Morbius would have seemed a lot cooler back in 2002, before the formal Marvel Cinematic Universe perfected the art of adapting comic books for the screen. Seen now, it's nothing more than a combination of one-dimensional characters, recycled plot points, ugly visual effects, and The Matrix-inspired action scenes. The irony is that you could put the Marvel name in front of anything and hardcore fans will show up. Even they might find themselves disappointed by the lack of imagination in this dull, chaotic film.

Jared Leto plays Michael Morbius, a terminally-ill doctor. He may have found a miracle cure after creating a serum that mixes human DNA with bat DNA. Upon using himself as a guinea pig, he develops the unexpected side effect of craving human blood to drink. Funding this research is Milo (Matt Smith), Morbius's friend since childhood. He has the same unnamed illness, and also takes the serum. The difference is that Milo has no compulsions about slaying innocent people. In fact, he kind of enjoys the high that comes from this vampire-like state. Morbius has to stop him before he takes too many lives.

Nothing that transpires in Morbius is new or original. How many times have we seen brilliant, troubled doctors trying to make a scientific breakthrough? Or those same doctors testing their inventions on themselves? Such familiarity is made worse by the fact that the screenplay never goes into much detail regarding what ails Morbius and Milo. We can see their frailness, yet the specifics of their sickness are generally cast aside. Morbius's sudden ability to communicate with bats comes right out of Batman comics, and his romance with fellow researcher Martine (Adria Arjona) is shoved in pointlessly, with zero justification. The reason why Milo is so malicious never gets fully developed, either.

Not even the action scenes are fun. Most of them are photographed in a murky manner that occasionally makes it difficult to see what's happening. When we can see them, they're garden-variety CGI-infused nonsense. Director Daniel Espinosa (Life) over-uses that tired gimmick where the action speeds up and then abruptly goes into slow-motion, before speeding up again. Once more, this is 2002 stuff, not 2022.

Morbius is quite clearly nothing more than “product.” Disney owns the film rights to most Marvel characters, aside from a few owned by Sony. Between this and the awful Venom pictures, it's obvious Sony is trying to ride the wave of insane Marvel popularity by cranking out anything they can, without the emphasis on quality control that has allowed the MCU to achieve unprecedented box office success. Whereas Marvel Studios/Disney take the approach of “we love these characters and want to do right by them,” Sony's take reeks of “we own these characters, so lets slap something together and make money.”

Nowhere is that more evident than in the now-obligatory post-credits scenes. There are two here, both absurd even by this movie's standards, and both clearly designed to prep audiences for an eventual gathering of the characters Sony has permission to use. Like Morbius itself, they're routine, unexciting, and presented without any true affection or appreciation for the comic book figures they're adapting.

This is where we are with superhero movies. They've become so dominant, so financially prosperous that filmmakers are starting to believe any hunk of junk can be released and find profitability. Too many films like Morbius could hasten the death of superhero cinema.

out of four

Morbius is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, some frightening images, and brief strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 44 minutes.