"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Morbius

MORBIUS is a movie I have been semi-anticipating. Not because I expected it to be particularly good, but because I have an interest in these sort of misbegotten wannabe blockbusters that seem already rejected by the public by the time it’s too late for the studio to turn back. I’m talking about movies that are the kind of pulpy lowbrow crap I enjoy, but seem somewhat misguided or clueless about what the public wants in such a movie, and therefore might do something kind of interesting. I think of them as big budget b-movies, as discussed in my review for SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS. Although I waited for video on that one I tend to see them at sparsely attended matinees – that’s what I did for STEALTH, KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD, HERCULES, ROBIN HOOD and THE LAST WITCH HUNTER.

I did kind of enjoy this thing, but I think I got more out of all of the above mentioned movies. This one’s officially a part of Sony’s In Association With Marvel Cinematic Universe with VENOM and VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE, and I think it’s a little less clunky than those on a narrative level, but not as good because it lacks the magic of Tom Hardy having a blast playing two bickering characters inhabiting one shapeshifting body. It does have the novelty of an Academy Award winning weirdo serious actor (Jared Leto, URBAN LEGEND) who’s usually in a supporting role trying to carry a questionable mainstream franchise on his shoulders.

We’ll get into Leto a little more later, but for now I want to set aside anything we know about him as a person and just say that I enjoy the friction of that type of off-kilter casting, and think it works for this movie. He’s very invested in the first act’s strange, fragile Dr. Michael Morbius, an oddball genius trying to find the cure for the rare blood disease that has made him a skeletal husk before an experiment with bat DNA turns him buff and bloodthirsty. (I don’t think he pulled a MACHINIST, I think the skinny part is FX, the muscles are real, and so is the long hair and the various manbun opportunities it creates.) But he’s not off-puttingly weird – he has a way of joking around with his friends that actually seems a little more easygoing and human than what we usually get out of Leto.

I’ve already described enough of the plot to get across why people think this movie is dumb and also why it appeals to me. This is based on a Marvel Comics character, and in the year of our lord 2022 people expect a certain level of wit and sophistication out of comic book movies. But I have a soft spot for this old fashioned “what if a guy had bat DNA, he would turn into a vampire wouldn’t he?” type of premise that seems more of the time before shared universes.

As you’d expect, the experiment (which happens on a boat that ends up coming ashore with its entire crew dead – nice nod to Dracula) leaves him feeling invigorated and in awe of his abilities. That includes walking without crutches, hanging from the ceiling, using “bat-radar” from the effectively disgusting-looking slits on his ears, and Peter Pan style flying. But also he realizes he has urges to drink human blood that, when not indulged, make him lose his powers and become sicker than ever. So he worries about his monster side endangering his loved ones and understands that drinking from “bad people” isn’t the solution either (though there’s a funny part where he quickly foils a counterfeiting ring in order to steal their lab for his DARKMAN-style off-the-grid experiments).

Until the laughable MCU tie-ins in the end credits (we’ll get to that later too) this is not much of a super hero movie, it’s more of a monster movie, and I like that! I think the creature effects are pretty cool. I like his spindly, clawed fingers and the painful looking way his regular ones morph in and out of them. I like the exaggerated, animated way he moves when leaping or flying or crawling on the walls and ceiling. Most of all I like the movie’s dedication to exaggeratedly angular cheekbones. I love what they can do now digitally, removing parts of the face instead of having to build over it and make the head look giant. From interviews with director Daniel Espinosa (SNABBA CASH, SAFE HOUSE, LIFE) it sounds like they gave up on makeup and did it all mocap and stuff, but I couldn’t tell exactly what I was looking at all the time. For example the above looks practical + digital to me, but maybe it’s not.

After a little Wikipedia reading it sounds like the story follows the comic book origin pretty closely, but this could also be any sci-fi monster movie. It’s not a super hero movie. The comic book feel comes in in the action, with lots of speed ramping beats that basically work as splash pages. And when they leap they leave sort of an inky trail of colorful fumes like Nightcrawler in X2. It starts to get a little visually messy at times, but I like how it sort of works as motion lines. (I’ve also seen all this stuff compared to video games, and Espinosa saying he was influenced by Pokemon.)

Former Doctor Who Matt Smith co-stars in the role of “friend who you assume from the beginning is gonna turn into the villain.” He’s Morbius’s childhood friend who shares the same disease, funds his search for the cure, then insists on taking it himself despite the consequences, and doesn’t attempt to be ethical about his monsterhood like Morbius does. My main impression of Smith is from his ridiculous part in TERMINATOR GENISYS [sic], so I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed him in this. He seems to be having fun when he turns evil.

I also appreciated that, to my surprise, former Simpsons writer/Daily Show correspondent Al Madrigal plays one of the FBI agents trailing Morbius. He gets some funny line deliveries and is just a nicely non-cliche casting choice. He’s partnered with a character played by Tyrese Gibson, who seems like he deserves more to do. Some of that may have been cut. In an interview, Tyrese says he has a robot arm, but in the movie we only hear that Morbius’ artificial blood saved his arm.

