Luke Scott’s Morgan is a science fiction horror film about a humanoid A.I. that goes bad and starts killing people inside a research facility. You can probably name a few movies already that this reminds you of, but much like last year’s similarly derivative A.I. story Chappie (a huge guilty pleasure for me), this is a film that shows a lot of promise in certain parts. Unfortunately, it is ultimately not enough to outweigh the been-there-done-that parts.
Many other critics have noted that Morgan is riddled (no pun intended) with references and call backs to the pictures of Ridley Scott, Luke’s father. They’re never obnoxious or anything, but they do seem like training wheels. If Luke could stand on his own, chances are he would be capable of creating a better and more original film.
As it is, Morgan stars Kate Mara as risk-assessment consultant Lee Weathers; right off the bat, a character whom many have already compared to Ellen Ripley in her unreasonable toughness, except Lee is not necessarily one we should root for. She works for a company that strives to create bio-engineered humans and is tasked with visiting a remote laboratory where one of their more “interesting” projects is kept: an artificial child named Morgan, who had already started attacking workers at the establishment, including a now one-eyed scientist played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. When will we learn?
Lee discusses terminating the girl with the doctors who run the place, Simon Ziegler (Toby Jones) and Lui Cheng (Michelle Yeoh), and things head further south yet after a psychiatrist portrayed by Paul Giamatti is brought in to try to talk to Morgan. The child promptly starts taunting Giamatti and soon claims him as another victim before going loose. The only one around the lab she seems fond of is the gentle Dr. Mensen (Rose Leslie of “You know nothing, Jon Snow” fame), whom she takes with her. Also in on the “chasing” and “people being telepathically tossed about” is Skip (Boyd Holbrook), a cook who teams up with Lee in hunting Morgan down, only for a shocking discovery to be made. Or at least, so the film thinks.
Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays the eponymous A.I. humanoid, is the film’s main attraction. I’ve heard nice things about her performance in The Witch, a film I have not seen and didn’t plan to until now, and my prediction is that her name will become more widely known within the remainder of the decade. At the very least, it’s earned.
I liked a lot of the shots in Morgan. I also liked a lot of the ideas, whether they’ve been done in some form in the past or not, but the execution is where it lost me. I didn’t much care for any of the characters and I’m not sure the script does either. Instead most of the effort has apparently gone into the action scenes, which aren’t anything especially mesmerizing either. Again, I do see signs that Luke Scott could make something quite nice on his own one day (his previous credits are mainly on the films of his father, e.g. The Martian and that hilariously white-washed Exudos movie that nobody liked).
Morgan isn’t too bad for a newbie outing – that we can all probably agree on – but in an age where almost everything about artificial minds and engineered humans has been done, you do need something stronger (Hardcore Henry had a protagonist who fits that description and made the riveting choice of showing the entire film through his viewport). I suppose the same could be said of science fiction in general at this point.
Another sci-fi film playing right now (at least on festivals) is the supposedly highly original and thought-stirring Arrival. I am not able to see it yet (because I am a disgrace to cinephiles and have never been to a film festival) so I won’t be able to agree or disagree in a meaningful way, but my sources are reliable and I have a feeling Arrival is a far greater movie. If you have the chance, spend your ticket on that instead of Morgan. If you still want to see something like Morgan, I’m pretty sure Ex Machina is on Netflix.