Moribus (M, 104 minutes) 3 stars
A handful of years ago Universal Studios tried to put up a new franchise of films milking the horror characters from their back catalogue, which included the great old black and white Mummy, Frankenstein and Dracula films.
Unfortunately the 2017 Tom Cruise film The Mummy wasn't lucrative and the concept seems to have been buried for now, but fuelled by their endless superhero film successes, Sony and Marvel have picked up the idea of villains becoming the heroes of their own franchise.
Thus we now have two Venom films, and this week we have Morbius, a vampire villain from the Marvel comic books, usually a foe of Spider-Man or of the other Marvel vampire character, Blade.
Dr Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) has an inventive and brilliant mind trapped in a fragile body. He walks around with walking sticks, bent over, but that doesn't stop his research passion, which is to find a cure for his own ailment.
Along the way, his research leads him to the invention of artificial blood which has saved countless lives, but still no cure for himself.
This brings us to the jungles of Costa Rica where Dr Morbius and his assistant, Dr Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona), are on the trail of some bat DNA that - in direct violation of every medical practice and law - Morbius plans on directly injecting into himself.
That things aren't going to whatever plan Morbius may have had becomes apparent when the good doctor transforms into a fanged monster and slaughters every mercenary and ship crew member onboard, draining their blood, but leaving Dr Bancroft alive.
Back in New York, the transformed Dr Morbius is shut away in his laboratory, figuring out the new powers his transformation has given him, and coming to understand their limitations - particularly that his artificial blood has a limited affect and he increasingly needs human blood to thrive and survive.
But Morbius is the chief suspect in the slaying of the ship crew and is pursued by detectives Stroud (Tyrese Gibson) and Rodrigues (Al Madrigal), but he is also being pursued by another vampire figure.
His boyhood pal Milo (Matt Smith), also sickly and disfigured from his lifelong illness, has taken Morbius's new DNA formula and has himself become superhuman.
The second half of the film is a battle between these two childhood friends, with Milo wanting Morbius to realise the great potential of their superhuman powers, the toll on human life be damned, and with Morbius clashing ethically and morally with his new life.
Leto is the perfect choice for this comic book vampire, because the man just doesn't age.
Growing up in the 1970s, I remember what my parents' 50-year-old friends looked like, and it wasn't like this aerobicised and buff rock star with Jesus looks and eyelashes to die for.
There's a lot going on inside Morbius's brain, but Leto is unfortunately let down by a pretty simple script, both in terms of the fairly derivative plot and uninspired dialogue.
Doctor Who's Smith comes off much better with the flashier role of Milo, especially once Milo regains his physicality. It allows Smith's natural gift for physical comedy to shine - he uses his big sharp vampire fangs to chew the scenery at every opportunity.
The enjoyment of the film is certainly lessened by the film's darkness, and I don't mean its tonality.
I mean the kind of darkness that makes you wonder what you are looking at or missing as the characters fight their way above and below New York City. The kind of darkness that won't look great on earlier-model flat-screen televisions as they try to resolve all those shades of black and dark grey.
Thanks to the dozens of Marvel superhero films, post-credit sequences are de rigueur these days and Morbius is no exception - or so I hear.
I have to admit I wasn't engaged enough with Morbius to give it 10 more minutes of my time to find out.
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