I do believe this movie could’ve benefited from one or more robot arms, though that could be said of almost every movie ever made, especially ones without any robot arms. In a big budget b-movie you want to have some laugh out loud stupid stuff – the Rob Cohen factor, if you will. So it’s a little disappointing, maybe, that we only get that during the end credits. They connect Morbius to the MCU by SPOILER I GUESS calling Michael Keaton down to the minors – a tear in the multiverse brings his SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING character Adrian “Vulture” Toomes to the In Association With Marvel Cinematic Universe, then he flies in to meet with Morbius and asks him to team up to fight Spider-man, which Morbius responds to positively. It’s weird because Morbius has been portrayed as a good person for the whole movie and now he’s ready to pal up with a complete stranger from another dimension speaking to him in an openly super villainous voice.

I still think the credits scene should’ve just been a remastering of the unused ending of BLADE:

I guess that’s BLADE director Stephen Norrington as the original live action (deleted) Morbius!

An unusual thing about MORBIUS is that its first trailer came out in January of 2020, and then the movie was repeatedly delayed, first due to the pandemic and then due to the runaway success of its big brother SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME. During that time we saw the trailers approximately 7.5 million times, while reading reports of reshoots and recuts, so the finished movie seemed to inspire many people to try to figure out what changes were made, especially to Keaton’s cameo, since unused versions of it were glimpsed in the trailer and chopped up into two years’ worth of theoretical MCU clickbait bullshit. To me it was more distracting that there were scenes where a line I saw 250 times in the trailer was no longer present. The absence of a corny Venom joke was appreciated, but the missing line “If you’re gonna run, do it now” in the opening scene was puzzling. In both cases it felt strange not to have some line there, but none of this stuff will seem relevant when MORBIUS reaches its final resting place as a movie you occasionally come across on cable and think “Oh yeah, I forgot about this.”

Here’s some other online-only minutia. In 2017 Sony released a sci-fi movie called LIFE starring Jake Gyllenhaal, about astronauts returning to Earth with a deadly alien organism on their ship. In its trailer there was a crowd shot that somebody recognized was taken from SPIDER-MAN 3. This and other details inspired certain internet types to theorize that LIFE was gonna be a stealth origin story for a new Venom movie.

Of course that didn’t happen at all. But it’s kinda weird that life director Espinosa didn’t make another film until this here vampire cousin of VENOM. The script is credited to the team of Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless, who were writers on DRACULA UNTOLD, THE LAST WITCH HUNTER, GODS OF EGYPT and POWER RANGERS (story only). They’ve also written unproduced movies based on Flash Gordon, Missile Command, Clue and the Night On Bald Mountain sequence of FANTASIA. I.P. miners, I guess. Before the WGA credits were official, Art Marcum & Matt Holoway (IRON MAN, PUNISHER: WAR ZONE, TRANSFORMERS PRESENTS THE LAST KNIGHT) were also listed as writers.


My mildly positive review of MORBIUS brings up a question some may ask of me: what is the value of forgiving mediocrity? I made “strive for excellence” my motto, after all, not “be okay with okayness.” But here I am.

I want to be clear that MORBIUS is by no means a great movie or something I can recommend to most people. However, it fulfilled what I wanted from a cheesy matinee viewing in a completely empty theater on opening day. It seems to me that people claiming it’s some kind of shockingly terrible disaster are just projecting stuff onto it having to do with its release, its star, its somewhat off-brand status, and it being a type of comic book movie that’s not really in vogue anymore. I kinda wish it was the terrible movie they say, because that would be more memorable. But I try to be honest and fair, and to be honest and fair this is a mildly enjoyable monster movie programmer that does some things right, and while not as good as the MCU movies, it feels kind of refreshing for not being the same type of thing, exactly. If we’re gonna have so many comic book movies (which I’m really not against as long as we also have other stuff) I want to have different types, including these ones that don’t fit in with the cool kids.

Of course, it’s a stretch to call MORBIUS an underdog, even if it’s some lowbrow shit that has been a punchline since the day they announced it. It’s still a big budget movie made by Sony and Disney, and that seems to have been enough to turn it into a moneymaker. Here’s the thing though. I’m sure that if a similar movie had been done with much more limited means, we could all admire it for what it was able to pull off. But since I enjoy this type of pulpy, trashy movie, don’t I deserve a few that don’t have to be made on a shoe string, by the skin of their teeth, or with made-for-Sy-Fy visual FX? Don’t I deserve expensive flying vampire fights? Can’t I enjoy just this one vampire movie where the opening expedition seems like JURASSIC PARK instead of stock footage, and where I get to see top notch digital artists plying their artistry and technology to full-on FROM DUSK TILL DAWN type drooling vampire maws? I can’t help but appreciate some of that stuff.

So I guess to me, right now, the distinction is that if people were treating this as a great example of what the genre (comic books, vampires, whatever) could achieve then I would push back against that, because we can certainly do better. But since everybody’s laughing it off, I feel comfortable saying it’s okay little guy. You tried your best. Good Morbius.


That’s good Morbius, though. Bad Jared Leto. After I saw this and was telling Twitter it’s not that bad, I kinda liked it, I felt like an asshole because then I started seeing alot of stuff about Leto being notorious for allegedly inviting teenage fans of his band to his hotel room and shit. And for leading a sex cult? I tried reading a little and the latter seemed mostly unsupported, but the former has at least been alleged by many people for many years. That doesn’t mean he’s guilty, but I hope it’s being looked into and that there will be consequences if it’s true. We can’t go on letting monsters get away with shit just because they’re talented or have alot (or just the MORBIUS franchise) riding on them.

