Rated PG-13 despite the fact that it is about a technical vampire. As a consequence, the term "exsanguinate" is used appropriately. I suppose a vampire is pretty scary for little kids, especially those kids who want to watch a Marvel-tangential movie. There's some language and scary imagery. There's a lot of blood. I mean, that makes sense. There's a fair amount of death. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Daniel Espinosa
Oh man, I write about Bad Boys for Life and then jump right into Morbius. I never want this blog to about ironic watching. I almost had another Fellini movie for this entry, but my wife fell asleep halfway through it and she seemed to be digging it. (I rarely read falling asleep during a movie an indication that a movie is boring someone. As I'm nearing 40, I realize that sleepiness is just a thing.) But I'm conflicted about this movie. I mean, I can't deny that the lion's share of this blog entry is going to me nitpicking a not-great film. But I want to talk about irony for a bit before getting into the film.
I don't know if you if you've met a teenager. I'm not talking about Gen Z because my generation has its fair share of ironic watching. But teenagers love absorbing things ironically. When it became very clear that Morbius wasn't going to be a good movie, the young folks ran with that pretty hard. Early in Morbius's release schedule, I saw a meme that we've probably all seen. If you're my wife, you haven't seen it, so I'll restate it here. It's a tweet saying, "My favorite part of Morbius is when he said, 'It's Morbin' Time' and morbed all over those guys." I laughed pretty hard about that one when it came out. I even shared it. But then it became like my students posting about Fortnite or Among Us and then just became a joke about telling the joke. I don't particularly love that. I knew that I would eventually get around to Morbius, despite knowing that it was going to be a bit of a trainwreck. But when people started watching it ironically (or in many cases, claiming that they would watch it with no intention of watching it), I decided that I should give it a fair shake. Heck, I went into it darn forgiving. And you know what?
It's fine. It's not good. Oh dear, it's not good. But it's not as bad as people make it out to be. And the thing that really gets under my skin is that it is a copy of a movie that people claimed was good but wasn't: Venom. Sure, Venom had more charm with its interpretation of the symbiote. But I'll give Morbius the point for having action that actually was comprehendible. (TL;DR: Venom was like Transformers that it was just goo hitting other goo. Transformers was metal hitting other metal.) But people swore that Venom was great. I thought that movie was soul-sucking. And a lot of it comes down to the fact that Sony is a soulless company. I know, you've heard me go on this rant before. But Sony's movie division is absolutely corporate and terrible. They are way behind the curve for the direction that films should go. Movies at Sony are made entirely by committee. Sometimes it works out for them. While they are still obsessed with surveys and test screenings, movie really should be more than they invest in. They saw that Venom was a cash-cow. Cool. Do you know what they did? They took all the disparate elements that made Venom successful and did it again.
I hate writing in lists, but it has to happen for the sake of documentation. They took a Spider-Man villain without Spider-Man actually being in the movie. They colored the palate bleak and miserable, surrounded it with sterile scientific nonsense. The protagonist is a sympathetic anti-hero who attempts to tell jokes and fights and antagonist that is a copy of the protagonist. His big temptation is eating people, despite trying to be a good person. Lather, rinse, repeat. It's so much. Like, beat-for-beat, it's just Venom. And, like I stated, I'm in the minority that thinks that Venom is an actively bad movie. So the frustration is with both the studio and the audience who likes to make fun of this stuff. All of their complaints about Morbius lies in the fact that they just don't care about Morbius as a character.
And they're not wrong. No one really cares about Morbius, the Living Vampire. Listen, I have almost every Spider-Man comic ever made. I'm not exaggerating. My collection is irresponsible. I remember the first appearance of Morbius. I remember that Marvel tried making a big deal about it. But do you know what? Morbius was always a C-tier villain. He had elements about him that could have been interesting. After all, he's a character that has had a couple of titles with his name across the cover. But a lot of that was the results of '90s storytelling, really embracing demonic ideas as a means to sell tee-shirts. But Morbius himself doesn't really have all that many interesting ideas behind it. Sony has a lot of dud properties under the umbrella of a good property. Because Sony owns Spider-Man and the Spider-Man universe of characters, they're trying to get water from a stone. They have this diminishing returns thing going with making straight Spider-Man films outside of the stuff they farm out to the MCU. So they think that they can hold their own with these very thin premises. But what we keep getting are helicopters and labs thinking that's what superhero antiheroes. But Marvel has proven that heroes need to be avatars for their audiences. All of the Marvel characters, regardless of how big personalities get (like Tony Stark) are about humanity. To a certain point, Morbius kinda sorta gets it okay. We get that Michael Morbius is more than simply a bloodsucker. But Jared Leto, a guy who is more of a headline than he is a person?
That's what makes Matt Smith's portrayal of the same character more interesting. Now, Milo makes no sense whatsoever on paper. Not a lick. Sorry, that's true about the film. Also the fact that Sony is still making MCU Phase One mistakes by having a villain that is a mirror image of the hero. But whatever. Maybe it is because I'm such a Doctor Who fan, especially of Matt Smith, but Smith makes Milo a character with charisma. He's sympathetic (until he's very quickly not). Every scene with Matt Smith is actually worth watching. But every scene with Jared Leto is at best tolerable. As much as I'm lavishing praise on Smith, I do want to restate that his character is a mess on paper. He's evil for evil's sake. The movie wants to stress that his childhood was traumatic. But Milo goes to the dark side real quick. He goes from being afraid of humanity to enjoying hunting. Now, the story writes it off as something that's part of the transformation into living vampire that makes that happen. But that's not really compelling from an internal conflict perspective. After all, Michael, post-transformation slaughter, returns to a state of humanity. There's this comment that Michael makes that it is the red blood that drives these vampires to become feral, but that doesn't scan with the rest of the story. So, as much as I like Smith in that role, it doesn't really make sense as a character.
Also, the film kind of just ignored one of its major plots. Michael is aware that he cannot keep living the way he is. He says something along the lines of "By tomorrow, I will become just like Milo" if he can't find another food source. The movie doesn't come to make peace with this idea. It just ends with Michael putting Milo down (in a ridiculously simplistic way. Why do the vampire bats respect Michael but not Milo?). But are we saying that Michael is going to replace Milo in a few hours? It doesn't really scan for Michael driving to meet Adrian Toomes in the middle of nowhere. It's so ready to set up another movie (that really makes absolutely no sense) that it ignored the internal conflict of the first film. Michael is about to become feral and there's no talk about that? It's a really weird choice.
So the movie is a bad movie. But it isn't a meme worthy bad movie. I mean, it's no Fantastic Four. That movie deserved the vitriol it got. This is just another Sony movie that people actually asked for and were disappointed when it was no good.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.