Movies

The Entire Plot Of ‘Morbius’ Recreated Using Only Quotes From The Disastrous Reviews

If you’re anything like me, you probably figured Marvel hit the undeniable point of diminishing returns for trying to turn obscure comic book properties into massive franchises right around the time Eternals was released. Yet that movie, which (lest we forget) featured superheroes having slow missionary sex on the beach as well as a suicide-by-the-Sun, was produced entirely by Marvel/Disney.

The real heads out there know that there’s a whole separate class of Marvel movies produced by Sony, who, through a curious arrangement of corporate IP, kind of have to keep making these in order to retain the rights, whether they want to or not. As we learned from Venom, this can be kind of fun (and less than two hours long, praise the lord). On the other hand, Sony was probably due for an Eternals-style disaster of their own, and by most accounts, Morbius seems to be it.

In what I’m sure they once envisioned as their answer to Joaquin Phoenix in a dark-and-gritty Joker movie, they hired Oscar-winning actor Jared Leto (still feels weird to type that, doesn’t it?) to play Morbius, a Spider-man antagonist and “living vampire” first introduced in 1971.

Considering Jared Leto is my favorite sexy buffoon not named Tyrese Gibson (who, by the way, is also in Morbius, and was recently fooled by a fake rave attributed to Martin Scorsese), all of this sounded pretty good to me. What could go wrong?

If you read the reviews, a lot. Beginning with trailers that seem to advertise a completely different movie and post-credit “teasers” for movies that have already come out. There’s something so right about a movie that goes so wrong, isn’t there? Isn’t it so much more interesting when the algorithm breaks down than when it functions as expected?

That doesn’t always mean you want to watch these kinds of movies, but luckily I have a feature designed specifically for just such instances. In Plot Recreated With Reviews, I attempt to piece together the entire plot of a film, from start to finish, using only expository quotes (no analysis! …okay, maybe a smidge) from reviews of that film. It’s predicated on the idea that for some films, hearing them described is more entertaining than sitting through them.

Now then, let’s get to Morbius, starring Jared Leto as a living vampire.

THE OPENING FRAME

Michael Morbius is a genius doctor who has assembled a team of unnamed characters to travel, by helicopter, to Costa Rica’s Cerro de la Muerte, which translates into English as “The Mountain of Death.” (Vox)

An emaciated Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), barely able to walk, disembarks from a helicopter to approach the opening of a large cavern that is home to a colony of vampire bats. (ReelReviews)

As a roar of batwings echoes from inside the cave, he murmurs to the copter pilot “if you’re gonna run, do it now.” (NPR)

Morbius, a darkly romantic vision with a curtain of jet-black hair, billowing clothes and hired guns, (New York Times)

is trying to capture a bunch of vampire bats to take home with him to New York City. He slices his palm open, blood drips down, and thousands of bats come shooting out of the cave trying to lick his pale little hand. (Vox)

After his bat procurement trip, Morbius’s fellow doctor and potential love interest Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona) wants to know why he’s shunned the King of Sweden and the Nobel Prize, and why and how he managed to install a large glass pillar full of bats in the middle of their office. (Vox)

THE DISEASE

With exposition, flashbacks, and monologue masquerading as a conversation, Morbius explains to her that he has (Vox)

a rare disease that prevents his body from creating new blood (Vulture)

(something she presumably knows since she has been working with him for a very long time). (Vox)

This incurable illness’ name and exact symptoms are not really explained; all that really matters is that it makes the perpetually weak and sickly Michael Morbius and his good friend Milo (or Lucien; he seems to have two names for some reason) need constant transfusions. (ScreenCrush)

We’re treated to a flashback from Michael’s childhood at a sanitarium (Reel Reviews)

set 25 years ago in Greece, (Vulture)

(Why Greece? I have no idea.) (New York Times)

showing him as a lonely 10-year-old patient at a private hospital, meeting fellow child patient Lucien, whom he dubs Milo, a name Michael apparently gives to every kid who comes through the hospital and dies. (Vulture)

ARTIFICIAL BLOOD

After a leisurely flashback to his sad childhood, Morbius is back in his New York lab, (New York Times)

where Michael has relocated as an adult. During his life, in an attempt to find a cure for the rare blood disease that afflicts him and Milo, he has invented a form of artificial blood (ReelReviews)

(it’s blue, not red). (Boston Globe)

which he explains by spending an extremely inappropriate length of time repeating the word “coagulants.” (Vox)

Morbius comes to rely on drinking blood, and he sucks down his packs of blue goo like a kid crushing a juice box after soccer practice. Soon the synthetic stuff just isn’t doing it anymore, and he needs real blood to quench his increasing thirst. (Detroit News)

THE CARGO SHIP?

