guy walk with a limp and cane, to a normal, even confident strut – reminds me of Keyser Soze at the end of The Usual Suspects

Jared Harris plays the caring doctor who treated these guys as boys, and still works for Milo, despite the illegal stuff he may be involved in.

There are great special effects and production design; a score by Jon Ekstrand that’s mournful. Perhaps Milo and Morbius could have been a bit more developed, but then this wouldn’t have been a movie that was only an hour and 40 minutes long. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve gotten really tired of three hour movies that don’t need to be that long.

3 stars out of 5.

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