Okay, so Morbius isn’t the greatest film of all time. While I may hold a soft spot for it, Morbius is – at best – an average superhero origin story that would have been better received back in the early 2000’s; after over a decade of Marvel epics featuring Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, and the Avengers, Morbius never stood a chance, and was instead relegated to being a punchline for many, many jokes.
However, that does not mean that Morbius is entirely devoid of merit: if you put aside all the ironic jokes about the film being a life-changing masterpiece, there are genuinely good things to be found. Thus, in the interest of giving the poor movie a break, here are ten great things about Morbius.
1. Michael Morbius
By far the best part of Morbius is the title character himself: unlike most superheroes who start out as ordinary people, only to level up into people capable of doing great things, Michael Morbius is a subversion of the trope: he starts off as a genius doctor who has helped save millions with his invention of artificial blood, but while trying to cure his own rare disease, he gains superhuman abilities, but only if he consumes the blood of others, and the longer the film goes on, the harder it becomes to resist his increasing bloodlust.
This clash of Michael’s inherent goodness and the evil powers he gains makes him a fascinating character. He wants to do the right thing, but is fighting a losing battle against his darker urges that only grow stronger over time, making Michael a perfect example of bad powers given to good people.
2. Hyper-lethal vampires
There’s been a trend in recent years of depicting cinematic vampires as almost unbeatable killers with super-speed, super-endurance, and super-strength, and Morbius is no exception. giving us vampires so strong, fast, and lethal, that even Spider-Man, Iron Man, and other non-magical heroes would have a difficult time defeating them. Morbius and Milo – in their vampire forms – are capable of taking ordinary people down in the blink of an eye and enduring damage and wounds that would kill anyone a dozen times over, including falling from a skyscraper and smashing through concrete with barely a scratch. These vampires are a serious threat, and I like how fast, lethal, and deadly they are, to the point where it’s possible that Milo or Michael might be able to take on Thanos in a fight.
3. The Boat Battle
While Morbius shies away from showing what would really happen if a bloodthirsty vampire tore people apart in a feral rage, Michael’s first transformation onboard a boat is still a great demonstration of his super-speed, endurance, and how utterly screwed any normal person would be in a fight against him. But even among the carnage, there’s still hints that Michael isn’t a mindless savage: he refrains from attacking Martine, his assistant, and attacks the mercenaries on the boat after he thinks they hurt her, foreshadowing their (rather sudden) romance later on.
4. Milo trying to help Michael
Bless its heart, Morbius tries so hard to have lots of emotional moments between its characters, especially Milo and Michael, so that we feel sorry for Milo at his death at the end of the film. Sadly, most of them don’t work, save one early on when Michael is having a breakdown in his lab. Milo comes in to see him and, seeing Michael suffering from the advancing effects of his vampirism, immediately tries to help him, rushing about as best he can in his crippled body. Better yet, he has no ulterior motive or secret desire to become an evil vampire; he’s just a man trying to save his best friend, making this the film’s most emotional moment.
5. The Subway Fight
It’s not really a fight in that Michael and Milo only exchange a few blows (and it reflects badly on Michael that he just walks away instead of trying to stop Milo from hurting more people), but the subway confrontation has a rather cool long shot of Michael pursues Milo, followed by Milo demonstrating how ordinary people have no chance against him in a fight (complete with a goofy dance and squeaky sneakers), and then ends with Michael learning to fly in a pretty cool way. As an added bonus, I like how, when Michael and Milo slide to a stop after falling off the escalators, some of the pedestrians don’t even slow down as they walk past them. They’re probably so jaded by superhero battles at this point that they’re like, “Okay, yeah, whatever,” and continue on with their day.
6. The Hallway Kill
Yes, I played it up for humor, but the hallway death of Nurse Sutton is the closest Morbius comes to being a horror film, and it does a good job of it! Sutton is all alone inside this dark hallway in the dead of night, and then sees something moving with inhuman speed further down the hall. Instead of freaking out and running away in a blind panic as the rest of us would, Sutton somehow manages to keep her cool for an impressive amount of time before getting the lights on. She still dies, but the buildup to her death is surprisingly effective, and an excellent example of how you can have a horror scene without any blood, gore, or fancy visual effects. And on a personal note, I love the black and green lighting in this scene. It’s such a cool combination that we don’t get too much of in movies these days.
7. Milo’s dance
It’s become the stuff of internet legend, and like Bully Maguire in Spider-Man 3, Milo’s goofy dance scene is memorable for all the wrong reasons: the easily-misunderstood lyrics that sound like the singer telling us to have sex and that he poops both his pants and his tent (?!), the bizarre zebra-and-arrow wallpaper, the white and black marble styling, and Matt Smith hamming it up for the camera. It’s a perfect storm of goofiness, and it’s easy to see why the internet mocked it relentlessly.
But aside from the jokes, the scene does serve an important purpose: for the first half of the film, Milo is a sick cripple who relies on a cane to get around, and can only move quickly with great effort. But now, after a lifetime of illness, he has a chiseled, healthy body and the ability to do whatever he wants. It’s easy to understand why he is so happy at what he’s become, and all of us would celebrate if we were in his position.
8. The Final Battle
It’s admitingly a bit rushed, but the final battle between Milo and Michael is still a memorable one: half of it takes place in a freefall fight as the two plunge down the side of a half-built skyscraper, slicing, smashing, and hitting things before plunging through at least a hundred feet of rock and concrete before slamming into a half-built subway station, and ending with Michael summoning his bat friends to help him beat back Milo just long enough to deliver the compound that kills him.
What makes this final fight unique, though, is something I didn’t notice until watching it a few times: Michael doesn’t land a single blow against Milo. Not one. Unlike so many climactic superhero beatdowns we’ve gotten over the decades, Milo doesn’t win by getting a heroic second wind, pushing through his pain to save those he loves, or by unlocking some super, ultimate power at the last second. Instead, he uses cunning by summoning his bats to pin Milo before injecting him with the cure to his vampirism. It’s the first time I can remember where a superhero protagonist wins without throwing a punch or landing a single hit.
9. The Ending
Unlike most superhero origin stories where the hero beats the bad guy, accepts his or her fate, and heads off to begin their career, Morbius plays with the formula by having Michael kill his childhood friend before flying off to an uncertain future, the movie smartly leaving it ambiguous on if he’s succumbed to his vampirism or not, leaving the audience to imagine what might happen next, rather than tying everything up and leaving no mysteries for us to mull over. And while the post-credit scene with the Vulture may have been derided, the movie still doesn’t tell us if Michael is now a good guy or an antagonist.
10. The memes!
In the years to come, Morbius will be remembered not for its quality, its story, characters, or its box office numbers, but for the memes and jokes it inspired. Instead of fans gathering online to praise the movie and share their collective love, people decided it’d be pretty funny to praise a mediocre superhero film as if it were the greatest thing the human race has ever made, complete with fake catchphrases (“It’s Morbin’ time!”) and goofy fan videos: these are my favorites:
Like a team of random people showing up to cheer on a bunch of kids at a Little League game, there’s something heartwarming about people elevating a movie that would otherwise be forgotten within a month into a joke that’s arguably more enjoyable than the movie itself. In it’s own way, Morbius has earned cinematic immortality in the veins of Plan 9 From Outer Space, Birdemic, and The Room. It tried to be the next superhero blockbuster and failed, but in the process, morbed its way into our hearts, and for that it deserves a little recognition.