I didn’t see Morbius in theaters because the trailers gave me, and many other people, zero confidence in the film. But I finally watched it. And it was surprisingly mediocre. I had expected Chernobyl. Not the brilliant HBO show Chernobyl. But the actual nuclear meltdown. I thought every scene would be excruciating. Dialogue, acting, cinematography, editing, CGI. The whole thing infuriating and confounding. It wasn’t. Morbius was, most of the time, quite functional. With the only major problem being the story is nothing but tired narrative cliches haphazardly strung together from start to finish. It’s a movie you’ve watched a thousand times. You could probably predict everything that would happen within the first 10 minutes and not once be surprised.
I was kind of hoping Morbius would give me the same, visceral, “I hate this so much” feeling that Spider-Man 3 and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword did. Even though they make you angry, it’s kind of fun to be that outraged. To be dumbfounded by the decisions made. There’s a lot of fun there, to the point where the movie can go from genuinely upsetting to genuinely entertaining. Kind of like cult classic The Room. I wanted Morbius to be that. Alas.
But. It did have one scene that left me absolutely perplexed. What happens on the rooftop?
The scene in question starts about 48 minutes into Morbius. Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) has used his superhuman bat powers to evade the FBI agents (Tyrese Gibson and Al Madrigal) who have (rightfully) connected him to the vampiric demise of a dozen or so mercenaries and (mistakenly) think he’s responsible for the death of a nurse just a few hours earlier. Michael goes from the lobby of this hospital to the stairwell then essentially flies up the twenty-something floors to the roof. His bat powers are quite good. To the point he even air-dodges some bullets.
This is where things get weird.
Once Michael is on the roof, he runs in seemingly inexplicable directions, then, for no reason whatsoever, drops his backpack. Which… We need to stop here. Why does he leave his backpack? It has the synthetic blood he’s using to survive now that he’s a bat-man. Maybe he’s thinking that if they find him with synthetic blood they’ll definitely link him to the fatalities? But, the thing is, they already tried to arrest him. So they’ve already linked him. Regardless of whether he has the synthetic blood. Also, HE JUST FLEW UP A TWENTY STORY STAIRWELL. Does he really think mere mortals are going to make it to the roof and grab him before he can do something like jump to another building? ALSO. He doesn’t even hide the backpack. If he thinks it’s evidence that will seal his fate, why just leave it on the ground? Does he not think the FBI will sweep the roof and find it and use it as evidence? So if he was worried about the backpack being used against him, he picked the worst option.
In fact, fast forward a second. Michael ends up in prison and when the agents interview him, he just straight up tells him he needs the bag that he left on the roof. So, like, what the hell was the point of him dropping it off? It didn’t have anything valuable enough he couldn’t risk damaging. The FBI found it and logged it as evidence anyway. It hadn’t slowed him down at any point he used his bat-powers to escape. It’s just bad writing.
But enough with the bag. That’s not why we’re here.
The gust of wind
After Michael drops the bag, he turns a corner and suddenly the wind is torrential. It not only whistles but is visible on screen. It’s given a similar stylization as Morbius’s echolocation. So clearly this is a bat thing. But…what thing? Why does the wind literally lift Michael off the ground, gust him all the way to the edge of the building, then suddenly stop? Was it something HE did unconsciously? Like he could summon torrential wind? Or did being atop a skyscraper hospital allow for the perfect conditions that gave rise to a wind strong enough to lift a human off the ground and carry them 20 feet?
And, I get it. I’ve seen the rest of the movie. HE CAN FLY! Clearly this is an attempt to foreshadow that power. But it’s a power that makes absolutely zero sense. Bats fly because they have wings. They have a shape, like birds, that supports anatomy-based flight. There’s nothing in the DNA of a bat that equates to flight. Unlike a bird, bats lack hollow bones. So it’s not like Morbius is making his bones lighter and can fly because of it. What allows bats to fly is the membrane that makes up their wings. Without the wings, they’d be ugly squirrels. There’s a website called We Got This Covered that tried to answer this question and went with the hollow bone theory. But that’s just scientifically incorrect. One google search of “do bats have hollow bones” and you have your answer.