I believe we as viewers/listeners/etc. can separate the art from the artist at our own discretion, but it’s stressful how often we need to make that choice these days! So I think they should just go ahead and make MORBIUS II with somebody else playing Morbius. I tried to come up with someone who fits the acclaimed actor/Method actor weirdo/strange choice to lead a super hero franchise mold of Hardy and Leto. Ben Foster maybe? But most of the others in that age group have already been outed as sex creeps or assholes, so maybe we need to go a different direction.

Unless they can get Stephen Norrington to sign on to reprise the role he originated, the best idea I’ve come up with is Mark Dacascos. I know that sounds like a DTV casting (which would be cool too), but no, if they’re gonna make this theatrical, I think he would be great! Something about his eyes kinda reminds me of Leto, but he’s a more likeable actor who would add much more of an action element and who deserves that kind of big showcase. Also it would be funny for him to have long hair again.

And after I came up with this I also realized it would be fun to have one super hero series – might as well be this one – where the lead gets recast for each installment and we get to see different actors do their spin on it. Nobody’s buying Sony’s attempt to wedge themselves into the larger continuity, so why not go completely in the opposite direction? Blaze your own trail, MORBIUS II.


P.S. Big missed opportunity not having Busta Rhymes redo this song “Whoomp Addams Family There It Is” style for the end credits.

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 7th, 2022 at 11:41 am and is filed under Comic strips/Super heroes, Monster, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

52 Responses to “Morbius”

  1. People are now incapable of calling a movie fine. Calling a movie fine doesn’t get you clicks or invited into the on-line Twitter discourse. That’s why people either look at movies as awesome or the worst thing ever becuase it keeps them in the conversation.

  2. People are now incapable of calling a movie fine. Calling a movie fine doesn’t get you clicks or invited into the on-line Twitter discourse. That’s why people either look at movies as awesome or the worst thing ever becuase it keeps them in the conversation.

  3. Personally, I’m way down with Morbius, and the the niche it occupies. As it makes comic-book-movies more like comic-book-books.

    In comics, there was always your ‘A’ material (Spidey), your ‘B” stuff (Black Panther), and then the ‘C’ team (Machine Man).
    ‘A’ stuff would fly off the shelves. ‘B’ stuff was for more discerning tastes. While the ‘C’ stuff… Well… It may have an interesting arc or run here and there, but the only die-hard “fans” of it would be the guy who ate too much acid in the hippie days and the kid who mostly talks to himself in a language of his own invention…

    We just had a rip-roaring big screen Spidey adventure. Moon Knight is currently intriguing some folks on the small screen. Where’s the ‘C’ team? Hey! How’s it going, Morbius?

  4. People said VENOM was like something that came out around the time of SPAWN, and I agreed and would say so myself, but there was an element of hyperbole there. This though *really does* feel about 95% like something that came out around the time of ELECTRA or GHOST RIDER, and for about half of this I was OK with that. I like the BRAINSCAN-esque theme of dealing with the possibility that you killed people, perhaps even friends. I liked the traditional gothic horror elements. even if the end result is closer to I, FRANKENSTEIN than James Whale. I don’t really “get” Matt Smith as an actor, but I thought he was fun here. Second half or so is pretty bad though, and not in a particularly amusing way until the hilariously terrible post-credits scenes.

    Also I’m not much of one for most online humour these days, but a lot of that #MorbiusSweep stuff is funny shit.

  5. This is not necessarily an indictment of the character (whom I know nothing about), his comics (which I haven’t read) or his TV show (which I haven’t seen) but every time I hear of Moon Knight it makes me think someone panicked and realised they had about a minute to meet their deadline to come up with a new character. “Moon Knight”. It just reminds me of Marge Simpson coming up with “Ghost Mutt”.

    How about...Ghost Mutt?

    Marge at her best!

  6. sounds like the first 50 Shades of Gray – too competently made to be a true disaster but also not good at all, so it ends up completely unmemorable. They fixed that problem by making the sequels utter trash so maybe any future Morbiuses will head in that direction.

  7. I was convinced, despite the trailers, that this movie didn’t really exist. The constant schedule push and eventual April 1 release date made it seem like a practical joke. As did the entire idea of making a standalone Morbius movie.

    That said, I have a soft spot for Michael Morbius. As a kid I had a reprint of his first appearance, and a handful of issues of his ’90s “Midnight Sons” solo series, where he was a doctor by day and drank criminals’ blood at night. Leto– despite me not liking him as a performer and especially disliking him as a person– definitely has the look and vibe for that ’90s version of the character, and it sounds like this movie draws inspiration from those exact sources. So weirdly, I’m the exact target audience for Morbius. But I haven’t seen it yet, and will likely wait until it shows up on Starz or whatever.

    I do like Matt Smith, who was wonderful in Doctor Who. There’s an otherworldliness to him that I dig. (He should’ve been the Joker instead of Leto.) I keep rooting for him to get another big, meaty part in something popular. I guess he had The Crown, and he will be in a Game of Thrones prequel I imagine folks will watch. And he got to do a cool Edgar Wright movie recently.

  8. Yeah, I get the urge to eviscerate crap, but it’s important to keep a perspective instead of insisting everything is the worst movie ever or the best thing in history. I don’t want to lower my expectations too much, but some stuff *is* just mid-tier. This, Black Widow, both Venoms, The Batman… you can be aware of the flaws while also appreciating what it does right. I thought Matt Smith’s villain turn was a much stronger heavy than we’ve seen in recent years from cape stuff, the creature feature business was largely good (save for the lack of gore), and how can I hate a climax where Jared Leto kame-hame-has Doctor Who with a cloud of bats?