With the insinuation that human-bat DNA splicing is illegal in the US, Morbius explains to Milo and Bancroft, separately, that the experiment must be done in secrecy and in international waters (Vox)

— literally, a title card onscreen reads “INTERNATIONAL WATERS” — (ScreenCrush)

the international waters in question end up being a Panamanian cargo ship 12 miles off the coast of Long Island (Vox)

THE SERUM

In the bowels of the Panamanian cargo vessel, (Vox)

he injects himself with bat serum and develops a swooshy Fields of the Nephilim cloak, a man bun and the ability to see sound. (TheGuardian)

The bat juice cures Morbius’s illness and somehow also gives him muscles and a tan. (Vox)

After a hit of serum, he goes from needing crutches to swinging midair on pipes like an Olympic athlete. “I don’t know what I’m capable of,” he says. (AP)

He becomes inhumanly fast and strong, and can even fly through the air on wind currents. (ScreenCrush)

For a fleeting moment, Morbius looks like a sexy Jesus. (Vox)

He’s also good at origami. (Boston Globe)

SIDE EFFECTS

Less salutary effects include new fangs that sprout from his gums with decades of decay baked in, and claws that erupt from his fingers pre-filthed. (NPR)

If Morbius consumes blood, he can maintain his hot and sexy human form and possess superhuman strength and speed. Morbius also says the bat-juice has given him echolocation, which is depicted as being able to hear conversations from miles away. If he doesn’t consume blood, he turns into the uncontrollable, screeching creature, and becomes a danger to everyone around him. (Vox)

In this form, he murders and exsanguinates his hired mercenaries on the rented Panamanian cargo ship. (Vox)

Morbius is chained to a desk in a police department’s interview room and says: “I’m starting to get hungry and you don’t want to see me when I’m hungry.” (AP)

THE RUB

Morbius’s gimmick is that Morbius is now essentially a vampire, but without any tether to existing mythology. (Vox)

Here, lights are actually turned on and sometimes the sun even shines, if only to explain that Morbius isn’t your granny’s Dracula. (New York Times)

He’s not bothered by daylight or garlic, nor does he have aversions to Catholic iconography. But he is biologically bound to blood-drinking. (Vox)

MILO/LUCIEN GETS THE SERUM

Michael is horrified by the implications but Milo, who steals a vial of the serum and injects himself, doesn’t share his friend’s compunctions. (ReelReviews)

Milo isn’t perturbed by his transformation. He’s delighted. (Vulture)

Matt Smith morphs into a Wall Street rogue trader, made entirely of pinstripes and evil. (Guardian)

Milo doesn’t want to die. Milo also wants to be hot. Milo, furthermore, wants to drink tequila and live deliciously. Milo is honestly a lot more fun, if rooted in impulsiveness, which results in the murders of finance bros and cops. (Vox)

At least Smith seems to be amusing himself, (Thrillist)

embracing his villainy and delivering many a florid monologue about how great it is to suck people’s blood out of their neck, (TheAtlantic)

dancing around while Leto takes his work Very Seriously. (Thrillist)

This, and their mutual need to chug pints of blood, rather strains their friendship. (TheGuardian)

Milo’s rising body count puts the city on alert for a “vampire murderer” which seems hilariously redundant, but nonetheless puts Morbius in the uncomfortable position of asserting his innocence and dispatching his fanged friend. (Vox)

MARTINE BANCROFT

The two become rivals and, as Michael hunts down Milo with the goal of stopping him, Michael’s girlfriend, Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona), continues to work diligently in the lab. (ReelReviews)

Adria Arjona gets the thankless role of right-hand-woman/love interest Dr Martine Bancroft, whose main skills seem to be ponytails and pouting (TheGuardian)

a throwback to the era – not really longer ago than yesterday – when love interests were often guarantees of the hero’s heterosexuality and little more. (TheAge)

JARED LETO’S ACTING

His dramatic physicality — his body fluctuates between the skeletal and the pumping-iron robust — read as more vainglorious than strictly necessary, (New York Times)

often left here looking like the snarling lead singer of a death metal band. (AP)

