by Guy on the Jared Leto Cult Island
art by Levi Dayan
[originally published April 22, 2022]
There’s a line right at the beginning of Morbius that I think gets to the heart of where it stands in the landscape of modern cinema: “like the original Spartans, we are the few… against the many.”
Truly, it’s easy to succumb to the rote mechanisms of mainstream monoculture, which eagerly latches onto entry-level boilerplate cinema while refusing to engage with art that is even slightly more challenging. Already, the entrenched bastions of cinema have laid their judgements on Morbius: according to their feeble, underdeveloped criticisms, the film is “bad,” “visually incoherent,” “completely unbearable to sit through” not to mention “thematically about as deep as a kiddie pool.”
But, to us Morb-heads who understand true cinema, who possess a truly comprehensive, fully fleshed-out understanding of the cinematic medium, the truth is evident: Morbius is the single greatest film of all time. Citizen Kane, The Godfather, Pulp Fiction? Move over. In no small words, everyone involved in these movies should kill themselves. None of these movies had a biochemist who accidentally becomes a vampire trying to cure an unnamed blood disease. None of them had another guy who also became a vampire, but instead of the first guy who’s all guilty and horrified and full of internal struggle or whatever, his whole deal is that he’s evil so he thinks that being a vampire rocks. No one in any of these movies is more fuckable than Dr. Michael Morbius, even if he isn’t James Caan and never puts on one of those hot little gimp suits.
For the past two weeks, I have not merely seen Morbius. In between yoga classes amongst the trees, occasional siestas in the Adriatic sea, and lengthy praise sessions in The Chamber, I have lived Morbius. Breathed Morbius. Felt Morbius within my soul. On a particularly weird night — at The Chamber — I think I made torrid, unconscionably disgusting love to Morbius. (Frankly, I think I’ve killed to Morbius. Either that, or Sven finally managed to steal one of the sex-only dinghys and row back into international waters. In which case, good for him. The ayahuasca blurs everything together here.)
On Mars Island, a peaceful resort for fans of Thirty Seconds to Mars in Croatia, Morbius is all we watch. The locals — what we call the teenage girls that live here year-round — seem to enjoy it better than the movie they played before this one, House of Gucci. Jared Leto’s performance is one of the greatest character transformations in cinematic history, but I think Lady Gaga’s schtick gets boring. I much prefer Morbius anyway, which saves us the Ridley Scott bullshit and lets us see Leto in his full glory as an artist and performer. His performance is excellent in that it conveys the breadth of emotions within a man’s internal struggle: sometimes he’s brooding and maudlin; sometimes he’s dour; sometimes, he’s a blood-sucking vampire.
Truly, Morbius hinges on Leto’s juggernaut display, which elevates it from mere masterpiece to — in an attempt to avoid flowery verbiage whenever possible — a life-changing spiritual revelation captured on film, an unending accomplishment of the highest order, a cinematic equivalent to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. (We’re actually trying to do a version of the Sistine Chapel on the ceiling of The Chamber — sadly, we’re wildly disorganized, our ladders keep breaking, and we’ve had to come to terms with the fact that none of us know how to realistically paint Leto in his nude physical form, no matter how long he poses for us. As of writing, 11 12 people have died from head trauma after getting hit with falling paintbrushes.)
Through every moment, it is Leto’s sheer gravitas imbuing the film with a raw, virile energy. Some have called the graphic sex scene between him and co-star Matt Smith “disturbing” and “borderline pornographic,” but quite frankly, it’s child’s play compared to an average service at The Chamber. (EDIT: I am just receiving information that this insane and terrifying sex scene was cut out of US theatrical releases. Hopefully, the Shout! Factory 4K release amends this within the next few years.) His performance is rich with pathos, allowing the resilience of catchphrases like “it’s Morbin’ time” or “are you Morbin’ me right now?” to resonate even at the film’s darkest moments.
Of course, Leto’s only as good as the material he’s working with, and fortunately, the writing and action direction are absolutely pitch-perfect through every emotional beat. When he’s cornered by a swarm of inner-city youths trying to mob (Morb?) him to death, after attempting to reason to them with an eloquent speech that — much like the mass he delivers before our nightly Eyes Wide Shut-style orgy at The Chamber — furiously rails against age of consent laws in Croatia (it’s 15), he’s forced to resort to violence, a combat rendered in staggeringly blurry CGI that nearly moved me to tears before actually moving me to a splitting migraine. The film is a physical, visceral thing you can feel in your stomach, almost like the knife that Leto eagerly threatens every new guest to Mars Island with mostly as a form of hierarchy establishing and boundary setting, though he is apparently also into it from a sexual standpoint.
Quite frankly, it’s one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen. Every single time I watch Morbius, I’m overwhelmed, practically beaten senseless by its brilliance, by how prominently it stands at the forefront of cinema. It’s easy to loathe something you don’t understand — I, personally, loathe the nightly whippings that Jared Leto administers to each member of the island before the aforementioned Eyes Wide Shut-style orgy (sometimes Tom Cruise is there) — but an open mind understands that, in the end, this is all for a greater good. Sitting through Morbius, quite honestly, is like getting shot in the head over and over again, but you just won’t die and you have to feel every bullet as it explodes through your brain, over and over again. It is the greatest thing I have experienced in my piece of shit life, and if my white robes aren’t out of the wash soon, I’ll probably have to go and see it again. Please help.