Synopsis: A corporate risk-management consultant must decide whether or not to terminate an artificially created humanoid being.
Release Date: September 2, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Horror
From the trailers and advertisements, Morgan looks like it could be a sequel to last year’s Ex Machina. While Morgan does share some of the same themes and ideas as Alex Garland’s robotic masterpiece, and even goes so far as to flaunt some similar imagery, Morgan is no Ex Machina.
The title character in Morgan, played by hip horror It-girl Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), is a Hybrid Biological Organism, which means that she (or it, depending on who’s talking) was manufactured with synthetic engineered DNA to be a “superhuman” of sorts. After Morgan wounds Dr. Kathy Grieff (Jennifer Jason Leigh from The Hateful Eight and Anomalisa) in an uncharacteristically aggressive attack, the corporation behind her development sends in a troubleshooter named Lee Weathers (Fantastic Four‘s Kate Mara) and a psychiatrist named Dr. Alan Shapiro (Paul Giamatti from Love & Mercy and Straight Outta Compton) to determine whether the plug should be pulled on the project and Morgan should be terminated. Unfortunately for them, the team that has been studying and raising Morgan isn’t willing to let her go and will do their best to keep the project going. And then, there’s Morgan herself, who, with her genetic superiority, isn’t just simply a helpless specimen.
Morgan is the feature length directorial debut of Luke Scott, who is better known as the son of the legendary Ridley Scott (you know, the guy who made Alien, Blade Runner, and Prometheus). Although most of Luke’s filmmaking experience has been from working on his dad’s movies, he has learned pretty well; from an aesthetic standpoint, Morgan is fine. Better than fine, actually – it’s really good. It’s well shot by cinematographer Mark Patten (a loaner from Dad who has done second-unit photography for The Martian, The Counselor, and Exodus: Gods and Kings), slickly cut by editor Laura Jennings (Edge of Tomorrow), and features a cool score from neo-classicist Max Richter (The Last Days on Mars, Escobar: Paradise Lost). Technically, everything in Morgan falls into place. Artistically, it’s a different story.
The issues with Morgan are mostly with screenwriter Seth W. Owen’s script. The plot, while economic, tends to be unfocused and meandering. What starts as a mysterious and suspenseful parable quickly devolves into a Lucy-like action exploitation flick. It’s fine for a movie to end in a different place from where it began, but with Morgan, it’s not organic; it’s like a rug being pulled out. Not even the capable cast – which, in addition to Mara, Giamatti, Leigh, and Taylor-Joy, also features Toby Jones (The Hunger Games), Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and Rose Leslie (“Game of Thrones”) – can save it from the schizophrenic shock.
And then there’s the obligatory “twist” ending. Every movie like Morgan has one, but few telegraph it as early on in the film. Honestly, the reversal can be figured out so easily and so quickly that the viewer actually spends the next eighty minutes or so trying to talk themselves out of having guessed it, thinking that there’s no way it can be that simple. Alas, it is. There’s no shock or awe, just a hopeless climactic letdown.
There’s a valid comparison to be made between Morgan and Ex Machina. In fact, one could replace Morgan‘s Hybrid Biological Organism with Ex Machina‘s Artificial Intelligence Robot and call it a sequel. It still wouldn’t have the same ethical quandary or elusive sense of morality that permeates Ex Machina. But, then again, sequels are usually inferior movies when placed next to the originals, aren’t they?
Morgan is being pushed and promoted to horror fans, and that’s not fair – to the movie or to the fans. While there are some frightening ideas about artificial intelligence and the creation of synthetic lifeforms in Morgan, nothing is developed concretely enough to be scary. The first half of the movie simmers with tension, but that’s all it does – simmer. It never boils over into any real terror, even when Morgan inevitably and predictably loses her pre-programmed mind. There are, of course, exciting scenes that get the audience’s blood pumping, but they’re more on the level of action rather than horror. The dark and disturbing philosophy alone isn’t enough to inspire any nightmares. Regardless of how it’s being marketed, Morgan is more of a sci-fi movie than a horror flick, and thus, will probably disappoint most horror fans.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Luke Scott
- Producer(s): Mark HuffamMichael SchaeferRidley Scott
- Screenwriter(s): Seth W. Owen
- Cast: Kate Mara (Lee Weathers)Anya Taylor-Joy (Morgan)Rose Leslie (Dr. Amy Menser) Michael Yare (Tes Brenner)Toby Jones (Dr. Simon Ziegler)Chris Sullivan (Dr. Darren Finch)Boyd Holbrook (Skip Vronsky)Vinette Robinson (Dr. Brenda Finch)Michelle Yeoh (Dr. Lui Cheng)Jennifer Jason Leigh (Dr. Cathy Grieff)Paul Giamatti (Dr. Alan Shapiro)Brian Cox (Jim Bryce)
- Editor(s): Laura Jennings
- Cinematographer: Mark Patten
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Stefano De Nardis
- Casting Director(s): Carmen Cuba
- Music Score: Max Richter
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA