Morbius (2022)

MARCH 31, 2022


Today was the anniversary of when I "retired" from Horror Movie A Day, giving up the "A Day" part of the deal in favor of, you know, having a life. But I still slum my way through stuff every now and then that I really should just shut off/walk out of after twenty minutes or so and try to find something better to do with the remaining hour or whatever. So with that in mind, I had to almost begrudgingly appreciate Morbius for feeling so much like one of those movies that I wished I never had to think about again once they were over, but knew writing up a review would bring a few eyeballs over to the site (which the likes of my beloved Cathy's Curse could not, being that it did not star an Oscar-winning actor nor have a global fanbase based on its studio name).

To be fair, I've seen worse movies. Hell I've seen worse vampire movies, Marvel movies, Jared Leto movies... it's the worst Al Madrigal movie, I guess? Not really a damning indictment, my man usually chooses well! But it's been a while since I've seen a movie that's had all of its reason for being stripped away through what was probably a lengthy production process and what appears to be the result of some post-production tinkering. We've all joked about how long we've been seeing the trailer for this film (it premiered before covid shut the theaters down over two years ago), but that lengthy exposure has only made it more apparent that we were clearly being denied a look at a lot of things that trailer promised. Madrigal and Tyrese seem to have gotten the worst of it, as at least half of their trailer footage isn't in the film (that bit where they are in the woods? Nothing even remotely close to that happens in the film, no mere "they re-edited the scene and lost that line" excuse can be given), and Jared Harris is probably close behind, with one of his big scenes also MIA and with no obvious spot where it could have been placed.

We also get a confusing opening that starts in the present so we can see Leto ASAP, only to then flash back to 25 years ago to meet the younger version of Michael Morbius, a comic movie staple that they for whatever reason didn't have enough faith in to present chronologically (Black Widow did it for an entire reel!). It's as a child that he meets Lucien, who suffers from the same ill-defined disease Michael does (something about blood, naturally, given the vampire-themed premise), and makes a promise to someday find a cure for both of them. Then we cut back to the present day, where Michael has just turned down a Nobel Prize (a seemingly interesting scene that we don't get to see, only hear about without much explanation) and is really close to finding his cure. But Lucien (Matt Smith) is in even worse condition it seems, so time is running out, and Michael uses some bats and blah blah blah, look, he inadvertently becomes a vampire.

I mean, even if you didn't know much about the comic character you could probably figure out what was going to happen (Lucien will take the serum and become a villain that Michael has to stop), but few could guess that the film's final edit would leave so much to our imagination. Lucien is rich, I guess - why? What does he do? How did Michael get the bats from Costa Rica back to New York, since they're said to be incredibly dangerous (he has some sort of wire cage with him when he draws them out of their cave, but we see them flying through it quite easily). How does Tyrese know that Michael likes to make origami, since that's how he connects the doctor with a bunch of corpses he finds on a ship? Why does the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital in 1981 have a better security camera setup than this present day one in New York, since half the movie hinges on someone else doing something Morbius is blamed for, when security footage could prove his innocence?

But my favorite thing is this, which takes a bit of explanation first. As kids, Michael gives Lucien the nickname "Milo", because that was the name of his first roommate at their children's hospital, who has presumably died, and there have been others - the idea being why learn a new name when they're not going to last long, right? So they're all "another Milo" to him. Kind of a heartbreaking but endearing nickname for Michael to use for Lucien, who doesn't die but ends up being his best friend until adulthood. But... Jared Harris calls him Milo too, even when Michael isn't even around (Michael himself goes back and forth). Given that the real Milo is a child/patient of his who died, it's remarkably coldhearted for the doctor to use that nickname as well, on top of just being confusing (it'd be like if your dad referred to your wife/husband by your own pet name for them, "Bunny" or "Lovey dove" or whatever).

It's a small thing, but it perfectly encapsulates the shrugging attitude toward about 90% of this movie, where Smith seems to be the only one willing to fully embrace the silly material. Because ultimately, the only reason this movie exists is for Sony to plant another seed for their long gestating Sinister Six movie, a would-be Avengers level event if they could ever manage to get that far. Now, even a casual Marvel fan could tell you that Morbius was not a known member of that team, but since they have no other heroes to use beyond Spider-Man (who often ropes in his pals to help him battle the team when they strike), they're presumably counting on having a few antiheroes like Morbius (and Venom, likely) to help him out against the likes of Kraven, Carnage, Electro, etc - they have the whole library to choose from, so the sky's the limit.

We can assume Vulture will be part of the group though, since he pops up in what has to be the most confusing/terrible post-credits scene in one of these things since 2014's Amazing Spider-Man 2 (a movie so hated that it forced them to partner with the Disney Marvel stuff and salvage what was left of Spider-Man's box office appeal). We've seen Keaton's character (from one of the MCU Spider-Man films) in the trailer, but of course that scene isn't in the movie. Instead, he only appears in the first post credit scene, beaming in from his own universe into this one (sure, why not) and joking that he hopes the food here is better. OK, whatever - not sure how he quickly establishes he's in an alternate universe within seconds, but fine. Then he returns in full Vulture costume for the second scene (so, Keaton's voice only), meeting up with Morbius somewhere and saying that they should work together. Even if it wasn't confusing (he just beamed into this universe, how does he even know who Morbius is? Any why would he seek out Morbius when the film just spent 100 minutes establishing him as a hero, not a villain - and certainly no one with any sort of issue with Spider-Man?), it's just so goddamn cynical to remind us on our way out the door that none of what we just sighed our way through actually mattered in the long run. It's just so we can presumably be excited to see Leto share the screen with Keaton and Tom Hardy someday.

For those who do not care about the MCU stuff and just wanted a vampire movie, I have good news! You'll be just as annoyed by the movie as the comic fans! Being that it's PG-13 I wasn't expecting much in the way of violence, but it's bizarre/distracting that Morbius is repeatedly seen slashing at throats and such without a drop of blood to be seen, as if they were going out of their way to remind us that we were seeing a neutered version of its events. Even when he fights the villain, we're spared anything that can really show off his powers (his super strength is another trailer highlight that is omitted; he mostly just uses his echolocation and flight), with most of their big showdown consisting of the two of them swirling around swirling debris, with an endlessly swirling camera occasionally slowing down enough to let us know what is actually happening (they appear to hit the ground so hard that they cause a crater into the sewer? I couldn't quite parse it out). There's a pretty good bit with a nurse in a hallway being stalked by "something", but otherwise they spend more time differentiating him from a vampire (sunlight is OK, mirrors work, etc) than letting him be one. So he's barely a vampire, in a movie that goes out of its way to reference the director of Nosferatu, as if honoring a vampire connection they otherwise seem to be trying to subdue.

I truly wasn't expecting to be thinking so much about Halloween 6, as this film is similarly so mangled by reshoots and editing that it leaves character motivations, plot threads, even what should be major turning points for the narrative all left to our imagination. I was hoping that the 1:45 runtime was actually by design, but it seems that if they left it alone it'd probably be yet another comic book movie in 2.5 hr territory. And it probably would be better! But now they've soured most of it for the audience with this cynical "bare essentials" version that often resembles the trailer we have been terrorized by since the Before Times™, racing from one scene to the next so they can get us to the MCU cameos that much quicker. Sony cannot lose the rights to these characters fast enough; say what you will about the Marvel Studios brand, but at least they know how to actually make us want the films in the first place. Here I can't imagine anyone wanting a Morbius 2 unless it's a complete overhaul.

What say you?


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