But I guess that’s what the film is trying to suggest with that scene? That Michael not only becomes faster and stronger he becomes lighter and thus is able to fly on air currents? They even try to establish it at the beginning of the movie when Michael goes to Cerro De La Muerte in Costa Rica. He tells his transport crew, “Vampire bats weigh almost nothing, but they can down a creature nearly ten times their size.”
The issue isn’t necessarily that they decided Morbius will maintain the exact same body and muscle mass but magically weigh less than air. It’s how haphazardly this ability is used. Morbius has done a decent amount of vampire stuff up to this point. If he was becoming so light he could glide on air, he would have absolutely noticed it way before that moment. “But Chris, maybe the wind wasn’t strong enough.” It. Picked. Him. Off. The. Ground. Do you know how light you’d have to be for a gust of wind to lift you off your feet? We’re talking feather-like. Being that light would affect him every time he used his powers. And maybe it did, you know? He got up that stairway awfully quickly. We thought it was because he was strong. But maybe it’s because he was so light. But then we would have been seeing him run in leaps and bounds. And he wasn’t.
I know this might seem pedantic. I’m fine with suspending disbelief. My issue isn’t enjoying a fantasy movie. I love sci-fi. I love fantasy. I love a lot of superhero movies. My issue is with the bad writing. Good writing is finding a way to establish something outrageous and be logically consistent throughout. Bad writing is saying “We don’t want to worry about this so we’ll just ignore it until it’s relevant to the plot.” This was bad writing. It’s a bad interpretation of bats. It’s a bad application and introduction of the ability. If I’m being generous, at least they waited for him to take the backpack off. As if that alone was the thing weighing him down.
But it doesn’t end there. We have to talk about Tyrese.
So when Morbius goes up the stairwell, he goes from ground floor to floor 8 to floor 14 to roof in about 10 seconds. He’s already at the top when Tyrese, playing Marvel character Simon Stroud, arrives and tells an officer firing at Morbius to “get backup and meet me up top.” Stroud begins to run up the stairs. That’s when we cut to Morbius arriving onto the roof. That’s at exactly 48:03. At 48:12. Michael throws his backpack. At 48:14, the wind picks him up. At 48:23, he stops himself from blowing off the roof. At 48:25, ONE SECOND LATER, Stroud is standing there with a weapon aimed at Morbius.
I’m sorry, but what? That’s 20 seconds from Morbius being on the roof and Stroud being on the ground to both of them being on the roof. As far as the movie has established, Tyrese-as-Stroud is simply a regular FBI agent. No superpowers. Nothing. He does have a cybernetic/bionic arm but the scenes where that’s revealed got cut. The director, Daniel Espinosa, answered a fan question about the arm being in the trailer but not in the movie by saying “I mean, it’s still there. I think that if you look at the fourth-to-last shot, there’s something there. It could mean something for the future, you know?”
The fourth to last shot? Okay. Let’s look…
Morbius is underground Manhattan, victorious in his fight against Milo. Above ground, cops and FBI agents surround the hole Morbius and Milo made when they crashed into the street, through the street, and into the city’s sewers. We see agents Rodriguez and Stroud walking to the hole. And, lo and behold, Stroud has his jacket off and sleeves rolled up. You can barely see he has something on his right forearm. That’s because a lot of the time a traffic cone blocks the view of the arm. Then bats fly out of the hole, Morbius with them, and we see a shot of Stroud’s left side, so no bionic arm, then a close up of Stroud looking angry. No arm.
Technically, Espinosa is right. But yeesh. The arm gets zero emphasis. So maybe you can point to it as the reason Tyrese got to the roof so quickly. Like maybe he climbed one handed super fast? To the point where he could go from ground level to roof to finding Morbius all within 20 seconds? No bionic arm is doing that. Maybe two bionic arms. But not one. Maybe he took the elevator? But he’s still not getting to the roof that fast. Not only did he get there fast, he tracked Morbius right to the roof’s edge. After we already established that Morbius ran a strange, random route then got carried on the wind to the edge.
