Morbius 95.1: The Sinister Sick

And as General Zod sinks slowly in the west, we bid farewell to successful superhero movies for a while. If I’m going to cover the entire history of superhero movies, then that means taking the bad with the good, so I’m about to enter the string of disappointing comic book movies of the 80s, including Swamp Thing, Supergirl and Howard the Duck, which convinced everyone at the time that making movies based on comic books was a dumb idea.

Meanwhile, way over here on the other side of history, we live in a world where making as many movies based on comic books as possible is the only logical course for every single movie studio to pursue. You can tell that the nerds have won because a movie about a minor Spider-Man character comes out, and the entire pop culture discussion around the movie is about which Marvel movie “universe” it belongs in. This is not normal pop culture behavior.

The film is called Morbius, out this weekend, and as per my self-imposed prison sentence, I’m doing a special weekend popcorn post about it. Unlike my weekend posts on The Batman and Spider-Man: No Way Home, there’s a better-than-average chance that you haven’t seen the film, so I’ll fill you in.

Morbius is about a long-haired, sad-sack trenchcoat doctor who has a debilitating blood disease that nobody cares about curing except for him. In his enormous, abandoned secret science lab that’s located in a children’s hospital somehow, Dr. Morbius uses his private stock of medicinal vampire bats to invent a DNA replacement treatment for himself, which turns him into a supermedical bat creature with all the advantages of a vampire and none of the drawbacks.

Michael gets essentially limitless CGI-assisted strength, speed and agility, as well as a rockin’ body and the ability to kill anyone he feels like, and for some reason, this does not make him happy. Urgently attempting to come up with a cure for his own cure, he hops back and forth between his old abandoned science lab, which has police tape on it because of the murders but nobody’s taken away his enormous glass pillar full of permanently furious vampire bats, and his new abandoned science lab, which he steals from a gang of counterfeiters that he decides to randomly follow one day in case they happen to live in an abandoned science lab that he can steal, which they do.

Michael is sporadically assisted by Martine, one of the other two characters in the movie. Martine is your typical devastatingly gorgeous science lady who’s apparently brilliant in her own right but mostly she follows Michael around, asking pertinent questions and completing plot-point side missions.

The villain is Michael’s childhood friend Milo, the other character in the movie. Milo has the same shitty blood disease that they keep saying has them on the brink of death all the time, although Jared Leto was in his late 40s when they shot the movie and Matt Smith in his late 30s, so how debilitating could it really be. This appears to be one of those quasi-fatal diseases where you don’t die, but your blood just kind of sucks and you have to hang out with doctors a lot.

Anyway, Milo finds out about the vampire cure and he manages to inject it into himself too, so now there are two creatures of the night and he’s the bad one.

Instead of just going off and killing as many people as he wants to, Milo is obsessed with needling Michael, so they have a whole bunch of fight scenes while Michael tries to develop a new vampire-killing serum made out of anti-bats. From there, the plot proceeds in precisely the way that you would expect it to, with a surprise twist at the end that’s only surprising if you’ve never seen a single movie with a vampire in it before.

The only real sources of pleasure in the movie are the vampire effects, which are consistently interesting to look at.

Whenever a vampire does anything, we see psychedelic trails coming off them which make them look extra scary and surprising. A lot of the movie is vampires doing things, so we see a lot of this, and I for one enjoyed it every time. There are people in the world who will try to tell you that it’s confusing or distracting, and those people are wrong. There is almost nothing else worth looking at in the movie besides this effect.

The other important vampire effect is watching their faces change, which happens constantly in every scene. There aren’t just two options, with a human face and a vampire face that they switch between at important moments. It’s more of a spectrum, with parts of their faces getting more human or more vampy, depending on how they’re feeling at the moment, and it happens all of the time.

Besides that, the film is mostly made up of movie science, with all the typical peering at screens and typing, punctuated with occasional twirling of liquids in centrifuges. The film has a lot more of this than it needs.

There’s also one shirtless scene each for Jared Leto and Matt Smith, just to prove that they have the right to be male in a movie. The bulked-up body is how you know Morbius is the hero of the film; that is the mandatory comic book movie aesthetic. Besides that, there’s not a hell of a lot to do, except echolocate.

So this is what happens when you tell a movie studio that they can’t make a movie with Spider-Man during a Spider-Man-heavy movie cycle; they lash out, and make Morbius. Sony is hoping to throw together a Sony’s Spider-Man Universe (or “SSU”, embarrassingly) without a Spider-Man, which is not one of the all-time great ideas. They’ve already made a couple of decent Venom films, and after this, they’re going to make a Kraven the Hunter movie in 2023 and then a Madame Web movie, and also they keep threatening to do something with the Black Cat and Silver Sable.

At some point, this is supposed to add up to a Sinister Six movie, but only using villains that people have never heard of. They make a gesture in this direction during the incredibly confusing mid-credits scenes in Morbius, where they suddenly bring the Vulture across a dimensional rift from the MCU into the SSU, and he tells Morbius that they should team up against Spider-Man, and Morbius says okay, even though he’s not technically a villain yet and he doesn’t know who Spider-Man is.

This is a clear-cut case of Avengers Derangement Syndrome: the overwhelming compulsion to make a bunch of single-hero movies and then bring them together in a shared movie, which will be just like The Avengers but with characters that people don’t care about.

Still, it’s a real testament to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s complete pod-people domination of our minds and wills, that people are saying that Morbius is a soulless cash-grab, while big-ticket projects featuring Loki, Shang-Chi and Moon Knight are considered totally normal artistic decisions. Next month, we’re going to get the big Doctor Strange movie, which apparently you need to watch at least two movies and three TV shows in order to understand, and people are obediently doing that homework right now. That’s why we don’t have time to see your dumb vampire doctor movie, Sony. We have important things to do!

