Saturday, June 10

‘Morbius’ concentrates all the miseries of current superheroes and antiheroes

It all started with an agonized breath, heard behind a black armor that shrouded the appearance of its occupant in mystery. It was impossible to know what was hidden in the mask of Darth Vader, perhaps the most iconic villain in pop culture -also one of the first-, but during the following decades Hollywood dedicated a great deal of effort to clarify it. To detail his origins and deconstruct him, aware that the public demanded a growing complexity, which would depart from the pristine and monolithic heroes. This is how from Darth Vader, almost half a century later, we have come to Morbius. A Spider-Man villain whom we are going to meet in the movies before even seeing him face Spider-Man.

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The popular cinema issued by Hollywood has long been installed in a neurotic phase, where the fever for the franchise and the exploitation of intellectual properties have led to scenarios as unusual as that universe that Sony Pictures is building in the shadow of Marvel Studios. Like Spider-Man, he belongs (with the face of Tom Holland) to Kevin Feige’s machinery, this ‘Venomverse’ or ‘Sonyverse’ is only allowed for now to resort to secondary characters from the stories of the famous wall-crawler, apart from the animated Spider-Man: A new universe and derivatives. Secondaries usually characterized as villains, who having their own film have no choice but to become antiheroes. It happened with two deliveries of Venomhappens now with Morbius.

The (false) villain as a protagonist of pop culture

Darth Vader was terrifying, but he was soon the subject of the infantilization of big-budget cinema led by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg in the 1980s. That’s why, when he died, he did so among Ewoks and redeemed from his evil past. Approaching 2000 and 9/11, however, the model block buster he had to develop a certain ambiguity in order to continue communicating with a less impressionable public. Hence, the move by Lucas himself to dedicate up to three new films of starwars to explain what had made Darth Vader Darth Vader. Although it was not critically applauded at the time, this drive to humanize the villain would be hugely influential.

The villain became the protagonist, and the painstaking enumeration of his traumas and motivations led to his becoming an antihero: someone who performs questionable acts, but from a moral compass that the audience understands while being playfully challenged by it. This attention to what drives the actions of a supposed villain could lead to a radical change in the history we thought we knew, as argued by a musical as acclaimed as wicked around the Wicked Witch of The Wizard of Oz. And as he emulated years later maleficenta basic film in the revisionism practiced by Disney in recent years.

maleficent gave way to cruel, and it became clear that, no matter how much gray was played, this dynamic had to reorder the board in a way that was familiar to the public. That is, that empathy towards the villain went through erecting an even worse villain next to him, whom he had to face with a resigned gesture. The superheroic narrative is the one that has best absorbed this phenomenon, and where it is most easily noted that everything has always obeyed to give the public new heroes, with the corresponding “dark” or “adult” claim that distinguishes them from the canonical ones. There are exceptions, of course. Avengers: Infinity War He proposed an interesting game of perspective with a genocide without an alibi, Thanos. And then there’s joker.

There is no villain more magnetic than Joker in comics. Neither in the cinema. The strategy in giving him a movie then also went through explaining his past and endorsing another villain, but since the latter turned out to be the “system” —understood as a confused compendium of sociopolitical circumstances—, joker it automatically became something revulsive, that transcended the superheroic genre. Venom It had to play in more humble leagues, so that the Sony universe was inaugurated by two deliveries based on complicit buffoonery and promised but never explicit violence, because of the age rating.

So much Venom What Venom: There will be slaughter have worked at the box office, and paved the way for Michael Morbius. Created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane in the 1970s, Morbius is nicknamed the Living Vampire and has fought Spider-Man sporadically. As with Venom, the comic book precedent has laid the groundwork for his role to be somewhat more complex than that of antagonist, as evidenced by his own comic series and his tragic character. Morbius was once a prestigious biochemist, but now he is forced to drink blood and commit crimes, in the tradition of so many characters who do what they do because there is no other choice, being good at heart. Like Darth Vader himself.

In short, a movie devoted entirely to Morbius wouldn’t have to work. The problem comes when there is no Spider-Man to sponsor him – we already met Venom, better or worse, in the Spider-Man 3 by Sam Raimi—, and the film is more concerned with continuing to structure the unlikely franchise where it is part of than having its own consistency.

an expected disaster

Morbius is directed by Daniel Espinosa, a filmmaker with a certain experience and consistency who signed for Sony a few years ago Life. A fun review of Alien of marked series B, which presaged a lightness in Morbius in the style of which they had been practicing the films of Venom. Nevertheless, Morbius It is a film that is committed to solemnity and pairing with other genres that inject freshness into a genre as worn as the superhero. Yes batmana few weeks ago, tried to merge with the police and the procedural, Morbius does the same with terror. And with much worse luck, due to the absence of a suitable pulse in the direction that we should expect from Espinosa.

The film starring Jared Leto has especially suffered from the pandemic, perhaps being the block buster that more times was postponed while undergoing all kinds of touch-ups in the editing room: touch-ups easily noticeable in the final result, which will undoubtedly have eclipsed Espinosa’s mise-en-scène. Morbius It is a rushed and confused film, where the conviction when it comes to presenting Morbius in society —a character much more unknown to the general public than Venom— has been replaced by an anxious damage control. The desperation to keep the viewer interested leads to a frenetic pace, but it also accentuates the difficulty of involving the audience in what is happening.

‘Morbius’ would seem to all intents and purposes old-fashioned, if it weren’t for the homage it pays to the trend of the superhero genre: movies that are not so much movies as tolls on other movies

Traits attributable to a large part of the current superhero crop —where the figure of producer/supervisor prevails over that of filmmaker—, which in Morbius they are aggravated by a significant incompetence when it comes to modulating their digital show, in parallel to the condition of a bridge to new installments of the franchise. In the first case, the CGI of Morbius It is overwhelmingly seedy, from the vampire alter ego masks to the congested photography, through a treatment of the action scenes with slow motion and bullet-times that take us back to the spectacle cinema of the early 2000s.

Morbius For all intents and purposes, it would seem old-fashioned if it weren’t for the homage it pays to the star trend of the superhero genre: that is, movies that aren’t so much movies as tolls on other movies. The understanding of block buster as a multi-referential artefact, not as a cinematographic work, crystallized in characters whose full depth is devoted to transmedia, and in a sense of irrelevant entertainment, where the only thing that can make people talk or generate a concrete sensation are the post-credit scenes. The post-credit scenes are the climaxes of today’s superhero movies, and Morbius exemplifies it in all its terrible splendor by having the most depressing of the vintage.

In his religious affiliation to multiverses and shuttles to other films/characters —after Morbius sony plans Kraven the Hunter and madam web—, the film by Daniel Espinosa is not too far from a title as celebrated as Spider-Man: No Way Home, although his inability to generate recognition and emotion leads him to transparently exemplify all these miseries. Without, obviously, contributing anything to the assimilated anti-heroic story. The rereading of villains is just one more ingredient in the regurgitation of Hollywood brands, which no longer distinguishes friends from enemies because they all serve equally well to swell the next crossover.