Those sad, intense eyes, that gaunt visage, and that slightly aloof presence… (Vulture)

…does his best to sell the monster within through lots of anguished screaming. (TheAtlantic)

There’s no accent, no ticks, nothing loud that announces he’s performing here. There are a handful of scenes between him and Adria Arjona, who plays his assistant and fiancée, Martine Bancroft, that could pass as an episode of network TV. It’s Leto as Leto, and he just happens to be a bloodthirsty vampire. (It’s funny that this is the role where he comes off as somewhat normal.) (Detroit News)

THE ACTION

From the moment Morbius begins the pacing seems off. It bounces around in time, and moves through exposition without grounding it in any sort of real place or emotion. (Thrillist)

the dour color palette, phrases like “bat radar” said with no hint of irony, (Thrillist)

jiggly camerawork and a buffet of previous films — “The Matrix,” “American Psycho,” “The Usual Suspects” and “An American Werewolf in London.” Typical Marvel violence is unleashed, including so much muscle that our hero smashes though New York City concrete streets to the subway system below. (AP)

The special effects team work overtime to give Leto, unfortunately wearing a messy manbun throughout the film, a sort of bat-ness — his pupils cloud and his ear hairs vibrate like he’s using sonar. His skin will suddenly stretch over bone and he snarls a lot, too. For some reason, whenever he leaps, he is enveloped by a viscous cloud. He can also slo-mo and duck bullets and the action sequences build to moments when everything is suddenly stylistically still and quiet, like inside a hurricane’s eye. (AP)

MARVEL TIE-INS

The references to the Marvel Cinematic Universe are dropped in two nonsensical credits sequences, where Michael Keaton, reprising his role from Spider-Man: Homecoming, shows up in an apparent tease of Spider-Man: No Way Home, a movie which has already come out. (Thrillist)

[The trailers] implied that Michael Keaton’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” character Adrian Toomes was going to be a major presence throughout the film when in actuality he only pops up in a totally unrelated post-credits sequence. (Fox10)

In those trailers, Tyrese Gibson’s character, an FBI agent named Simon Stroud, has a big robotic arm. In the film, he’s just an ordinary guy, and he only pops up occasionally to examine Morbius’ crime scenes. He also has a line in the trailer about how Morbius “has been missing for two months” something that never happens in the finished movie, which appears to take place over the course of a couple days. (ScreenCrush)

In the actual film, Morbius still says “I… am… Venom!” but that’s it; the punchline is completely missing. Why would he call himself Venom? What is the point? What is the point of any of this? (ScreenCrush)

THE DENOUEMENT

At its core, “Morbius” is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ripoff about a good doctor who heals himself thorough illegal experiments that turn him into a monster with pointy teeth. (ABCNews)

As with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in “Interview with the Vampire,” there’s an undercurrent of romantic longing to the brotherly bond between Milo and Morbius. And it feels like a better version of “Morbius” would’ve put their complicated dynamic even more front and center. Alas, “Morbius” is too bound to comic book movie convention to become the overt gay vampire superhero melodrama it probably should have been. Instead, Adria Arjona is there because Morbius needs a (female) love interest. (Fox10)

Adria Arjona doesn’t have much more to do than look concerned. She’s not especially good at it (BostonGlobe)

It follows a familiar trajectory that shows the hero and villain gaining their powers, baiting one another, then eventually fighting to the death. (ReelReviews)

Morbius must defeat his childhood best friend and share an erotically violent kiss with his doctor lover in rapid succession to wrap this entire thing up. (Vox)

The five minutes or so in which this all happens borders on psychotic; (Vox)

a nosedive of a final act, during which any sense of climactic action is masked completely by incessant swarms of bats, poorly rendered breaking glass and blurry, crumbling buildings. (Empire)

I found myself hollering an obscene and inhuman hoot — a gurgling death rattle from the last vestiges of my sanity. (Vox)

In the end, we may not feel we need to know much more about Michael Morbius than this movie has already told us, even though a stinger alerts us that we’re due to see more of him in the future. This is a movie that feels like one big windup for something else, even if we walk out feeling we’ve already seen plenty. (Time)

There you have it, folks! I know the theme of this post is that the adage “show don’t tell” doesn’t always apply, but now I feel like I might have to see this one. Or at the very least, see the featurette of Jared Leto and Tyrese Gibson hanging out on the set.

Vince Mancini is on Twitter. You can access his archive of reviews here.

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