I saw Morbius opening weekend at the behest of a very sweet, very misguided coworker who thinks Jared Leto is hot. It was a bore. I struggled to remain awake through our 10 a.m. screening, the details of which linger only as a fuzzy grey mold at the edges of my brain. There is no camp value to Morbius. There’s nothing of value to the film at all, except maybe as a cool-down reminder that Jared Leto is a tedious drip after he accidentally delivered his first entertaining performance in House of Gucci. And yet, Morbius has been resurrected as an unlikely meme in recent weeks. Ironic shitposting of phrases like “It’s Morbin time” and “You got Morbed” have raised the profile of this flavorless gruel as if it were a so-bad-it’s-good delicacy worthy of re-evaluation. As a result, online knuckleheads around the world are tricking themselves into watching Morbius for hatewatching kicks, and it’s difficult to feel anything but pity for them. There’s nothing there. Morbius is not interesting enough to be funny or entertaining, even “ironically”; it’s barely interesting enough to keep you awake.
I can’t be too harsh on the irony-seeking looky-loos who’ve been tricked into watching Morbius by a few well-timed memes. I, too, am a recent victim of grassroots meme marketing, and my mistake also falls under the ever-expanding umbrella of Spider-Man Content. After years of seeing it .gifed & memed into oblivion, I somehow became convinced that Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 had potential as an unsung camp classic with misleading nerdboy rage souring its critical reputation. One library loan later, I feel like I’ve been Morbed. Based on the memes, I assumed Spider-Man 3 was entirely about Peter Parker going dark-sided goth. I pictured the Venom symbiote rotting his brain by brushing greasy bangs in front of his eyes and transforming him into the toxic indie scene boyfriend of your nightmares. I was only partly right. All of the fun images of Emo Parker strutting, shooting finger guns, and dancing the roof off his favorite jazz club were from a brief fifteen-minute stretch of the film. The rest of it is just a typical, bloated superhero actioner. There it not nearly enough Spider-Bangs content to make Spider-Man 3 stand out as a novelty, no matter how fun it looks from a digital distance.
There’s probably a lesson here about how a movie’s meme potential does not directly translate into entertainment value, but I’m refusing to learn it. As frustrating as Spider-Man 3 is for withholding its novelty goth content for a brief stretch in its second act, I wasn’t mad that I watched it. There’s enough goofy retro Saturday Morning Cartoon charm to the Sam Raimi Spider-Man cycle that its worst entry is still passably entertaining. If nothing else, there was plenty of surreally dated CG action to go around, and Danny Elfman’s score kept the mood light. I doubt that the poor souls who are allowing Mighty Morbin memes to trick them into watching Morbius are coming out the other end equally unscathed. If they’re somehow convincing themselves that joking with friends over that filmic void is more fun than joking around while staring at a blank wall, though, I’m not here to spoil their good time. Morb on, you crazy diamonds. There’s an endless supply of much more vibrantly entertaining, so-bad-it’s-good novelties out there they could be genuinely enjoying instead, but the indulgence is only going to hurt themselves. It’s pretty harmless otherwise.
The only potential harm in ironic Morbius “enjoyment” is that it might convince Sony there’s an appetite for a Morbius 2 out there, but that result would be much funnier than even the mediocre memes that inspire it. The worst-case scenario is that the studio pays Jared Leto a grotesque amount of money to say “It’s morbin time” on camera, and just as few people show up in theaters to hear it; I’m not going to lose any sleep over Morbius 2 bombing. It would actually be nice to have a reason to laugh at Morbius content for the very first time. The best-case scenario is the unlikely possibility that a Morbius 2 is actually as fun as people are pretending Morbius 1 is, which can only be a boon. Even Spider-Man 3 earned some retroactive appreciation after the recent Spider-Man: Oops! All Spider-Men free-for-all that brought Toby McGuire back to the franchise for a victory lap. The memes can only make Morbius more fun, even if it has a much steeper uphill battle ahead of it than Sam Raimi’s Spider-Meme did. Sony’s just now testing the waters with a theatrical “reissue” of Morbius, and I’m already laughing.
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