Next:
2.50: Ice Cops

Chapters

— Danny Horn

16 thoughts on “Morbius 95.1: The Sinister Sick

  1. If there is one thing that the cinematic universe urgently needs, it is men with rocking hot physiques who have shirtless screentime. I cannot stress that enough.
    Fortunately some filmmakers have discovered this and embraced the concept (whether by using actual hot guys or CGI).

    What an age to be alive.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I mean, complain all you want about superhero movies but Benedict got his kit off in the upcoming Strange film, and it’s oddly refreshing to see men held to the same insane physical standards as women in these films.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. I love the quote from Chris Hemsworth when he made the first Thor movie. They asked him if he minded doing shirtless scenes.
      He answered “I just spent 10 months in the Gym! Damn right I’m getting my shirt off!”

      Liked by 2 people

  2. “The only real sources of pleasure in the movie are the vampire effects…”
    “There’s also one shirtless scene each for Jared Leto and Matt Smith…”
    It sounds like there is more pleasure to be found than just in vampire effects but I only have one atmospherically-lit screenshot to go by. Still, Aesthetics can only distract up to a point–generally, the point at which they put their shirts back on.
    Matt Smith is posed like a sad gargoyle on Notre Dame in that shot. I might have flipped the casting of the leads but I suppose if they’re both villains, it doesn’t matter that much.
    I’m not sure Spider-Man-adjacent villains will be enough to lure people into theaters for a bunch of movies from Sony when the main attractions are being ground out so persistently by Disney. I know some movies were delayed by the pandemic, but it does feel a bit like a bombardment and I wonder what happens when they hit saturation level.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. OT answer to a past question: The Keaton docu is called BUSTER KEATON A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW (1987) It was created by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill, who also created silent film docus like HOLLYWOOD (1980), UNKNOWN CHAPLIN (1983), and HAROLD LLOYD THE THIRD GENIUS (1989). It was first broadcast in the UK and then reached PBS. It was released on VHS, but the only DVD release is an edited version on PAL (meaning you’ll need a multi-region player to play it). Yes it is a great documentary.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you! I’ll see if the library has these, ask for them to acquire if they don’t.

        Like

    2. Sony is the Six Flags to Disney’s–well, Disneyland. It’s where you go on the weekend because you can’t book a huge trip every single time, and it’s there, and nobody’s died since summer before last, so shut up and get in the car, kids. I’m dropping you off with twenty bucks each and I’m not picking you up until closing time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hilarious! Brings back some memories of my youth, visiting amusement parks way too often! Disneyland for the clean, immersively scenic, storytelling fun. Knotts for a variety of this and that, with some history thrown in. Six Flags’ Magic Mountain for wild rides and getting soaked on hot summer days. That park and KISS were sure made for each other.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Comic books are all about the characters. You can’t score a bullseye every time, though, and you get weak characters like Michael Morbius. Sony took a shot, because their job is to make money, and it looks like they missed this time.

    I was a big fan of Shang-Chi during his “Master of Kung Fu” run. He got saddled with a supporting cast that didn’t suit him once Marvel lost the rights to use Fu Manchu. I think the MCU movies do well because they’re built on strong characters. Audiences respond to that.

    Like

    1. Yes, they’re strong but they’re also generally likeable. Batman is a strong character, but I just haven’t been able to get into his movies to the same extent as I have Captain America or Spider-Man or any of the Avengers, really. I’m afraid it’s extended to Cavill’s Superman and Wonder Woman also. Though they’re both strong characters, they don’t appeal to me as much. It’s hard to say why, except that I get a general feeling of darkness from the DC movies and a general feeling of hopefulness from Marvel. Is it from the look of the films? I really don’t know. I’ve been trying to figure this out, as I’m sure every other studio is, too. What is it about Marvel that keeps me interested enough to actually bother to watch “at least two movies and three TV shows in order to understand” their next film? I really can’t explain but I think it’s more than humor and visuals. There’s a different world view and I prefer the one represented by the Avengers to the one represented by Batman. It’s the difference between “It’s tough but we can get through it together” versus “The world is brutal and we must be too.” Is that an unfair opinion?
      It’s certainly not that Marvel can’t be violent. And it’s not just that DC is dark. “The Lord of the Rings” is dark and I loved that. It’s a conundrum.
      I don’t wait with anticipation for any DC movies. I did see “Shazam” recently and it was fine. More Marvel-like in spirit, though not as good. I am not on the edge of my seat, wondering what happens next. I will definitely watch Dr. Strange because Benedict Cumberbatch. And I would follow Tom Holland’s Spider-Man to the ends of the earth. While DC had some equally good actors, it just hasn’t inspired the same attachment.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Huh, so it’s about The Doctor Who Drinks Blood.
    And that other guy.
    And Smart Science Chick Sidekick.
    And pretty much not anyone else.
    That sounds like such a thin plot and cast list that I’d expect it from a little indie film. Something made by art school students on the proceeds of selling an inherited VW Microbus.

    The hunk pics speak for themselves.
    The trails look cool and the partly-morphed faces idea is an interesting twist.
    The screenshot colors look like they would make me queasy within a half hour. Like the feeling of a stinky-chemicals science lab in The Matrix.

    “I think the MCU movies do well because they’re built on strong characters. Audiences respond to that.”
    Yes! This one seems way short of fascinating characters, cool settings, plot development, themes etc. if Sony’s goal is to match MCU’s entertainment value.

    Like

  5. Heroes courageously do hard things in order to save other people.
    Doesn’t sound like there are any heroes at all here?
    That it’s only a superVILLAINS movie?

    Like

  6. Perhaps it’s just me, but I got tired of vampires about a score and five years ago, so I had no interest in this movie.

    Like

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