Morbius

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 6/14/22;
Sony Pictures;
Horror;
Box Office $73.79 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence, some frightening images, and brief strong language.
Stars Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Jared Harris, Al Madrigal, Tyrese Gibson.

For its latest attempt at an expanded “Spider-Man” cinematic universe that doesn’t seem to have Spider-Man in it, Sony has once again turned to a character that seems more akin to a horror movie villain than the protagonist of a superhero movie. But just because Venom manages to attract an audience doesn’t mean the formula can be applied to just any of Spidey’s historical comic book baddies who became antiheroes after catching on with audiences. And so we are presented with the tale of Morbius the Living Vampire.

The thing about comic books is, that while sometimes a character becomes iconic, more often than not they are pretty goofy, rising to a level barely above cult status if not altogether forgotten. Back in the day, when publishers needed stories to tell about the popular ones, any number of bizarre concepts were introduced into the monthly books, just to see which ones might stick.

Morbius was introduced into “Spider-Man” comics back in the early 1970s as essentially a costumed villain version of Dracula for Spidey to fight.

Interspersing strange characters and fantastical adventures with more-serious fare could hardly be considered unusual for the comic book page. At one point, Marvel Comics actually made Dracula and Godzilla part of its canon when it had the rights to them. Heck, Spider-Man even crossed paths with The Transformers at one point.

The point being, it’s easy enough for a comic book to get away with these things. Translating them credibly into live-action is quite another feat.

Follow us on Instagram!

Morbius tells the story of Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), a brilliant scientist with a crippling, unspecified blood disorder. He creates a serum for his affliction by splicing genetic material from bats into human DNA, temporarily curing his condition but giving him an insatiable thirst for human blood, without which his sickness returns. Morbius quells this thirst with a form of artificial blood he created.

In becoming a pseudo vampire, he gains the abilities of echo-location, superspeed and flight.

This basic premise could be the setup to any number of low-budget direct-to-video horror movies. But in those, the mad scientist would transform into the killer, only to be opposed by a love interest or fellow scientist, or maybe even a superhero, in some parable against technology run amok.

This being a Spider-Man movie without Spider-Man, and being called Morbius, the story has to find some way to make Morbius the hero. So, we get the benefactor of his research, a childhood pal named Milo (Matt Smith) with the same disease. He also cures himself with the serum, but gives into his bloodlust, killing innocents to maintain his power. This brings him into conflict with Morbius, who vows to stop him. And yet another comic book movie in which the bad guy is a mirror to the good guy.

There’s no message here, just an attempt to get more characters from the page to the screen in the hopes of future movies. Hence a pair of end-credits sequences that feel tacked on and, ultimately, pointless, given how poorly the film fared at the box office.

In addition, the attempt to ground Morbius’ powers in science rather than the supernatural just raises more questions that would just be answered by the nature of comic books themselves on the page, but are rather glaring in live-action outside the context of the source material. The serum granting bat-like powers is one thing, but why do the characters look like they are dissolving when they move fast? Last I checked, real bats couldn’t teleport. It does make for some funny gags about vampire lore, however.

Ultimately, Morbius is a creature of two genres, catering unsatisfactorily to both of them — too grim for comic book fare, and too beholden to the superhero formula for a vampire story.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The Blu-ray includes a handful of extras, mostly behind-the-scenes featurettes totaling about 25 minutes. These are pretty typical or this kind of movie, mostly involving the filmmakers discussing the stunts and visual effects. There’s also a two-and-a-half-minute blooper reel, a two-and-a-half-minute look at comic book references in the film, and six minutes of promotional materials, including a three-minute recap of the press tour and a funny 36-second spoof of detergent ads.

Robert the Bruce

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Screen Media;
Drama;
$24.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Angus Macfadyen, Anna Hutchison, Zach McGowan, Gabriel Bateman, Talitha Bateman, Brandon Lessard, Diarmaid Murtagh, Emma Kenney, Patrick Fugit, Jared Harris, Nick Farnell, Shane Coffey, Melora Walters.

The historical drama Robert the Bruce seems like what the result would be if Braveheart were made as a low-budget independent film instead of a big-budget blockbuster.

The comparison is apt, given that this year marks the 25th anniversary of Mel Gibson’s Oscar-winning saga of Scottish hero William Wallace (recently re-released as a handsome 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Steelbook by Paramount. And Angus Macfadyen, who played Robert in Braveheart, returns to the role in Robert the Bruce, making it something of an under-the-radar sequel. In fact, according to some strains of folklore, the nickname Braveheart is more accurately applied to Robert the Bruce, the 14th century king of Scotland who led his people to independence from England.

Robert the Bruce depicts no major battles or sprawling adventures for its main characters. Rather, it’s a more personal story of a disheartened leader struggling to find the inspiration to carry his mission through to victory.

The film touches on a few legends regarding The Bruce, beginning with his defeat of John Comyn (Jared Harris) in hand-to-hand combat to claim the Scottish crown. Later, after suffering defeat after defeat in battle and on the run from local opportunists looking to cash in on a bounty placed on his head by the English, Robert hides out in a cave and witnesses a spider spin a web despite numerous hardhips — a famous Scottish tale that relates Robert’s resolve to fight on despite the odds.

Stumbling through the snow, Robert is found by the family of a young widow (Anna Hutchison), who nurse him back to health despite being pledged to support England. For much of the film, Robert is relegated to a background character, leaving the film as much about the spirit of the Scottish people who both inspired and drew inspiration from The Bruce, as it is about the legendary king himself.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Production of the film took on many forms through the years, with Macfadyen developing the project for more than a decade with hopes of returning to the character. The screenplay was eventually pared down from a Europe-spanning epic to the more intimate story of a family rescuing a man from the show who just happens to be the future king. Lest anyone forget the film’s origins, however, the name of William Wallace is dropped several times throughout the film, particularly during Robert’s battle with Comyn.

The story is a slow burn, but the cinematography is gorgeous, with snowy Montana effectively subbing in for Scotland for much of the film.

Follow us on Instagram!

The Blu-ray offers a couple of good bonus materials, including a feature-length commentary track with Macfadyen and director Richard Gray, who aren’t shy about discussing the film as a companion to Braveheart.

Also included is a solid 11-minute behind-the-scenes featurette.

Lionsgate Releasing Season 1 of AMC’s ‘The Terror’ on Blu-ray and DVD Aug. 21

Lionsgate will release The Terror: The Complete First Season  on Blu-ray and DVD Aug. 21 from Lionsgate.

The Ridley Scott-produced AMC series focuses on crew members of a naval ship who must fight for survival against a terrifying monster that stalks them.

The show stars Jared Harris (“Mad Men”), Tobias Menzies (“Outlander”) and Ciaran Hinds (“Game of Thrones”).

Disc extras include the featurettes “A Look at the Characters,” “A Look at the Series” and “Ridley Scott on ‘The Terror.’”