In that twenty seconds, Tyrese ran to an elevator, called the elevator, got on the elevator, went up the elevator, found the entrance to the roof, got up to the roof, located Morbius, and closed the distance. I know, I’m nitpicking. But these things don’t have to happen like this. The writers have free rein to not take illogical shortcuts and instead find a creative way to accomplish what they want to accomplish with some degree of logic. Marvel does it all the time. Sometimes they’re more successful than others. But it’s not hard. You know why the Morbius team did it here? Because they wanted to establish Stroud as capable. To show he can keep up with Morbius. That he’s not just your run-of-the-mill FBI agent but someone a bit extra. They accomplish that but without caring about the logic of how it could happen. It’s hollow writing.
Re-writing the roof scene
So the roof scene wants to establish a few things. First, that Morbius might be able to fly. Second, that Stroud isn’t your run-of-the-mill FBI agent. The thing is, you don’t need to be coy about the flight thing. And you don’t need to establish Stroud as being something extra because it never matters in the movie.
If I were amending this scene, I’d return to before the confrontation in the lobby that led to Michael fleeing. You do a better job of establishing that Michael’s afraid he’s the one who feasted on the nurse. At this point, neither he nor the viewer knows that Milo has taken the serum and has bat powers. So you lean into that. He’s killed before but excused it because apparently mercenaries aren’t people. Now it’s happened again and it’s terrifying. He no longer trusts himself or think he’s going to be able to control this. He’s feeling major doubt. When the FBI agents show up, there’s this choice he has to make between “doing the right thing” or “saving himself.” Have him almost turn himself in. But is being a coward about it. So he runs. Goes to the roof.
On the roof, he looks around. And he screams. He’s frustrated with what he’s become. He wants to get away. So he starts to run. His steps become lighter as he runs. So he’s leaping. Bounding. Flying. Off the building, on the wind. He could absolutely just fly away to safety. But to what end? What will happen? Who will he hurt next? Flashback to him seeing the nurse in the hallway. Flashback to the mercenaries on the ship. “Flashback” to him biting Milo, Dr. Nichols (Jared Harris), and Martine. “Flashback” to him in a city of corpses fed on by a billion bats. So he turns around and returns to the hospital. He closes his eyes and listens for Martine. Listens for Milo. He just wants to ground himself and connect to the people he loves. Blood starts thundering in his ears. And the roof door kicks open. There’s Stroud. Breathing heavy. But clearly there before everyone else. Cut to jail.
I’m not saying this is the best scene ever. If I were writing the movie from scratch, we’d never even be in this situation. But working with what’s there, this way you at least establish Morbius feeling some degree of remorse for the body count he’s wracked up. One of the mercenaries wasn’t very nice to Martine but were all of them bad people? It seems Morbius doesn’t care even a little bit, morally speaking. The only seeming aversion he had to his initial slaying was the whole blood consumption. Now that there’s this nurse gone too, a woman who was his colleague and friend? That should actually do a number on him.
And the movie does show that he’s freaked out a little bit. Enough to gather some supplies and run. But it doesn’t actually establish any morality to Morbius. In fact, during the interrogation with the FBI agents, they write-off the mercenaries as not good people they could overlook the deaths of. Amazing. That’s the effort the movie makes to convince us “See, Michael’s actually not so bad. You shouldn’t think of him as a bad person. It was just some mercenaries.”
In the scenario I gave above, he at least makes a choice to turn himself in. It’s a small degree of remorse and atonement but it’s at least something rather than absolutely nothing. Then you just go right into Milo showing up and revealing that he was the one who did it. And will do it again and again because Milo’s a monster. And only Morbius can stop him. Suddenly Morbius has purpose. He has an actual chance at atonement. At being more hero than monster. As is, Morbius vaguely sets up those concepts but not in a way that’s defined enough to show “This is the journey the character has gone on.” Right now it’s just, “I think this is kind of what they were aiming for but didn’t really develop strongly enough via showing or telling.”
Have him on the roof and have this opportunity to literally fly away. He could escape. But decides he can’t live with the guilt. Especially if it means Martine will think he’s a monster. Maybe he should face justice. Maybe he should come clean about what happened. So he doesn’t escape. He flies back to the roof. And waits for Tyrese. Now you’re demonstrating the better aspects of his character. Him making a choice says something. Him getting carried by the wind does not.
Just hit me up, Sony.
Good stuff. I don’t understand why this type of bad writing happens at the Hollywood-level.
It truly befuddles me. If I ever find out, I’ll let you know lol.