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In this edition of The Silver Lining, we’ll be covering Daniel Espinosa’s recent comic book adaptation Morbius, which is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital.

From Adventures into the Unknown to Tales from the Crypt, comic books used to be a popular source of horror stories until the Comics Code Authority began cracking down on adult-oriented material back in the mid 1950s. The organization even specified a general ban on “all scenes of horror” and imagery involving “walking dead”, fearing that these scary stories were having a negative effect on children.

Luckily for genre fans, these regulations became more lax in the 70s, which led to a resurgence of monstrous characters in comic books. Among the spooky creations that rose to notoriety during this period was Morbius the Living Vampire, a sci-fi take on a traditional nosferatu. Initially appearing as a tragic Spider-Man villain, the character would eventually spin off into his own anti-hero adventures, becoming more popular in the 90s alongside the similarly themed Blade.

Now that the Venom movies have proven that audiences are inexplicably hungry for stories that only tangentially relate to Spider-Man, it makes sense that Sony would try their hand at replicating the Lethal Protector’s success with another edgy vigilante. That’s how we got to see 2022’s Morbius, another Spidey villain origin story sans the iconic web-slinger.

Funnily enough, a solo Morbius film has actually been in the works since the late 90s. The project was trapped in development hell since a rights issue prevented the character from showing up in Guillermo Del Toro’s Blade 2, with the Living Vampire even having a cameo in a deleted scene of the first film, played by director Stephen Norrington. The solo project was eventually revived when Jared Leto became interested in the character, recommending Daniel Espinosa (who had previously helmed 2017’s Alien-inspired Life) to direct the picture after the two met during a Thirty Seconds to Mars tour.

While this is where I’d usually talk about how audiences had high expectations for the picture, I think readers are well aware of the film’s questionable reputation ever since the first trailer dropped all the way back in early 2020. Following the brilliant Dr. Michael Morbius as he accidentally turns himself into a super-powered vampire after attempting to cure his debilitating blood disease, the film promised audiences yet another by-the-numbers origin story for a character that didn’t exactly boast a massive fanbase.

Even so, after a series of shifting release windows, Morbius finally hit theaters nearly two years after it was originally meant to come out. And the internet would never be the same.


SO WHAT WENT WRONG?

Grossing a little over $163 million on an $83 million budget, it’s clear that Morbius didn’t exactly reach Venom levels of box office success. Adding insult to injury, the film currently sits at 17% on Rotten Tomatoes, with most critics agreeing that the incoherent script and bizarre attempts at establishing a cinematic universe with leftover intellectual property resulted in a poor introduction to this supposed Marvel Legend.

Digging a little deeper, you’ll find that the picture’s messy story is largely due to some aggressive over-tinkering behind the scenes, as at least four writers were involved with the script despite only two being credited. The film was also re-shot and re-edited to hell during the pandemic, with the ever-changing tide of super-hero movies influencing Morbius’ place in Sony’s proposed Spider-Man universe. There are also rumors of executives and test audiences reacting negatively to some of the plot’s excesses, which may have resulted in neutered action/horror scenes as well as a series of abrupt cuts and abandoned plot threads.

In fact, Tyreese Gibson’s Simon Stroud was originally meant to have a much larger role in the story, with his character boasting a high-tech robotic arm and more action scenes in the original cut of the film. J.K. Simmons was also meant to reprise his role as J. Jonah Jameson, though he ultimately had to be removed from the film (alongside several other Spidey references) once the producers realized that Morbius couldn’t take place in the same world as the MCU’s Spider-Man movies.

This sort of legislative mess is par for the course in Sony’s Marvel adaptations (which is why Tom Hardy’s incarnation of Venom lacks the character’s iconic spider logo and explicitly villainous origins), but the real problem with Morbius is how it ended up being less interesting than the sum of its parts.


THE SILVER LINING

MORBIUS digital

It would be really dishonest of me to sit here and try to convince readers that Morbius is some kind of misunderstood masterpiece, but I genuinely think that critics went a little overboard when complaining about this spooky super-hero flick. In a world ruled by episodic blockbusters that try way too hard to set up multiple sequels during the course of a bloated runtime, a briskly paced standalone origin story can be a breath of fresh air (even if it features one of the most awful post-credits scenes in recent memory).

Despite being surprisingly faithful to its source material, I’d argue that Morbius is more fun if you enjoy it as a b-grade vampire flick rather than a run-of-the-mill comic-book adaptation. In fact, the movie kind of feels like a more kid-friendly version of those action-horror hybrids that were so popular during the early 2000s. While it doesn’t feature the entertaining gore and monster effects of those films, there are certainly elements of Underworld and even Blade running through Morbius’ veins.

It’s also worth noting that Jared Leto made a surprisingly compelling effort to bring this tortured vampire to life, going so far as to slow the production down by insisting on using his character’s crutches whenever he needed to go to the bathroom. Regardless of what you think of the actor’s controversial methods and off-screen persona, there’s no denying that he’s a talented thespian and took the role seriously.

Matt Smith’s campy interpretation of the villainous Milo was also an unexpected delight, with the actor clearly having the time of his life as a desperate millionaire who found a new lease on life after embracing vampirism. Smith even admits to channeling a bit of Kiefer Sutherland in his hammy performance, inspired by the antagonist of 1987’s The Lost Boys.

Speaking of classic vampire flicks, I think horror fans will appreciate the subtle genre references peppered throughout the film. Not only is the cargo ship from the beginning of the movie named after F.W. Murnau (director of Nosferatu), but there are also several allusions to the mad science of popular Gothic literature, as well as nods to previous adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. On an unrelated note, I also really enjoyed Milo’s ridiculous vampire dance, which should be a campy treat for any Doctor Who fans out there.

Morbius may not be as cartoonishly fun as Venom, but there are enough schlocky thrills here to appease vampire enthusiasts despite an unfortunate lack of bloodshed. While I admittedly enjoy the ironic memes that have overtaken the film online (I have a particular soft spot for the absurd “it’s morbin’ time”), it’s a shame that so many people missed out on this mercifully brief blockbuster that harkens back to simpler times when comic-book movies were allowed to be a little sillier.


Watching a bad movie doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad experience. Even the worst films can boast a good idea or two, and that’s why we’re trying to look on the bright side with The Silver Lining, where we shine a light on the best parts of traditionally maligned horror flicks.

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