Those of us of a certain age are fully aware that the definitive Spiderman narrative is neither the early 2000s Tobey Maguire series nor the early 2010s Andrew Garfield series nor the Tom Holland MCU films. Instead it is the early 1990s Spider-Man animated series (unfortunately hard to find other than through Amazon’s streaming service). This series has everything from Ed Asner as J. Jonah Jameson to Mark Hamil as the Hobgoblin (not as good as his stint as the Joker, but still a solid performance). More importantly, it is respectful of the character while exploring interesting ideas and characters–at least as far as a cartoon for kids can do so.
Apparently, someone over at Sony remembers this show too because they’ve slowly but surely been reaching back to bring obscure characters from this series to the big screen. Venom, Carnage, the upcoming Madam Web, the reboot of Blade, and, the subject of this review, the obscure vampire Morbius. This is in one sense just an obvious cash grab aimed at nostalgic millennials longing for our lost childhood. Which, hey, power to ’em–our cash is green too I guess.
While I can’t speak to the other films in the loose series (not having seen them yet), I can say that this film is a bit more than that. It’s actually thoughtfully done, if not quite “good.” To get the negative out of the way, it suffers from poor pacing, relies far too heavily on mood and CGI, and involves characters that are inconsistent at best.
That said, this is still a thoughtful film of the sort that needs to be encouraged, rather than avoided. There are two reasons for this. First, Morbius is deeply respectful of its source materials. This includes, but is not limited to, the 90s animated Spider-man (where Morbius is a sympathetic antagonist who ultimately chooses to fight against his nature), Dracula, and the various lesser-known vampire and Marvel shows (Blade being the most obvious that checks both boxes). Granted, there isn’t much room for going astray as this is a fairly simple movie that relies on CGI action sequences (see the weaknesses above), still, credit where credit is due.
Second, Morbius does an excellent job taking a nuanced look at scientific progress. (This is something the 90s Spider-man did as well, and which some of the better takes on modern vampires explore too.) There are genuine problems in the world, and science has the job of helping to soften those problems. This is clear as Michael Morbius searches for a cure for the chronic condition he and his friend Milo suffer from (and have since childhood). But his search for a cure comes with a price, and [spoiler alert] Michael is unwilling to pay it while Milo embraces it. The cure creates a new world of death and destruction for everyone but Michael and Milo. What appeared to be a solution has instead created a new, and worse, problem. Perhaps the original treatments, while not cures, had their value after all.
As Christians we can of course understand this. Progress (scientific or otherwise) has promise and should be cautiously pursued, but not all change is good and given the fallen nature of the world and our need for a Savior in every place and in every part of ourselves, we should be slow to grab at a panacea that may ultimately cost us the very thing we were pursuing in the first place.