    Although–this is driving me nuts–when I saw the post-credits scene, I recall Vulture saying something along the lines of “Guys like us could team up, do some good.” No implication of hunting down Spider-Man; just that they were maybe forming their own superhero team. But everything I see online seems to say they’re going after Spider-Man? Are people just assuming… supervillain team, Sinister Six, trying to kill Spider-Man? Am I going deaf? Is this a Clue thing where different theaters got different stingers? Was there a scene at the *very* end of the credits where Vulture adds “To be specific, I think we should kill Spider-Man”?

  9. Kaplan – I think you’re right, he didn’t technically say they were going after Spider-man. But before the team up line he says something like, “I’m not sure how I got here, but I think it has something to do with Spider-man,” and that plus the whole “as you know I am an evil guy and that’s why I’m saying this like an evil speech” tone he was using seemed to me to imply “let’s start an evil team to do evil against Spider-man.”

  10. A friend of mine has a term for the overhate this has been getting. “Sony Tax”. Sony have been resented forever for holding onto the Spider-man license because they aren’t stupid. It got really nasty when Sony and Marvel’s original deal was coming up and we suddenly got the narrative that Sony was the bad guy for honouring the arrangement and not automatically reupping it. #SaveSpidermanFrom Sony went wide, and you had supposedly mature people saying boycotts of Sony products should be done. It was ridiculous. This mind you was pre-No Way Home, which was the Marvel Spider-man movie that actually made me somewhat comfortable with Holland continuing the role as they finally seemed to want to mature the character and bring in more of the ethos of the comics. Venom got pre-hate simply for not having Spider-man as part of the origin, even though one wonders how you do that without it just becoming a Spider-man movie, and MCU fans are plenty forgiving of adaptational changes, big and small. So you bring a middling movie like MORBIUS with an actor whose got plenty of detractors by default, and this shouldn’t be all that surprising.
    VERN: “and that plus the whole “as you know I am an evil guy and that’s why I’m saying this like an evil speech” tone he was using seemed to me to imply “let’s start an evil team to do evil against Spider-man.””
    My thinking was the other way. Since he has no history in this universe, he can make up any story he wants, and I think he’s going to try and form team ostensibly to “do some good” but it’s really his way of pulling a heist before leaving them in the lurch. Maybe the target will be a definite bad guy, but it won’t be for altruistic reasons. I don’t subscribe to the “champion of the little guy” spiel that a lot of viewers have taken at face value, coming from a guy who bought a big multi-storey house off of the money he made selling space guns on the black market.

  11. I want a Missile Command movie.

  12. @VERN
    “I think they should just go ahead and make MORBIUS II with somebody else playing Morbius.”
    “the best idea I’ve come up with is Mark Dacascos”
    “And after I came up with this I also realized it would be fun to have one super hero series – might as well be this one – where the lead gets recast for each installment and we get to see different actors do their spin on it.”

    Maybe you just really want to rewatch all THE CROW movies (and the TV show).

    I say they should give this to Taylor Kitsch, don’t know if he’s a creep, but he never got to do much with Gambit. It’d be kinda like, but the other way around, with Ryan Reynolds. After giving us pure gold with Hannibal King (a character that was part of those ’90s ‘Midnight Sons’ comics that Bill mentioned) he go to do his victory laps on DEADPOOL (an X-men character).

    @bastardjackyll
    Hey man, I’m still living in hope for a big-budget live-action ‘Sky Commanders’ and ‘Centurions: Power Xtreme’

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8S4UkJCMdY

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pn49zxXRHhA

  13. Stu- I agree that there are a lot of people with a huge grudge against Sony* for “inexplicably” holding on to the rights to a character who when he appears in an unpopular movie that is considered a bomb still earns $709million in theatres alone. I also think there’s a general possessiveness about the idea of “shared universes” outside of the MCU; people either wish there were no other “shared universes” out there, or they scold them for not following the MCU playbook exactly (I suspect in those cases the later is really a symptom of the former). You saw it in every review of THE MUMMY mentioning the “sheer arrogance” of the film starting with a Dark Universe logo, you see it when ever anyone says how “wrongheaded” the DCEU films were for not starting with Flash and Aquaman and yet more solo Batman films, you see it when people suggested last year’s MORTAL KOMBAT should have started with solo films about some of those characters and built to where they are now. And I get it, even I’m not excited for a KNUCKLES Streaming series. I’ll watch it, but I’m not excited about it. But championing the MCU and expecting there to be no fallout or thinking the other studios won’t try to compete on an equal level is, at best, wildly idealistic.

    *That said I do have my own bias against Sony, because they do seem to be the worst at this “making big budget films in the 21st century” business. Even their better and/or less odious films still feel like they either shot a first draft, or shot various unconnected drafts that they edited together into a not very cohesive whole.

  14. The problem I have with the hate surrounding MORBIUS is that it comes wrapped with this idiotic expectation that comic book movies now need to either fit into the “Everything is connected because it’s a shared universe with a bunch of multiverses don’t you get it, dummy?” MCU template or “Ooooo, this is dark, this is soooooo dark, man” (best delivered via Will Arnett’s Batman Voice) DC Playbook.

