Morbius review – ludicrously pointless Jekyll and Hyde vampire-monster yarn

Jared Leto and Matt Smith are an outstanding doctor and his evil nemesis respectively, both grappling with the power to change into an evil demon

With a snarl, with a roar, with a facial morph into horrible sub-Voldemort nasal loss and then back to being handsome, the Marvel superhero-vampire Morbius is with us. And sadly his superpower is being bafflingly dull. His story unfolds with all the dramatic shape of a screensaver and then ends – to be followed by two plonkingly anti-climactic post-credit stings whose sheepish purpose is to lay out more coming attractions from the very corporate Sony’s Spider-Man Universe (SSU) in case we justifiably felt that all this was a bit of a letdown.

Jared Leto plays the nobly dedicated Dr Michael Morbius, who affects a Charles Manson-style long hair-plus-beard combo to go with his gaunt manner and Richard III caliper-canes. The poor man suffers from a blood disorder and has dedicated his life to a cure – so much so that he gets the Nobel prize for medicine in an early scene, but he’s such a badass that he turns it down at the ceremony. Or something; we never quite find out what he does or says to the King of Sweden. But the point is supposedly that Dr Morbius had formed a lifelong friendship in a children’s hospital with the kid in the next bed with the same condition - and he grows up to be a needy, greedy individual called Milo (Matt Smith), quite without Dr Morbius’s ethical superiority.

When Morbius desperately ingests vampire-bat blood in a last-ditch attempt at a cure, his resulting transformation into a super-strong vampire monster with extraordinary abs disturbs him so much he refuses to keep using it. Instead, he manufactures artificial blood from a secret lab once used by criminals for counterfeiting $100 bills. Because … obviously it’s very much the same sort of technology. But Milo – Hyde to his Jekyll – eagerly glugs the vampire-bat blood down and embraces his evil destiny, becoming Morbius’s enemy. Meanwhile, Morbius’s colleague Dr Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona) has a shy tendresse for him, and Jared Harris has to play the two men’s sorrowing mentor Dr Emil Nikols.

It really is an amazingly pointless and dumb film: the good/bad setup between Morbius and Milo is muddled and cancelled by the not-especially-compelling moral struggle within Morbius himself. Both Leto and Smith have to keep doing the evil demonic face-change growling thing, and it is intensely silly. Let’s hope the extended Spider-Man universe extends far enough to include something more interesting than this.

• Morbius is released on 31 March in the UK and Australia, and on 1 April in the US.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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