MORBIUS

Review by Victoria Alexander


With THE LITTLE THINGS and his sensational, transformation in HOUSE OF GUCCI, Leto is totally invested and gives the Marvel Universe a mesmerizing character shaped with conflicting appetites.




Let’s talk about Jared Leto’s public profile. Ever since he received the Best Supporting Actor award for DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, Leto’s choice of roles have been astonishing. He has pursued roles that completely erase his rock star beauty. After AMERICAN PSYCHO and FIGHT CLUB, he chose to lose 25 pounds to play a junkie in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. In CHAPTER 27 Leto gained weight and buried his movie star face to play outsider Mark David Chapman. Leto continued his metamorphic choices with the Joker in SUICIDE CLUB, a really unusual creepy killer in THE LITTLE THINGS and the brilliant performance in HOUSE OF GUCCI as Paolo Gucci. Leto continues his passion for physical transformation as Israeli Adam Neumann in the cable series WE CRASHED.


Leto was condemned for taking his Joker role too far. His “method acting” involved sending the cast a dead pig at the very first table read. He refused to be called his real name on set and he “terrorized” his castmates with anal beads, live rats, and used condoms.


Yet during the production of MY LEFT FOOT, Daniel Day-Lewis insisted that everyone on set refer to him as Christy Brown, refusing to reply to Daniel. Day-Lewis learned to type and paint with his feet just like Brown, as well as demanding to be pushed around in a wheelchair. Day-Lewis’ refusal to leave his wheelchair meant that the film’s production assistants were forced to lift the actor over the masses of equipment to get him ready for his next scene. During the production’s lunch break the set assistants were made to spoon-feed Day-Lewis in accordance with the lifestyle of his character. Day-Lewis won the Academy Award for Best Actor for MY LEFT FOOT.


Robert De Niro gained 60 pounds to emulate Jake La Motta's decline in RAGING BULL. Training with La Motta for almost a year, Robert De Niro trained and boxed for over 1,000 rounds to add 20 pounds of muscle to his, at the time, 145-pound frame. De Niro won the Academy Award for Best Actor for RAGING BULL.


Leto has been getting press for his bizarre choice of red carpet clothes, his fan cult called Echelon (he led a weekend gathering in white robes), and his fury when he heard that Warner Bros. was making a movie, JOKER with director Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix. Leto believed he was continuing his role as the Joker. Leto is said to have tried everything he could to kill the making of JOKER. When Leto failed to stop JOKER, he dumped his CAA agents and also his music manager, who he asked to call the leader of Warners’ parent company to stop the production.


I am going to take a position on the fake universes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Universe Infinite. With metaverses, time travel, parallel universes, Stimulations, String Theory and heroes and villains flying faster than a jet (remember back in the day when only Superman could fly?), who can dare question a vampire made through bat blood? Are there rules – cheating gravity for one - that creators of comic book superheroes and villains must abide?


If I must accept that there are 3 Spider Man’s existing in 3 different universes at the same time, how can I question Marvel’s self-created vampire,“Morbius, aka the Living Vampire, aka Dr. Michael Morbius, Ph.D., M.D.”?


Thousand-year old vampires are okay, but newly minted vampires made from bat blood are ridiculous?


Freed from interfering troublesome parents as required by all superheroes, young Michael Morbius has a nice Trust Fund. He’s been living at a private clinic for kids with a rare blood disease. It’s a place to die surrounded by caring staff. Michael has been at this center so long he doesn’t bother learning much about his newly-arrived roommates. He calls all of them “Milo.”


One roommate does win Morbius affection, a young boy he calls Milo. Throughout their lives, suffering from the same debilitating physical illness, their love for each other endures.


Morbius has shown a fine intellectual medical mind, so he’s sent off by his kind doctor-substitute father, Nicholas (Jared Harris), to New York to further his medical education. As his body degenerates Morbius’s brilliant mind finds a way to immortalize himself by going to a remote Costa Rica vampire bat cave. Morbius has figured out that bat blood will transform him into a healthy, robust man.


The idea that Morbius has about vampire bat blood changing humans is not so far-fetched. In 2014 the NIH approved a $3.7 million grant called “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence.” Chinese villagers living near bat caves in Southern Yunnan province would have their blood tested for antibodies to a SARS-like coronavirus, then answer questionnaires to determine if certain behaviors had led them to be exposed.


So there is something about bats having troubling effects on humans! Let’s not forget the origin story - now a myth due to its stupidity – that a bat bit a fish that was then sold to an old Wuhan woman. I have been to many “wet markets” around the world and all manner of creatures are there side by side. I also made a habit of going to “fetish markets” all through Africa to buy animal parts.


Dr. Morbius shocked the world when he declined a Nobel Prize for his research, following Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman, who in 2010 gained worldwide fame by having solved one of the world’s most intractable mathematical problems, the Poincaré conjecture. Perelman rejected a $1 million prize from the Clay Mathematics Institute in Cambridge, Mass., for the feat.


Like Seth Brundle, the only reasonable trial subject is the doctor himself. He has to ask wealthy buddy Milo (Matt Smith) for the money to finance and supply a tanker to go into international waters away from the prying eyes of the medical community. The bat blood works and the transformation is astonishing. He quickly turns into a prototypical rock star/movie star with flowing hair.

Good guy Batman has his “No kill rule” but Morbius has no clue that the immediate effect of bat blood was a hunger for human blood. The hired guns on the tanker supply Morbius’s first nutrition.


Morbius’s transference from doctor to bat creature is terrific special effects. It’s all dazzling. Back home, Milo knows that Morbius found immortality and he is mad. Milo is not interested in the side effects and the time he would have to spend as a creature from the Island of Dr. Moreau.


“There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers.” Saint Teresa of Avila


While Morbius has plenty of fake blood to keep his Living Vampire Bat creature from appearing, Milo – who has the money to buy a blood bank – enjoys killing. And Morbius finds out that fake blood is hardly as satisfying as blood flowing out of a human body.


The case of the gruesome deaths on the tanker is given to FBI agents (Tyrese Gibson and Al Madrigal) to investigate. Milo is justified in wanting his financed wonder drug but Morbius will not give it to him. The downside – killing humans – is not a topic for consideration. I side with Milo.


Getting the serum himself, Milo transforms himself into a Greek god with superhuman powers strutting around New York. He becomes Morbius’s arch enemy. While Morbius’s friend Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona) was helping aboard the tanker, she is saved from dying but is now a critical part of the investigation and Morbius’s secret.


The Morbius and Milo pas de deux - once close friends now enemies – questions loyality, responsibility and morality. Can Morbius turn to work for the good while his challenging Vampire Bat alter-ego demands human blood?


Leto is all in and delivers a strong performance and gives the Bat creature a strong identity. If the First Communion fans like a cute superhero, Morbius is the creature they will eventually turn to.



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Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society


Personal email: victoria.alexander.lv@gmail.com