The tangled knot of Morbius

Morbius was released this week to — shall we say — little fanfare. It dains to be a film about a character few regular cinema-goers knew much about, and attached itself to Spider-man: No Way Home‘s thunder much like its predecessor Venom: Let there be Carnage. I still have not yet seen the latter.

“Wanna go watch Morbius for the lolz?” I texted Joe — a good friend of mine.

And ever dutiful to his movie critiques, he responds, “I had been intending to give it a chance anyway.”

A lesson of intense regret

© 2022 Sony Pictures

In an attempt to cure his condition, Michael Morbius creates vampirism. He then regrets that creation and ends up having to correct it. This is the core plot of Morbius.

Perhaps it is poetic Morbuis centres around Morbius’ regret for creating something too horrific for the general populace. Or, at least, utterly laughable considering Morbius‘ reception. On April 5 2022, its critic score on Rotten Tomatoes sits at a measly 16% — remarkably low. To be fair, it is not the only Marvel movie in history to sit so low on the scale, and chances are, it will not be the last. But as its production studio dares to create a Marvel Cinematic Universe of its own (again!), such a score may prove fatal to its efforts.

According to Twitter, Morbius is a bad film worthy of its bad run of empty cinemas and projector crashes.

According to Joe, Morbius is outright dreadful. In fact, when I looked at him as the credits rolled, his hands were pulling his bottom eyelids down to his cheeks, the red of his sockets attempting to pop his eyeballs out of his skull. Perhaps the intention was to destroy his eyes, the trauma being enough to overpower the memory of the movie itself. Quite the scene, to be sure. He was so livid, when we conversed during the wait for the post-credits scenes he strongly disagreed I compared to what I consider the equally flawed Uncharted that was released not long ago. Regular readers of mine may recall I watched The Batman with Joe. He loves that film, and considers it a cinematic masterpiece. Meanwhile, I hate it with a passion. We have different tastes in movies.

Our opinions on Morbius, while not drastically different, continue the tradition of our contending opinions.

Unanswered questions

For a film in its own right, I hate to admit that I didn’t mind Morbius. On the surface, it is not good, but neither is it the absolute catastrophe many have made it out to be. “Think Iron Man but instead of flying around in an armoured suit he turns into a bat,” was the summary I gave my mother. Perhaps this film was meant to be Jared Leto’s redemption like Iron Man worked for Robert Downey Jr.

© 2022 Sony Pictures

It’s when you think back on the events of the film and take into consideration the supposed “character arcs” that things start to crack. You remember certain things or scenes, sit back in your chair and think “hey wait a minute…?” For example, for a story that features a lot of regret, it fails to lean hard into this aspect. The actions within this film don’t have many consequences.

  • Sure, Morbius gets stuck hiding away from police, but it appears as nothing more than a mild inconvenience for someone who’s never done much hiding before (or at least, has never done so without significant financial support from a certain backer).
  • A trusted colleague of his is killed, but save for a “I didn’t kill her” comment by Morbius, she appears to have only existed for Milo’s transformation’s sake.
  • Morbius’ bat-like hearing has no consequence whatsoever. See Daredevil on how that can potentially mess up your protagonist during their training montage. (Were they trying to avoid comparisons?)
  • The trailers include scenes that are not in the film. Michael Keaton doesn’t show up until the post-credits.
  • The promotional material describes Morbius as an anti-hero. This is inaccurate. There is no “anti” necessary if the events of this film are to be believed.
  • Do you know what happened to Morbius’ patient? Neither do I. For someone so important to the first thirty minutes of the film, she gets no resolution. (Why wasn’t she the one killed instead of the nurse?)
  • Tyrese Gibson’s character had some kind of contraption on his arm in his final scene of the film (and goes to suspicious lengths to hide it in his pocket throughout the movie) yet nothing ever comes of it.
  • Morbius and Martine go from being colleagues to kissing on a roof-top with no build-up. In fact, Leto has more romantic chemistry with Matt Smith than with Adria Arjona, I was suspicious of attempted queer-baiting…

Milo (actually “Lucien”) has a villain arc that left me baffled. What was the plan here? We know the plan is “make Morbius drink human blood, make him accept being a vampire!”, but then he goes ahead and keeps trying to kill him. What was the end-game here? Was his character supposed to be insane in such a childlike way? Why wasn’t this explored earlier? The most we see of him prior to his own ‘affliction’ is that he’s a rich-kid (not that we really see this, either) and got beat up by bullies once about 20 years ago.

And then the film just ends. “As if someone got near to the end of their presentation, turned it off and said ‘alright, I’m done’,” Joe mused, feigning to walk away.

© 2022 Sony Pictures

Despite my (and those I know personally) dislike for Jared Leto as an individual, his portrayal of Michael Morbius is entirely respectable. There was a brief moment where a shirtless Leto walks around his lab when I had to think to myself “Why him? Surely many others auditioned for this role, so why him?” His portrayal, while respectable, is not at all unique and I can personally imagine many other people as this character. Unfortunately I was not able to forget that it is the intense “weirds his co-stars out with rats” Jared Leto making me feel pity for Michael Morbius. Damn.

None of this addresses the post-credit scenes that have many online enraged. I can see why. Not only is one of them so hastily patched together, it’s clear Michael Keaton could not be brought back to film a total of three shots in a conversation (instead, the studio having to resort to ADR), but it appears as if Sony’s intention is to keep throwing things at the wall in hopes something sticks.

The Disney Marvel formula continues to elude Sony. Have they not learned their lesson from The Amazing Spider-man? Must we be forced to endure this torture again? Sony certainly wants us to. Morbuis could, and should, be considered its own outing, but it desperately grasps onto other Sony movies through minute references.

Morbius is neither good nor bad. It just is. And maybe that’s the most disappointing thing about it.

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