After two months of refusing to see this movie, I have decided that it’s finally Morbin’ time.
In response to the recent onslaught of Morbius memes online, Sony made the hilarious mistake of re-releasing Morbius in theaters last weekend. As anyone with a sense of sarcasm could predict, it bombed at the box office. But this little stunt finally convinced me to watch the movie, if only to laugh at it. And I did laugh—at the terrible script, at the crazy VFX, and at Matt Smith’s quirky dance moves. But something else happened that I didn’t expect—I was surprised by the movie. I was surprised by the queer allegory.
Now, if I had a nickel for each time a Sonyverse Spider-Man villain movie was turned into a queer allegory, I’d have two nickels. That’s not a lot, but it’s weird that it happened twice. I’m referring to Sony’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Interestingly, the movie leans heavily into the queerness of Eddie and Venom’s relationship. Whether accidentally or not, Sony has done the same thing with Morbius, but between the protagonist Michael and antagonist Lucien/Milo.
Five minutes into the movie, a young Michael Morbius meets young Lucien. Both are patients with a debilitating blood disease. They become instant friends, and Michael even renames Lucien Milo—a name he keeps. Then, Michael goes off to find a cure for them.
Once the two are back onscreen together as adults, the homoerotic undertones are undeniable. Milo is obviously queer-coded, arguably stereotypically. Every moment he’s onscreen he’s wearing outlandish patterns or great styles; he’s swaggering with and without the cane; he’s surrounded by bright colors, and he has a lavish lifestyle. Though the script throws in words like “friend” and “brother” to cover it up, there’s an underlying romantic tension between them (though it mostly comes from Matt Smith’s acting) and a physical affection that continues through most of the movie.
It’s clear Milo is in love with Michael. The pair’s shared suffering from their blood disease has made them outcasts from society but given them a close bond. It’s extremely reminiscent of the way the AIDS epidemic affected gay men. Michael is able to cure himself, which turns him into a vampire. This is where the queer allegory becomes more blatant. He refuses to share the cure with Milo to prevent him from becoming a "monster" like himself. He then "breaks up" with Milo, sending him away for his own safety.
Vampires being associated with queerness is nothing new. The vampire has always been layered with eroticism and "deviancy" that has scared straight purists. The vampire's need to drink blood represents forbidden desires that queer people often feel they need to repress. In vampire stories, the vampire is viewed as the "other," as a threat that needs to be destroyed. They stick to the shadows to avoid daylight and the judgement of others. If they do kill, they immediately become vilified. If they indulge their desires, they become in danger of persecution. Sound familiar?
While Michael now can assimilate into normal society, Milo cannot. Not only has Michael cured the thing that bonded them, but now he’s able to fit in with everyone else because he’s able-bodied and pursuing a straight romance with his assistant. Milo also wants to be cured of the thing that makes him different. Watched through a queer lens, this desperate desire for a cure for his disability is tied to his internalized homophobia. Milo’s true motivation is love. All he really wants is Michael, but Michael refuses to accept himself and be with him.
The first time the men confront each other after Milo’s transformation, Milo tells Michael, “I don’t think you’re a monster.” Milo is open about his feelings and wants Michael to do the same. Becoming a vampire has given him the confidence and agency to be out and proud about his queerness. Meanwhile, the transformation has done the opposite for Michael—he feels ashamed and afraid of his thirst for blood. Milo’s dialogue is riddled with overtly queer metaphors. He says things like, “Stop denying who you are,” and “I will never leave you, and I will not go back.” Milo refuses to return to the metaphorical closet and wishes Michael would come out and join him. When Michael refuses, Milo is devastated.
The main threat to Milo in this movie is Martine. She's portrayed as the one thing preventing Michael from snapping and embracing his bloodlust. Martine also represents the straight alternative Michael is abandoning Milo for in order to become “normal.” Milo’s jealousy of her is clear from the start, but it’s most obvious when he watches enviously as the pair kiss on a rooftop.
Then, Milo has a strange “coming out” scene with his father figure, Nicholas. Nicholas discovers Milo’s “secret” of becoming a vampire and doesn’t approve. Milo accuses him of taking Michael’s side, suggesting both of them don’t want him to be himself. Milo proceeds to declare “Michael doesn’t accept what he is” but that he will “make him accept it.” Nicholas tells Milo he’s “repulsed” by who he’s become. Milo counters, “There’s no shame in what we are.” Reading the dialogue alone, it sounds like a saddening coming-out scene between father and son.
After this, Milo kills Martine in hopes of bringing Michael to him. It works, but not in the way he thought it would. In classic straight storytelling, Martine is fridged to motivate Michael to kill Milo. Milo spends the entire last fight practically begging Michael to embrace his queerness and be with him. He drops some not-so-subtle hints like: “Nothing, no one, to hold us back,” “I’m all you have left,” and “You created us!”
Unfortunately, Michael kills him. Milo’s last words are, “You gave me my name,” implying it was Michael who made him realize he was gay, who gave him a new identity, and who made him the way he is. It’s a depressing end to the one interesting character in the movie. It has even more depressing implications for the queer community. If you read the subtext, the out and proud gay man is demonized as a violent vampire that must be eliminated. Michael never embraces his queerness and ends up alone by the end of the movie.
So, this movie is not the best choice for pride month. But the gay subplot is the only thing that got me through this bore of a movie. I pray they never make another Morbius.