    Why can’t a movie just be a fun stand alone comic-book-y flick, the celluloid equivalent of a title you got off the news stands, spent 20 mins reading and then tossing it into the nearest bin, said 20 mins being hardly earth-shattering or life-changing but kept you entertained and made you forget all the other shitty stuff going on in your life?

    Nothing wrong with some DICK TRACY or GHOST RIDER type mid-budget and perfectly serviceable fare which if you think about it, hews far closer to the tone of most comic books.

  15. But let’s be honest, “people being too harsh on movies that are just flawed or mediocre” isn’t exactly a new problem. You can’t even blame it anymore on “the kids these days and their social media”, since this was already a problem back in the MySpace days and I joined MySpace back in 2005. Almost 20 years ago! The first social media kids, who found a public forum to hate everything, are now old farts in the eyes of the kids these days!

    Shit, you can even go back further and look at the worldwide ridicule of something watchable as ISHTAR, or misguided, yet extremely entertaining as HOWARD THE DUCK, which was before most people even had a computer in their home!

  16. I agree this is a long-term internet thing arguably dating all the way back to the nascent days of AICN, but I think back in the days of ISHTAR and HOWARD THE DUCK the “disaster” label would be pretty hard-earned if not necessarily deserved (and generally parroted by people who hadn’t actually seen the films). A lot of today’s “one of the worst ever”s are honestly about the same level of JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH or IRON EAGLE or something.

  17. I didn’t enjoy this movie – but all I ask is that a film shows me something I’ve never seen before – and I had never seen a shirt and tie where the shirt and tie are the same colour and material. It was horrible but I’m satisfied.

    Also laughed when Jared Harris comes back after the 25 year flashfoward and he seems barely to have aged a day. Makes me wonder if they were planning to CG de-age him initially but couldn’t find the money when it came to it.

    I think the thing that killed this movie for me is I went in with higher expectations than most – I really enjoyed LIFE – as one of those rock-solid sorts of films that aren’t earth-shaking but which would’ve been one of the top 7 films of 1996 – it had a sturdiness to its construction and all the basics that Morbius lacked. Sony’s visual house style for their recent action movies really bothers me too for some reason – this blue-black thing they have going on. The first Venom just looked off to me but I don’t know enough about it all technically to pinpoint why.

    Think Matt Smith might be poised for a breakthrough come his Game of Thrones spin-off. Hollywood’s not seemed to know what to do with him since he finished being Dr Who – I think part of being british and a teenager in the 00s is you end up feeling oddly protective of all the Dr Who actors. Many of whom (Christopher Ecclestone, David Tennant, Smith) end up doing supporting role good character work in US dramas and making barrel-scraping franchise movies.

  18. You know, on the other hand, modern internet times created a phenomenon that absolutely everything in pop culture, no matter how bad or obscure, has fans and defenders. So it all kinda evens out.

  19. Aren’t they simply trying to awkwardly start Marvel’s Suicide Squad with that Keaton scene rather than implying they’re gonna try to kill Spider-Man?

  20. Pacman2.0- Was going to mention the “Don’t copy Marvel and you’re dumb”/”Do copy Marvel and you’re a cheap ripoff” thing, but thought it would come across as bitter. It’s exacerbated by how a Marvel movie that’s like a 7 or 8 out of 10 gets praised as “the most FUN Marvel movie yet!” by critics, but every good DCEU movie, like the first WONDER WOMAN gets a backhanded “a step in the right direction”. Marvel also have the advantage that the vast majority of stuff they’re adapting has never been done in live action before (and if it was, it’s often considered crap) so they don’t have the weight of comparison to what’s came before like every new Batman and Superman has had to deal with. Marvel also want to avoid rebooting for now with the generational thing they’re doing, but that’s the rub. They rely on the comics producing the new characters to adapt, but comics fans are less receptive to change than movie goers, and with how Marvel Comics loves to be synergistic with the movies and relaunch things to be somewhat in line with what the movies are doing, is it going to be sustainable on that end? Even if MCU Peter Parker passes the mantle to Miles Morales, I don’t think comic Peter will ever go away for real.

  21. This one will be a Rebox or stream for me, so, I’ll have to suspend judgment for now. I am interested in seeing it for the same mixture of genuine, nostalgic, and ironic ways that Vern and some others mention.

    I’ve been on record elsewhere in these comments as not a fan of Jared Leto’s whole steez. You just look at his twitter feed and it’s like, wow, this guy really fucking loves to look at himself. The scrolling-through-his-feed stages of grief go from incredulity to amusement to greater amusement back to incredulity and cresting at a kind of dull sadness.

    Having said that, I found ALL THE LITTLE THINGS to be quite good, and he is good in it (as are Denzel and Rami Malek). It’s one of those mid-budget studio intended for wide theatrical release “don’t make em like this anymore, but I guess sometimes they do” films but flew under the radar I think b/c covid.

