‘Morbius’: Vampires without blood

One of the funniest stories in recent Hollywood is the Failed attempt from Universal to build a cinematic universe with its classic monsters. The alleged franchise, announced with great fanfare by the studio and titled Dark Universe, was born dead and ended its journey after premiering a total of one film, ‘The Mummy’, starring Tom Cruise (whose presence introduces any film in the “Tom Cruise film” subgenre, with very specific but proven successful rules) . There was even a promotional photo showing Cruise, Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Russell Crowe and Sofia Boutella, who were supposed to star in their own separate installments of the saga, films that never got produced. The photo, of course, was a hoax in itself: the five members never got together in the same room to be photographed; it was all, as is often the case in today’s Hollywood, a digital creation.

Five years later, Sony has eaten Universal’s toast. The studio is taking advantage of the commercial pull of Marvel characters to exploit a small corner of that superhero universe for which it still has the film rights: Spider-Man and his villains. The wall-crawler has starred in the highest-grossing movie of the pandemic, ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, and Sony is building its own franchise around him with movies starring characters from the arachnid universe (in which Peter Parker does not act presence). This is how ‘Venom’ was born, which already has two films that have grossed more than 1,350 million dollars worldwide. Now comes ‘Morbius’ and ‘Kraven the Hunter’ and ‘Madame Web’ are already announced, among others; all of them focused on villains turned antiheroes and starring great stars: Tom Hardy, Jared Leto, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Dakota Johnson. It’s what Universal dreamed of but couldn’t bring about.

If the previous paragraph has made you dizzy, it is totally understandable. Following the business framework behind all these sagas, some of the highest grossing in today’s cinema, is even more complicated than understanding the narrative connections between all those films. And of course it is much more complex than the movies themselves, mostly entertainment as enjoyable as it is expendable and forgettable. That’s it Morbius, a heap popcorn movieand not the good bunch, but so conscious of what it has to contribute that at least it only lasts an hour and three quarters (you have a quarter of an hour leftif you ask me).

The ones we grew up watching the 90’s Spider-Man animated series we remember Morbius as a troubled scientist who had unfortunately become a vampire and was torn between helping his friend and neighbor Peter Parker or fighting him when his base instincts took over his body. In this film, directed by Daniel Espinosa (Life) and written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (gods of egyptoh my god), we see Morbius’s childhood as a gifted child with a rare blood disease who ends up becoming a Nobel Prize-winning scientist for inventing artificial blood that saves more lives, according to the script, than penicillin. But Morbius rejects the Nobel because he believes that his invention is a poorly finished by-product and can be improved, which serves to define the character with surprising economy: he is a bitter perfectionist.

An investigation with bat DNA leads him to inject blood from a rare species and becomes himself a vampire who needs human blood to survive and also has superpowers. Betting on movies starring what were traditionally villains is risky, but Sony fixes it by portraying these characters as guys with good backgrounds forced by external causes (a symbiote in ‘Venom’, the blood of bats here) to do evil. . Of course, they want to be good and they always find someone who is worse than them, which entails the largest pact of suspension of credibility of Morbius: that Jared Leto is basically a good person.

In this case, that necessary antagonist is Milo (Matt Smith), a childhood friend of Morbius who suffers from the same illness. Upon discovering the invention, the serum is injected and he, unlike his good friend, surrenders to the new impulses of his body and celebrates his new powers with violence and evil. The script underlines it in a very funny way: while Morbius kills a handful of mercenaries much to his chagrin, Milo sucks the blood of a poor nurse, who to top it off is a single mother of twins! It could only be worse if the poor orphans were in wheelchairs.

Interpretatively, Smith as the bad guy doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen him do recently in Last night in Soho and even in his most villainous role of all: the husband of Elizabeth II in The Crown. Even so, he is the only one who does something minimally noteworthy, despite the fact that it is always a joy to see jared harris although the script does not give him anything to do. As to Michael Keatonappears for more minutes in the trailer than in the film.

Espinosa, a Swedish commissioned director with no style or personality behind the camera, shoots a couple of scenes with horror movie aspirations, and in one of them he manages to unsettle with a play of lights as tricky as it is effective. The most ridiculous thing about the film is the blatant lack of blood, considering that it is a vampire story; but of course, Sony didn’t want to risk getting too high an age rating. So we have before us again a purportedly adult film without violence, sex or swearing (and of course, without complex or minimally interesting conflicts).

The only exhilarating Morbius it is, curiously, in its exaggerated digital effects. It is very funny to notice the jump from one shot to another between scenes entirely built on the computer and scenes shot with real actors. However, the sequences in which Morbius display their superpowers come to acquire a fascinating almost impressionistic effect. The biggest drawback of the digital effects so widespread in today’s Hollywood blockbusters is that they are mostly used to try to recreate reality; Morbius it is an example of the wonders that can be achieved if they are used to build fantasies.

For the rest, an inherent characteristic of current commercial cinema that fulfills Morbius is that you know what is going to happen at all times. Before starting the projection for the press, we are told that at the end there will be two post-credit scenes that, of course, advance events of the following films in the franchise. That’s the real deal for many of the viewers, already accustomed to seeing movies as a concatenation of fulfilled forecasts followed by new predictions. Many of which will come true in the next deliveries.

There’s something satisfying about it all, actually. It’s not bad that a movie constantly proves you right and serves as a haven of predictability and placidity at a time when real life already has enough uncertainty on its own.

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‘Morbius’: Vampires without blood