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Friday May 27th

Column: Impossibly bad, the horrors of “Morbius” are the punishment audiences deserve

Jared Leto, right, attends the "Morbius" Fan Special Screening at Cinemark Playa Vista and XD on March 30, 2022, in Los Angeles, California. Photo courtesy of Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images/TNS.
Buy Photos Jared Leto, right, attends the "Morbius" Fan Special Screening at Cinemark Playa Vista and XD on March 30, 2022, in Los Angeles, California. Photo courtesy of Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images/TNS.

In the lead-up to this year’s Academy Awards, the entertainment industry was again bogged down by a dangerous debate. 

Talking heads on social media spun their yarn over what they saw as a decline in the status of the awards themselves and the quality of movies as a whole, decrying the increasing amount of “boring” movies vying for awards. 

The loudest of these was Trevor Noah, the host of "The Daily Show", who called Oscar-nominated movies “the vegetables of movies,” citing a disconnect between what people want to watch and what he was being celebrated by the academy. 

I can understand such a claim being made about slower, lengthier entries like “Nomadland” and “Drive My Car,” whose complex themes and intricately developed plot might not speak to everyone. But the fact that this claim was being made about best picture nominees like “CODA,” a film whose cheery demeanor and extremely simple story could be followed and loved by even young children, is baffling.

Appeals to the public alone do not make a good movie. Instead, caving to populist cravings can have catastrophic effects on film, with the industry turning away from creative, thoughtful storytelling and towards a watered-down final product — reducing their own films to a shell of what they have the potential to be.  

Even still, I often hear and read complaints from viewers clamoring for simplicity. They don’t want to have to work hard. They just want to have fun. 

I get that. I really do. But you know what happens when we let that flawed line of thinking get out of hand, when Hollywood gives in to the demands of an uninitiated public? 

Morbius.

From the start, this movie was doomed to fail. 

Dr. Michael Morbius is a little known Marvel character scraped from the depths of comic book lore by Sony in a desperate effort to make money off its rights-sharing agreement to Spider-Man characters with Disney. No one I know had ever heard of him before this movie was produced. I’m certain only diehard comic book fans had.

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the release date of this movie four times, originally slated to release in July 2020 and bumped all the way back to April 1, 2022. It’s almost like it was doing us a favor. 

And who would be tasked with playing the titular character, a doctor who combines human DNA with that of bats to cure his blood-borne illness but ends up turning into a rogue vampire creature? Why Jared Leto, of course, the man who went from being the most promising actor of the last decade after his Oscar win for "Dallas Buyers Club" to holding the distinct honor of starring in the worst DC film ("Suicide Squad”) and now the worst Marvel film. 

To call his performance in this disgraceful would be an understatement. 

Leto skillfully drained every bit of sincerity from the film’s emotional moments, with his overbearing style and hysterics garnering laughs instead of tears from the audience. His delivery of dialogue seemed unnatural, as though he were truly a bat that had come to life struggling to learn the English language. 

The movie’s lackluster screenplay, filled to the brim with cheesy one-liners and turns of phrase alien to the average person, made the few talented actors unfortunate enough to be caught up in this mess look mediocre. 

Matt Smith’s portrayal of Milo, the film’s chief antagonist, was as one-dimensional as it was bizarre. And poor Jared Harris, of “Mad Men” fame, got caught up in the fray. I mean, that was more tragic than the shoddily built narrative for the film’s protagonist. 

In addition to the often nonsensical dialogue, there were a host of ridiculous continuity errors, including characters often teleported from place to place with unbelievably quick off-screen movement. 

Aesthetically, the movie was a disaster. 

The sheer number of shots where the view of the characters was purposefully obstructed was infuriating. It’s as though they don’t want you to see what’s happening (I mean, I don't, but still.) 

The gratuitous use of slow-motion made "Zack Snyder’s Justice League” reboot look like a masterclass in restraint. And to add insult to directorial injury, the first five minutes of the movie featured one of the only times I’ve seen a circle wipe transition in a movie — it was like something out of a fourth-grade PowerPoint presentation. 

The visual effects looked atrocious, too. The CGI that was meant to transform Leto and Smith into sleek, superhuman figures instead obfuscated them into a cloud of wild, incoherent streaks. 

Though I’m sure there was some effort put in behind the scenes by the crew, there was a clear lapse in judgment from the higher-ups at Sony and Marvel that somehow decided this movie was worth releasing.

And you know what? It checks out.

If audiences are so desperate for mindless entertainment at the movies, what’s incentivizing them to put in the effort to refine their product and make it something that’s actually watchable?

Despite abysmal reviews —  with it’s 16 percent Rotten Tomatoes score (as of April 12) falling below that of “The Room” (26 percent), which is widely considered to be one of the worst movies ever made — and the #MorbiusSweep meme campaign trashing the movie across all social media platforms, “Morbius” still earned over $39 million in its opening weekend. It’s grossed over $125 million worldwide so far, already exceeding its $75-83 million budget. 

Studio executives know that even the worst product they put out will make money, especially if it promises action and bombast and is associated with well-known properties like Marvel. People's complaints aren't falling on deaf ears. 

A good movie can be boring sometimes. So what? If filmmakers don't try to push the boundaries of the craft, they'll never make anything worth remembering.

I mean, would you prefer more of this? 

I sure don’t. 

Just … no, man / 10

@GMolero1

@dthopinion

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