    Steven E makes a good point about protectiveness that is sort indirectly applicable to the other conversation going on here about fandom and MCU-enthusiast Sony hate and the hyperbolic or counter-productive shitting on mediocre or mixed-bag film as “the worst thing ever” and whatnot. As I’ve said elsewhere, and as CJ notes with his myspace comments, I think a lot of this is just internet and social media brain, which really does incentivize dualistic, clickbaity “take culture.” Many of us have been trained to think or internet-speak in terms of rapid, concise, highly charged takes, and especially those that tend to skew negative. Nuanced thought is too much work and too long-gestating for internet brain, so, I think the techno-historical changes in suggested or modeled forms of written expression, as well as the peculiarities of news and discourse cycles are a big factor. In another week or two, no one much will be thinking or talking about this film, and certainly not with this level of concentrated focus, and so this is your Slim Shady “one shot, one opportunity” to hop into the mosh pit of discourse on this topic at a scale and freshness it will never again have; or, alternatively, if you’re living in the discourse, this is simply one of the more salient Galaga objects streaming down the screen, and you better have a take and have it quick because you’ll need a DOCTOR STRANGE take in another little minute here.

    Back to Steven E’s point, though, I think that is simply the nature of celebrity and fandom is that you really can’t have the good of celebrity without the bad, meaning people are going to become overly invested and enmeshed with you, overly critical of you, overly invested in your life and parsing your choices (proportionate to your level of celebrity), and in exchange you get to be wealthy and catered to and know that you are famous and interact with other beautiful people. For me, it’s kind of outside the realm of right or wrong and more just a law of modern social physics — this is just a part of what celebrity is, particularly in the internet age. So, you will have people who are very protective of MCU, very protective of Doctor Who, people who are inclined to have opinions about whether Jared Leto is a good person, etc. What I am saying is that being famous and successful, especially in the internet age, invites scrutiny and takes and over-investment in a constructed image of who you are and what you should be doing creatively or personally.

    This also relates to what I was saying in the BRUCE thread, which is the weird attention to his late career choices: There is a reason his choices get scrutinized in a way that mine don’t, and it’s the same reason, according to one article, he has at least $65 million dollars of property that he recently sold (which can only be a fraction of his net worth), whereas when my mom died I think I inherited around $20-25K (which was nice, thanks, mom). My point is that you take the good with the bad of celebrity, and there really is no other way through where you get the riches and adoration but also the intrusive scrutiny and fickleness (and, sometimes, outright stalking). That’s not a normative argument that it’s “okay” for people to do this to celebrities, just that this is a definitional feature of celebrity and things that are celebrated: to be celebrated is for people to become irrationally attached, fixated, and possessive of you in exchange for the knowledge that you are reaching and earning millions.

  22. Yeah, I was going to say thinking about it there are some ways in which our modern culture is much more generous to films than it was in the 80s and 90s. If they’d have come out in 1995 the production woes of MEN IN BLACK III, WORLD WAR Z and even SONIC THE HEDGEHOG would have either resulted in a CUTTHROAT ISLAND (complete disaster) or WATERWORLD (does OK but essentially a footnote to the reams of gossip) outcome (although obviously we’re going back a fair while with those first two). And the influx of geek sites, YouTube reviewers and social media have often made certain kinds of films appear as if they were better received by critics than they were if you just concentrate on the traditional critics. Then again a well reviewed film like IRON MAN 3 gets a reputation as “critically panned” because there’s a vocal enough backlash in some areas so . I guess there’s a lot of extremes on both ends is what a lot of us are probably saying, kinda sorta.

  23. One more thing is that I want to try to make the case that this film is being received about appropriately. What I am hearing from Vern, which seems intelligible in light of the reviews and such, is that this film is kind of messy, has interesting elements, and can’t be unreservedly recommended as a fun time for the casual average movie-goer or MCU normie fan. Compared to a DTV or cable movie, the production values and star power are above average; compared to many super-hero A-list character movies, the production values and star power are below average. This all seems about right and fair. It might have been cleaner and better (but also blander and poppier) as an true blue MCU film, but it’s not, and that’s fine. This all is about the same as how I feel about VENOM: In terms of “business case” and general execution, finished product, and critical / fan reaction, this feels like VENOM’S little brother. It is the Luke Wilson of Sony super-hero films. Ultimately, the film is likely to be profitable because it is more modestly budgeted than others of its ilk, even if it is less successful or normie-beloved than VENOM and even more so than true MCU joints. This seems about right, fair, fine. Like, things seem to have worked out about as they should’ve and maybe even better than they expected if you’re Sony biting its nails in 2020.

    As for the “striving for excellence” motto, it is Vern’s motto, so, I’ll treat that defense and interpretation as carrying some weight. I have always took it with the emphasis on “striving” more so than “excellence.” It’s trying and learning and persisting and caring about what you’re doing, even if the results may vary. In other words, there is a reason it’s not “consistently delivering excellence.”

  24. In the spirit of support for Doctor Who cast and actors, and because I never see too much love for her, I would like to say that IMO Karen Gillan’s Nebula low-key became the best female character in the MCU. Despite the studios’ support for ScarJo and Captain Marvel, her arc about freeing herself from her dad’s influence was the best thing in those last couple of Avengers movies. She had scenes where she was tortured, freed herself, and killed motherfuckers in some legit badass ways.

  25. Vern: gotta admit that I always took the “strive for excellence” motto as referring to your attempt to be be the best writer you could be, not the ‘quality’ of a film you we’re writing about. I’m the first to admit that I read your writing first and foremost for the excellence of the writing, not necessarily the film your writing about. MORBIUS is a case in point – there is likely no chance I will catch this flick until it appears at some point down the road on some hack cable channel, but I enjoyed the quality/aspects of your writing about it. In the same way that I’m never going to be in the San Francisco hippie era of Joan Didion, but that doesn’t diminish the value of reading her 60s’ era California essays.

