[Screen It]


(2022) (Jared Leto, Matt Smith) (PG-13)

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Superhero Action: A medical researcher accidentally imbues himself with vampire related superhuman abilities and must contend with his best friend turning to the dark side using the same.

Michael Morbius (JARED LETO) is a biomedical doctor who -- due to having a lifelong blood disorder -- has spent his adult life trying to cure various blood diseases. He works alongside Dr. Martine Bancroft (ADRIA ARJONA) and their work is funded by Michael's lifelong friend, Milo (MATT SMITH), who suffers from the same disease that's left both of their bodies weakened.

Having researched vampire bats getting their only nutrition through blood, Michael decides to experiment with splicing their DNA with that of humans, some he refers to as his chimera project. Feeling he has nothing to lose, he experiments with that on himself, unaware that it's going to turn him into a bloodthirsty vampire with superhuman powers that he uses to kill eight people in that state.

Fortunately for him, it's only temporary, but as he tries to come to grips with that, he must not only contend with FBI Agents Stroud (TYRESE GIBSON) and Rodriguez (AL MADRIGAL) zeroing in on him as the main suspect, but also Milo deciding to use the serum on himself.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10

The 2022 Academy Awards show won't be remembered for "Coda" winning Best Picture and collecting other Oscars along the way. Instead, it will forever be etched in the minds of all of Hollywood and movie fans around the world for the moment when Chris Rock did an impromptu joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's alopecia. That prompted her formerly mostly universally beloved husband, Will, to storm the stage, smack Rock across the face, and then return to his seat from where he yelled profanities at him.

Beyond sucking all of the air out of the Dolby Theater and TV broadcast, what was probably most shocking was the fact that before that, at least to most of the world, Smith seemed like a genuinely nice guy. Yes, he might have played Muhammad Ali up on the screen and vanquished extraterrestrials multiple times, but was otherwise known for joking around, smiling, and seemingly always in the running against Tom Hanks as the all-around nicest guy in showbiz.

It showed, however, that as evolved as humans might think they are, we're all still animals with related instincts and that even the most mild-mannered person can snap with the "right" provocation. Of course, Hollywood has played off that notion since light first made its way out of projectors, with the most obvious example being "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

Continuing in that vein and hitting theaters just days after the slap seen and heard around the world, we now have "Morbius," the latest installment of the Spider-Man side of the Marvel universe. Don't get me wrong, the beloved webslinger is nowhere to be found in this just over one-hundred-minute offering, but some connections are present along with hints of what may be to come in future films.

Granted, that may depend on the level of box office success this offering from director Daniel Espinosa --- who works from a screenplay by Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless -- achieves, and based on critical reaction, it might be a tough slog trying to suck dollars out of moviegoers once word spreads that the film, well, does indeed suck.

Speaking of which, and for those who aren't fan-boys and fan-girls, the story centers around the titular bio-doc (Jared Leto) who decides to splice human DNA with the same from vampire bats. The hope is that it might prove to cure his lifelong blood malady. It does, sort of, but it also turns him into a monstrous and deadly vampire until the effects wear off.

In that regard, it's obviously a cinematic kissing cousin to the "Venom" flicks where Tom Hardy's character ends up with a violent alter-ego inside his body. While those weren't great pics, at least they incorporated humor into the proceedings, something sorely missing here (aside from some weak attempts via sporadic wisecracks by Al Madrigal's FBI agent character).

The biggest issue, though, is that the overall story and the characters within it aren't remotely engaging or interesting. Sure, Matt Smith continues the creepy character bit he last did with the far superior "Last Night in Soho," but there's no chemistry between Leto's character and his doc partner played by Adria Arjona. And the subplot of having two FBI agents (the other played by Tyrese Gibson) closing in on the doc is clunky and feels like an obligatory and tacked-on subplot. Even the Jekyll & Hyde thematic material of man's inherently violent nature feels uninspired as written and performed.

It would seem fairly difficult to make a boring vampire flick, let alone one tied to the Marvel universe, but here we have it. Yes, vampires suck, but so does this movie. "Morbius" rates as a 3.5 out of 10.

Reviewed March 30, 2022 / Posted April 1, 2022

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