Morbius

morbius

You never know which movie will attract the derisive affection of the internet meme lords. Take Morbius, an unadventurous and dull movie based on a character in Marvel comics. Since Sony owns Morbius, this isn’t considered an MCU movie like, say, Dr. Strange or Thor; it belongs to the same universe that spawned Venom, and at one point our troubled hero, Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), jokingly identifies himself as such. Anyway, the internet hates Leto and hates lazy-looking wannabe franchises like Morbius, so the movie became a target for ironic social-media memes. Apparently someone at Sony noticed that Morbius was being talked about, albeit with a gibe and a sneer, and decided to re-release the film, hoping for gobs of those ironic ticket sales. It didn’t get them — its re-release take was substantially less than the cost of a small house — and it shuffled morosely off to DVD shortly thereafter.

What we find here, after all that, is a not-bad, not-good, not-much-of-anything time-waster in which Jared Leto, against all odds, does not make me want to throttle him. He’s swift and mordant as Dr. Morbius, who has a rare blood disease and develops a formula that turns him into a “living vampire.” Morbius so happens to have invented artificial blood, which he can drink in lieu of real human blood, but its effects don’t last long and soon he’s swooping around New York City as a swirling purple cloud. Just like a bat does. See, the formula comes from bat DNA, and … ah, hell, nobody ever went to these movies for scientific rigor. And when Morbius’ similarly afflicted old friend Milo (Matt Smith) takes the serum, he becomes a monster who doesn’t care at all if he has to kill to survive. 

The problem here isn’t the acting; although Milo is given the sort of boilerplate villain dialogue you can instinctively recite along with him, Matt Smith commits to it, and so do Adria Arjona as Morbius’ lab associate and Jared Harris as the doctor who’s been trying to treat Morbius and Milo since they were kids. Harris’ clinic for this rare blood disease, by the way, is in Greece. I wondered why Greece, since it isn’t really a plot point, and in any case the Greece scenes were shot in England, like the rest of the movie. Wondering about this probably distracted me from the plot intricacies, but the key template here is the Marvel-comic one where someone good becomes powerful and has to stop someone bad who becomes powerful. Now and then the film makes gestures towards meaning when Morbius agonizes over the violent mercenaries he had to kill and swears never to do it again. This seems sort of wan and beside the point when the Deadpool movies, for instance, have its hero slaughtering willy-nilly, and nobody ever seriously pretended Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine never used those sharp pigstickers of his lethally.

Milo seems to have been made a killer solely so that Morbius can be blamed for it by two ineffectual cops. Prior to gaining his powers, Milo doesn’t seem the type to flip over into the ultimate evil, but he flips, all right, with no moral shading or regret. Milo is supposed to represent the untrammeled nastiness Morbius could sink to if he doesn’t watch out. I would’ve cut out the middle man and made Morbius himself the shadow that haunts him; why else turn a vampire into a superhero? Morbius has a poor chance of getting a sequel, even though they try to set one up with the reveal of a freshly vampirized character with whom Morbius will duke it out in Morbius 2: Electric Morbaloo. Again, the movie is only bland and unpersuasive, and would have disappeared without a trace if not for the jolly internet memes that snarkily celebrated it, as though it were a lovably inept thing to be cherished, not chastised, for its flaws. 

Explore posts in the same categories: comic-book, horror

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