    In fact the fact that you put as much effort into your writing, especially about some truly misbegotten films is super admirable and what makes you such a valuable, unique voice.

  26. Worth mentioning that the only reason you knew HEAVEN’S GATE,ISHTAR, HOWARD THE DUCK, CUTTHROAT ISLAND, WATERWORLD were production hells or box office disasters was because trade pundits and film reviewers wrote about it. Michael Cimino, Dustin Hoffman, Warren Beatty, George Lucas, Geena Davis, Matthew Modine and Kevin Costner didn’t have twitter feeds or Instagram accounts where Edgelords could channel their profound views about these flicks directly to their intended recipients. For me the Death Knell for Movie Stars was rung when any innocuous shit you typed could be viewed by them, and conversely any half-baked crap actors spouted could be read by millions without the buffering of agents, studios and publicists. The Star Mystique demands a level of inaccessibility.

  27. On a slightly related note: I love how some hacky snarkblog posted earlier today a review of MOONTRAP, foolishly tagged Bruce Campbell in their tweet and he publicly blasted them for being snarky hacks.

  28. I also want to express my appreciation for Life. It’s such a well done alien ripoff with a great mean streak. All the praise Underwater got as “surprisingly good” should have gone to Life, which is the better film in just about every way.

  29. RBatty024: spot-on about LIFE! Nasty and disturbing, I even felt bad for Ryan Reynolds! A real sleeper for me, along the lines of 1981’s GALAXY OF TERROR.

  30. I guess I have to check LIFE out then. Can’t even rememebr why I skipped it, since it’s part of one of my favourite subgenres. (Group of people trapped in a closed location with at least one monster.)

  31. Thank you Alan, that’s a very nice compliment. You’re right, “strive for excellence” has been primarily a self-motivating motto for my writing, but I have also sometimes applied it to my hope for films, especially in my more extremist Ain’t It Cool days when I thought so many big summer blockbusters were getting away with being shitty because you’re supposed to “leave your brain at the door” and therefore have no choice but to accept whatever they throw at you. (And now here I am sorta sticking up for not-great MORBIUS.)

    And thank you everyone, nice discussion here. I did think LIFE was okay but wasn’t excited enough to write a review, it seems. My preference for UNDERWATER mainly comes down to cooler monsters and more exciting movie star performance by the lead.

  32. Count me as pro-LIFE (Dr. Evil pinkie zoom). My instinctive nausea at the site of Ryan Reynolds being “cute” was more than overcome by the actual charisma of the Gyll. Nothing earth shattering, but a breezy “ALIEN-lite,” and I thought the final scene stuck the landing.

  33. I agree with Vern on this one. LIFE is a very good example of its type of movie, but UNDERWATER is just so much more memorable.

  34. @Pacman

    Off-topic as hell, but I don’t recall *anyone* slamming Mortal Kombat for not being ‘Mortal Kombat Origins: Subzero’ or whatever. The big criticisms I remember was that it *was* a table-setting prequel all about what happens *prior* to the tournament, that the main character was a boring new guy invented for the movie instead of someone from the huge roster of game characters, and that it didn’t have Johnny Cage in it.

    Also, Underwater > Life, totally.

  35. Now I’m trying to remember if I saw LIFE. I saw APOLLO 18 and SPUTNIK (the Russian equivalent – VERY good), but I don’t think I saw LIFE, so I guess I should check it out.

  36. I remember liking LIFE, although I can’t remember much of it. Except, the film’s decision to “Seagal” Ryan Reynolds, Executive Decision-Style, is oddly prescient, anticipating how much of an irritant I’d come to find him.

  37. This movie was Awesome!

    Nah, just yanking your chain. It was the Worst Thing Ever.

    I’m just hackin’ on ya, Billy. It was Fine.

    OK, admittedly I haven’t seen it, and have become so damn secluded that I haven’t even seen a trailer, but I just wanted to add to the conversation, so here’s my $.02: I love that comic book cover by Gil Kane. Kane rocked. He did a ton of covers for Marvel in the early ’70s as he could do them faster than interiors, and he was paying for one (or maybe two) divorces at the time. He was the best dynamic anatomist in the industry (yes, better than Hogarth) and rarely gets his due since he wasn’t the creative force that Kirby was. And when he did try to go out and do his own thing, the Big Two shut him down hard.

    So I know nothing of Morbius (the movie), but damn, could Kane draw.

    P.S. I learned to draw from comics early on, and still often do “Gil Kane” hands.

  38. Kaplan- The guys I remember specifically saying something to that effect about MORTAL KOMBAT were Double Toasted (on YouTube), I feel like I saw others saying something similar, but maybe I’m conflating it with the director saying that they were taking “an MCU approach”/”what would Marvel do?” to the franchise; I remember Vern saying something along the lines of “there were movies that knew how to introduce characters before they developed the MCU method; they called them movies!”.

  39. Also with all the characters to set up, including a whole new one as protagonist with an overly involved additional plot device of the birthmark powers, and only two hours to do it, the martial arts action felt pretty limited and rushed by the standards of the genre.

  40. Honestly finding out that it was the guys that made dracula untold, last witch hunter, gods of egypt and power rangers reboot did more for making me want to watch this then anything else.
    I fucking loved those movies, I’ll probbably still wait for streaming for this though cause it’s a choice between seeing it this weekend or seeing everything everywhere all at once and like…. that’s not a choice.

