Tuesday, April 5, 2022


I had time to blow on Sunday night, so I drove to Detroit Lakes to see a movie. (The one here in Park Rapids still hasn't reopened, and the lovely Bear Pause theater in Hackensack has, alas, closed.) On the recommendation of a friend, which included the remark "Don't listen to the critics," I opted for Morbius. And it was certainly a diverting diversion. However -- and I say this without consulting the critics -- a few things took away from my enjoyment of it. And before you say "you wouldn't have this problem if you didn't think all the time," believe me, I can't help it.

So, Morbius stars Jared Leto -- whom comic-book movie fans are apprently expected to have forgiven for his turn as the Joker in Suicide Squad -- as a guy with a chronic blood disease who snubs a Nobel Prize for Medicine (for inventing synthetic blood), then skates outside the lines of medical research ethics to create a cure for his condition by splicing genes from vampire bats into the human genome. When he tests it on himself, he goes full Dracula on a ship full of mercenaries. Once he comes back to himself, he swears off human blood, but the "blue" stuff (synthetic blood) is steadily losing its ability to sustain him.

Meanwhile, his lifelong best friend (Matt "The 11th Doctor" Smith), a fellow victim of the same blood disease, refuses to take "Forget it, the cure is worse than the disease" for an answer. He also doesn't go for the "blue" option, and decides he enjoys being a bloodsucker and getting back at all the healthy people who ever bullied him. Milo, as Morbius nicknamed him the day they met, goes on a killing rampage while two cops try to catch both vamps. He also wants to get Morbius to join him in his revolt against non-blood-drinking mankind. But Morbius is having none of it, and makes it his mission to destroy Milo and himself -- spurred on by the murder of two people close to him.

So, there's your synopsis, and before I forget, here are Three Scenes That Made It For Me: (1) Whenever the two detectives are on screen, pursuing the vampire killer(s) with persistence and pretty accurate insight into what's going on, but remaining steadily a step behind. (2) Young Morbius saves young Milo's life, using a spring from a ballpoint pen. This leads the doctor who cares for them to recognize that Morbius is a genius. (3) The moment when Morbius realizes Milo has taken the cure, leaving his cane behind in Morbius's jail cell.

But there are far more than three Scenes That Unmade It For Me, and they basically come down to the film's apparent controlling premise, which is that I (the viewer) am stupid. Are we stupid, moviegoers? Are you OK with being treated as if you are? If not, then why would we put up with such inanities as a cylindrical, glass-walled habitat for vampire bats that has no apparent place for them to perch, no apparent method of feeding them and way too much light for their comfort, and where they flap about in a continuous vortex without resting day or night, and yet not even one escapes when someone opens the door to the enclosure? What the hell is that, a giant bat-themed lava lamp to decorate the lab? What is it even for?

There's a scene where Morbius is helicoptered to a mountain cave in, I believe, Costa Rica, apparently to collect vampire bats for his experiments, but nothing about that scene makes sense. There's a scene where an otherwise intelligent detective proves that a cat is not at home by shaking its litterbox and observing that the cat doesn't come running -- a precept of cat husbandry that I never picked up in my ever so many years as a cat slave. There are action sequences so dark, with so much blur, with such spatially confusing movement and so little detail for the eye to focus on, that you can't understand a single thing you're seeing on the screen. In two consecutive scenes, Morbius arrives too late to save two different people he cares about, but just on time to witness their last moments alive, but Milo's motive for killing them doesn't make a lick of sense and, in the case of their longtime doctor/guardian, doesn't really pay off. I mean, Nicholas (Jared Harris) is a very underutilized character. The demise of Milo is played as if you're meant to shed a tear at the pathos of the situation, but any sympathy you may have had for him at the start has long since been, like, exsanguinated. There are two mid-credit "Easter egg" scenes featuring another villain/antihero character (played by Michael Keaton) that I don't know anything about, so being a comics noob, I could make no sense of them and don't understand how they relate to this movie -- other than maybe teasing another movie that (based on past experience) may or may not ever materialize.

Other than atmosphere, sound and fury, and a certain amount of sex appeal amongst its principal cast, the movie offers a paper-thin story that could really be synopsized in one sentence: Crippled genius cures himself but accidentally becomes a vampire, tries a non-blood diet but is forced to bat out so he can destroy his bloodsucking bestie. There really aren't any plot surprises after the jail cell scene where Milo accidentally-on-purpose forgets his cane. The creature effects aren't as awesome as they could be, because you know they're CGI. The fights aren't as awesome as they would be if you could actually see what was going on. The tragedy of the hero and the woman he loves would be more effective if the movie didn't (at least ambiguously) take it back. And everything after Michael Keaton materializes is non sequitur. I'll tell you what would be an interesting twist: if the movie was over when the credits rolled. In this movie, it might have been better if that happened a lot sooner.

The people who made this movie aren't dumb, as evidenced by their cute name dropping of "Murnau" (look at the stern of the ship of death). But they think we are. I'd rather it was the other way around.

1 comment:

RobbieFish said...

My one sentence review could be: "It took me out of myself, but unfortunately it put me inside a blithering idiot."