Marvel Comics’ famed Living Vampire debuted in theaters early this year much to the disapproval of critics and surprising mockery of fans but now hopes to sink its teeth into ultra-high definition home theater audiences in Morbius (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 104 minutes, $45.99).
Much like his sequential art origins, Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) suffers from a rare and potentially fatal blood disorder. He finds a cure for himself, and his equally sick surrogate brother Milo (Matt Smith), using vampire bat DNA, but he learns that the cure is much more deadly to other humans than the disease.
Yes, Michael and Milo now exist as vampires, Milo taking the drug against Michael’s wishes, and without the supernatural weaknesses of the creatures, they ferociously suck the blood of humans at all hours to stay alive while exhibiting superpowers.
The Morbius character’s origins stay mainly intact especially his presentation with a lithe body type and ghoulish appearance as well as the facial features that are beyond lifelike to the comics.
Unfortunately, Mr. Leto sleepwalks through the role with a character that lacks the emotional terror one would expect from a man with a noble cause that tragically turns himself into a monster.
Mr. Smith, however, has a certain gusto as he embraces his villainous vampire form of Milo, a performance packed with rage and sarcasm often directed at his brother.
Weighing down the routine and too-short plot is a pair of doddering FBI agents (Al Madrigal and Tyrese Gibson) attempting to catch Morbius and acting like he’s a shoplifter and a sputtering romance with research assistant Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona) that never has time to develop.
Another miscue was the “PG-13” rating. Reference Guillermo Del Toro’s “Blade 2” for a look at why a vampire superhero movie can benefit from an “R” rating through a level of gore and brutality that one would expect from a horror film.
Despite being supported by Marvel Entertainment, the film falls flat next to all of Sony’s previous carefully cultivated superhero entries tied into the Spider-Man cinematic universe.
That’s right, Morbius is a Spider-Man villain turned anti-hero evolving since his first comic book appearance way back in 1971. Audiences would have little idea that he existed alongside the web slinger.
The only hint is a pair of misplaced post-credits scenes trying to cram a tie-in to Sony’s latest Spider-Man film using another villain.
The result makes zero sense to the Morbius’ plot and is completely out of context, making the film even more confusing to the average audience member.
4K in action: What the film lacks in originality and length, Sony more than makes up for with an impressive UHD transfer from a 4K digital intermediate.
The presentation delivers a detailed and color-saturated world of Morbius and especially his vampiric fits of hunger.
One can examine Mr. Leto’s sinewy torso and pale purplish flesh to count his surfacing veins or watch his inner-ear cartilage undulating to reveal his echolocation powers.
Also, colorful smoky tentacles stream behind him as he pounces or flies at a blistering pace and any chance to carefully watch the doctor morph from humanoid to vampire is a visual delight.
Best extras: A very cheesy and promotional style of featurettes are found on the Blu-ray disc.
The six segments (roughly 30 minutes) cover visual and practical effects, supporting cast, stunt work, the anti-hero qualities of Morbius, a spotlight on the director and a brief overview of the production.
The throwaway “Nocturnal Easter Eggs” exposes some secrets in the film but at under three minutes lacks any real depth to offer fanboys any goodies.
Sorely missing is any meaty retrospective covering Morbius’ history in the Marvel Comics and Spider-Man sequential art.
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