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Five questions to help you decide whether to see ‘Morbius’

A scary monster face
Morbius (Jared Leto) in Columbia Pictures’ “Morbius.”
(Columbia Pictures)
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It’s tough to stand out in the crowded cinematic superhero space, but “Morbius” manages to pull it off — though perhaps not in the way intended.

Jared Leto stars as Dr. Michael Morbius in Sony’s latest entry into its loosely connected Spider-Man universe, out Friday. Afflicted with a rare blood disease, Morbius has devoted his life to finding a cure to keep himself and his childhood best friend, Milo (Matt Smith), alive.

Although the studio’s main “Spider-Man” films — a trilogy co-produced with Marvel Studios capped by last year’s box-office juggernaut “Spider-Man: No Way Home” — have been revered by fans and critics, its non-Marvel Cinematic Universe-set titles have received more mixed, though still generally favorable, reactions. Early reviews indicate “Morbius” may be the most divisive entry into the Spider-Man universe yet.

Will you love “Morbius”? Times reporters Michael Ordoña and Tracy Brown parse it out.

Jared Leto plays the Marvel antihero ‘Morbius’ in this poorly-made action thriller.

March 31, 2022


WARNING: Slight spoilers for Sony’s “Morbius” below.

1. Are vampires a draw for you, or do you find them draining?

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MICHAEL ORDOÑA: Within vampire fangdom, er, fandom, there are those who are suckers for all of it and those who get cross about The Rules. So while this is definitely one of the most horror-oriented MCU or MCU-adjacent entries so far (Doctor Strange says, “Hold my beer”), the character even says he’s “not that kind of vampire.” Yes, he vants to suck your blood, but crosses, garlic, sunlight — not a prob. The Rules for this monster are unclear — Morbius dodges bullets and the like but shrugs off more extreme punishment. It’s not known what would kill him. See “Wonder Woman,” in which she’s bludgeoned by a tank and is fine but is averse to being shot. So yes, power scaling is a problem.

Rest assured, though, despite the gorgeous lead actors, these aren’t emo vampires who avoid the sun because they become too beautiful in it. By the way, there was a “Tomb of Dracula” Marvel comic, but more traditional vampire film fans may regard “Morbius” as more B.S.; they’ll have to remain thirsty until the MCU version of Blade arrives.

2. Are you a fan of dark superhero movies?

TRACY BROWN: Most superhero movies tend to come in shades of two main flavors: the light, comedic stylings like many of the films set within the MCU and the dark, serious variety like the latest “Batman.”

A movie about a man turning into a “living vampire” after an experiment goes wrong, “Morbius” falls more into the dark and serious category. Sort of. The movie earns its PG-13 rating with its infusion of horror elements and a body count of human victims that were killed violently, but if you’re looking for weighty philosophical considerations around morality, mortality and the human condition, you’re out of luck. The “dark and serious” is more just a mood in “Morbius.”

And it’s not all dark! Although Morbius’ big fight against the movie’s biggest bad is poorly lit and kind of hard to follow, the villain clearly takes delight in being bad, which brings its own kind of fun. There is also plenty of unintentional comedy, such as the CGI-ification of Morbius’ vampiric visage.

a man and a woman seated at a table
Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) and Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona) in “Morbius.”
(Jay Maidment / Sony Pictures)

3. Do you believe movies should pass the Bechdel test?

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BROWN: After years of discussing diversity in Hollywood, it seems we should be long past the need to suss out how inclusive a film is by applying a simple test. But it turns out movies can still fail them.

The Bechdel test, named after author and cartoonist Alison Bechdel (who credits the idea to her friend Liz Wallace), is a simple measure of the presence of women in a film. To “pass,” a film must feature at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man.

The “Morbius” cast includes Adria Arjona, who plays Dr. Martine Bancroft, Morbius’ colleague who assists him with his experimental cure. Although Bancroft is clearly a gifted scientist, she’s one of the few women in the film and the only one with narrative significance. The lengthiest conversation she has with another woman — or in this case, a girl — is pretty brief and it’s mostly about Morbius.

The Bechdel test alone cannot measure how nuanced or significant the representation of women is in a film, but “Morbius” doesn’t really pass that basic hurdle.

4. Would the presence of Jared Leto get you to a cinema? How about Matt Smith?

ORDOÑA: Though he’s a respected, go-for-it kind of actor with an Oscar in his trophy case, Leto isn’t exactly a major box-office name — there’s no great box-office envelope for a Leto opener. His performances can be bold and widely praised (“Dallas Buyers Club,” “Requiem for a Dream”) or divisive (“Suicide Squad,” “House of Gucci”). His fans will get to see him show more of that famous range here as he goes from sickly genius to hunky supermodel genius to blood-sucking monster. His detractors ... will detract.

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Smith fans will be delighted the Doctor is in and that he’s in a deliciously different guise than the personas for which he’s best known, the “American Psycho” musical notwithstanding.

5. Are you a Marvel completist?

ORDOÑA: If you are, then it’s a no-brainer. There’s an explicit tie to the MCU that would be a spoiler. And besides, the film and character are pieces of the Sony Spider-Verse that will doubtlessly fit that larger puzzle later.

If you’re not, then let the rest of these answers be your guide. “Morbius” is a dark superhero movie with horror elements, limited female presence, good performances (say some of us, though not others) and an intelligent script (say a few of us, not most of us, apparently). But ultimately it’s likely your placement on the Marvel meter that will determine the stakes for whether you see this super-vampire flick.

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