  41. Have not seen Morbius, too afraid to after reviews came out, will wait for home video.

    But on the Life / Underwater front, am I living in bizarro world? Did really most of the commenters here + Vern himself prefer the blandest ensemble EVER with a comatose actually bad movie to go with it, to a Gyllenhaal / Reynolds / Sanada / Ferguson decent one?

    Life > Underwater every day and twice on Sunday.

  42. I didn’t think either were great, but only one of them has Kristen Stewart saving the life of a spider at the beginning, flare-gunning from inside the translucent belly of a monster in the middle and suicide-bombing Chthulu at the end. That’s three more things than I remember about LIFE.

  43. I didn’t even remember Ryan Reynolds was in it.

  44. You are crazy, Underwater was excellent.

  45. I have not yet seen UNDERWATER, so, to clarify – I am not a partisan in this burgeoning “LIFE vs UNDERWATER” match-up. I just did see and enjoy LIFE. It is odd to me that the crowd-sourced ouija board that is these comment threads has decided that we should pit these two films in a competition. This is another example of iternet dualistic argument brain at work: we truly can turn anything into a tribal dispute!

  46. The problem with Life, to me, is that it has a boring monster–the Blob, only they give it a scary face and stuff, which paradoxically makes it less menacing and more ridiculous–and despite the pretense of realism, they make the monster utterly invincible, so at a certain point there’s no tension or suspense, you’re just watching a dead teenager movie in space, with the characters making stupid decisions to prolong this simple problem until the call sheet is empty and we get to the obvious twist ending.

    Underwater, you get much better monsters, the characters are able to come up with various effective strategies to protect and save themselves, and let’s face it, T.J. Miller isn’t anymore annoying than Ryan Reynolds, personal life meltdown aside.

  47. So…just caught MORBIUS and it’s the anti-VENOM I needed

    VENOM: Starring an actor I genuinely like and admire, it’s to date produced 1 middling installment and 1 absolute borefest of a sequel (seriously, you have Hardy AND Harrelson in a movie and still struggle to keep my attention?)

    MORBIUS: Headlined by an actor, who long before the sordid allegations surfaced, I have had a deep, instinctive dislike for, this surprisingly turned out to be a breezy entertaining watch. I just wished it’s second half could have kept up with it’s energetic first with some serious BLADE-level vibes, instead of getting bogged down with exposition, half-hearted stabs at romance and not knowing just what the heck to do with Tyrese Gibson.

  48. As someone who finds everything around the Sony In Association With Marvel Spider-Man Is Just Out Of Shot We Swear Universe to be hilarious*, I was pretty excited to click on the KRAVEN THE HUNTER trailer and assumed it would leave me Cravin’ the Hunter. Well, if the job of the trailer was to leave me confused then they did a hell of a job, because I still have no idea what exactly the deal with this guy is and what his film is about. So a cartoon lion bled on him during a hunting accident when he was a kid and in combination with the hurt feelings caused by his mean dad this gave him superpowers? And now as an adult he protects animals and hunts poachers? Or assassins? But he goes kind of hard on it so that makes him an anti-hero who will one day hate Spider-Man for some reason? I was on board for maybe half a minute mid-way through the trailer when it looked like it was going to be like FIRST BLOOD or PREDATOR or even SURVIVING THE GAME but with this Kraven fella, but that turned out to just be the set-up for a quick joke and it went back to being about…something. And the Rhino is going to be in it, but it’s not Paul Giamatti hamming it up with a Russian accent and wearing a mech suit, he literally turns into a CGI Rhino? OK I guess that’s a step-up. Well, it would be a step up if it was still Paul Giamatti hamming it up with a Russian accent and he turned into a CGI Rhino, but the CGI Rhino is kind of a sideways step I guess.

    Oh well, at least I can look forward to the next trailer and maybe seeing what this is all about.

    *As for the films themselves…well two out of three “not bad”s ain’t bad (LET THERE BE CARNAGE is the bad IMO)

  49. I just think it’s funny how the guys on some other website I sometimes visit were all “Oh my god, it’s R rated, it has blood and maybe even F bombs! I must see this! It’s so much better than that Marvel PG13 kiddy shit!”

    Some nerds are still way too easy to please.

  50. After finally catching up on it, I am siding here with Vern and some of you here. It’s not awful and I was entertained, but it’s not good either and I did get most of my enjoyment out of its unashamed, predictable 90sness. I’m sure we all wish that they would be actually good, but sometimes it is kinda nice to just say: “Hey, this movie exists and it entertained me for 100 minutes.”

  51. And you guys, LIFE is really damn good. I wonder why it took me so long to catch up on it. It’s nothing outstanding, but the most competent and suspenseful ALIEN pastiche that I’ve seen in a while! I have to watch UNDERWATER again though before I declare it better or worse than that, but there is room enough in my heart for both movies.

  52. Sawyer Family Values

    May 31st, 2024 at 11:16 am

    This was as dull and bad as “Venom” was amazing and exhilarating. “Morbius” is so mediocre that it fits perfectly with all those “Doctor Marvel Wolverine versus Iron Spiderman America in Fantastic Winter Avengers United War Four X” celluloid refuse, whereas “Venom” towered above them in quality, heart, soul, and entertainment.

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