Release Date(s)2022 (June 14, 2022)
Studio(s)Marvel/Columbia Pictures (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: D+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: D+
Sharing the same Universe as the recent Venom films, Morbius (known to Marvel Comics fans as Morbius: The Living Vampire) didn’t exactly light the world on fire commercially when it was released in early 2022. Criticized for its screenplay, performances, visual effects, and everything in between, it managed to eke out a tiny profit, but was nowhere near as successful as properties produced entirely by Marvel Studios. The film is meant to possibly set up a possible Sinister Six film (as evidenced by the awkward mid-credit scenes), but also lead into the world of Blade, with the possible inclusion of Spider-Man at some point. Nevertheless, Sony seems to have gotten off to an unfortunate start, releasing a series of films (Venom and Venom: Let There Be Carnage included) that don’t exactly match the quality of their Disney-owned counterparts. Even so, it’s good to see a franchise expand into different factions, much like the original comics, which went into a myriad of directions with multiple characters from varying storylines and universes. But at this juncture, Morbius is the least-accepted among the Sony-produced Marvel films.
Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) is a brilliant doctor and scientist afflicted with a blood illness that leaves him weak and unable to walk without assistance. He grows up in a hospital environment under the care of Dr. Nicholas (Jared Harris) alongside his friend and surrogate brother Milo (Matt Smith), who is also afflicted with the same disorder. He spends his life searching for a cure, revolutionizing medicine with the invention of synthetic blood, but it’s not enough. He eventually begins conducting secret, illegal experiments with vampire bats, making himself a guinea pig for testing. His experiments are a success, but the results transform him into a living vampire, equipped with superhuman abilities and a thirst for blood. Martine (Adria Arjona), a fellow scientist and close friend, discovers what Michael is doing and attempts to help him, but not before someone else steps in and helps themselves to the cure, performing the same feats and killing people in their wake. Hot on the trail are a pair of FBI agents, Rodriguez (Al Madrigal) and Stroud (Tyrese Gibson), and Michael must now focus all of his energies on undoing the effects of the cure while stopping whomever is framing him for murder.
The question at hand: Is Morbius as bad as the internet would lead one to believe? Of course not. It’s not the worst thing ever, but it’s not a home run either. It’s mediocre to poor for most of its running time, though it has some interesting ideas. But was this a case of a studio tinkering with their product to the point of nearly killing it prior to its release? Maybe. Judging by the multiple rounds of reshoots before it hit theaters, something certainly seems to have been amiss. It’s also not clear how much Sony knew about the outcome of Spider-Man: No Way Home since Morbius was originally meant to take place in the same universe. As evidenced by the end result, it doesn’t. Spider-Man is only mentioned once and Adrian Toomes’ character apparently had more interaction with Michael Morbius in the film’s first trailer. So was Marvel Studios up front with their Sony partners about the direction that the Spider-Man series would take? You be the judge.
In any case, Morbius is a terrible film for many people, so much so that internet trolls have inadvertently given the film a new life as a possible cult item. But whether it will reach the same plateau as the recent Cats film—similarly released, re-released, and adjusted by the studio before being laughed off of movie screens—remains to be seen. I personally found sections of the film to be mildly entertaining and others not so much, but it’s definitely not up to par.
Morbius was captured digitally in a variety of formats (at 6.5 and 8K) by cinematographer Oliver Wood (Die Hard 2, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, The Bourne Identity) using Arri Alexa 65 and Panavision Millenium DXL2 cameras with Leitz Thalia and Panavision T-Series anamorphic lenses. The film was finished as a native 4K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. For its release on Ultra HD, that source has been graded for high dynamic range (Dolby Vision and HDR10 options are available). Because the film was shot in such high quality, the 4K release benefits tremendously. Excellent depth and contrast are on display, whether you’re watching the film in HDR10 or Dolby Vision (the latter does offer an edge when it comes to color and black levels). Shadows are soaking in detail and there’s a great deal of nuance visible in the color palette, limited only by the film’s almost monochromatic style. The CGI mostly blends well with the live action elements, save for a few sequences, including the opening moments of Michael standing outside the cave filled with bats. That aside, this is a superlative presentation of the film.
The main audio option is English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible). It’s a blisteringly powerful track which not only offers an immense amount of surround power, but also puts height channels to work with bullets and bats sailing high above the action. Sound effects whiz by and boom to life with frequent low frequency activity—rattling the windows if you have the volume up loud enough. Dialogue exchanges are crisp and clear as well. It’s an outstanding aural presentation, a demo-worthy one at that. Other audio options include Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; French, Spanish, and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital; and English, French, and Portuguese Descriptive Audio Service. Subtitle options include English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai.
Morbius is included on 4K Ultra HD in a black amaray case with a Blu-ray copy of the film featuring audio options in English, French, and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; Spanish and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital; and English, French, and Portuguese Descriptive Audio Service. Subtitle options include English, English SDH, Cantonese, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai. Also included in the package is a Digital code on a paper insert. Everything is housed within a lenticular slipcover. The 4K Ultra HD contains a set of previews only, while the Blu-ray includes the following bonus materials:
- Outtakes & Bloopers (2:35)
- Lights, Camera, Action (5:26)
- Defining the Anti-Hero (4:43)
- Doing the Stunt Work (4:39)
- The Good, Bad and Ugly (3:30)
- Nocturnal Easter Eggs (2:23)
- From Human to Vampire: Visual Effects (5:13)
- Theatrical Marketing: Press Tour (2:52)
- Theatrical Marketing: Lore (1:05)
- Theatrical Marketing: Universe (:56)
- Theatrical Marketing: Stain (:36)
- Uncharted Preview (2:29)
- Venom: Let There Be Carnage Preview (2:35)
- Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness Blu-ray Preview (1:31)
- Umma Preview (2:24)
- Spider-Man: No Way Home Preview (2:54)
- Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Preview (2:35)
Unfortunately, the majority of this material is brief and glossy, most of it EPK in nature and not at all in depth. It’s nice to see some of the film’s marketing materials included, which most studios fail to do these days for home video releases of new films, but even a commentary would have sufficed as a proper extra. Minor behind-the-scenes information is provided, but it’s not enough. It should also be noted that an additional featurette mentioned in the press release, Living Vampire from Comics to Screen, appears to have been nixed (or simply retitled).
While the video and audio quality of Morbius is amazing, the extras selection is severely lacking. Even a film as poorly received as this one deserves a better home video package than this. Still, the main presentation will certainly please those who only care about how the film looks and sounds. It’s definitely a knock-out in that regard.
- Tim Salmons