Nutshell: like its title character, Morgan is a hybrid; a sci-fi/horror mashup that doesn’t know what to do with its interesting premise except beat it to death with ennui. A waste of not only a fine story idea, but a cast that seem to know they’re all too good for this. Grade: D
“You know the cruelest thing you can do to someone locked in a room? Push their face to the window.”
And you know the cruelest thing you can do to a genre fan? Create an interesting story, and then waste it. With Morgan, there’s hints of Ex Machina, Firestarter, Stranger Things, Blade Runner, and other finely twisted stories of natural order gone boink. And by “hints”, I mean the screenwriters ripped off the basic ideas, but not the themes or behind ’em. And that’s a crying shame.
It’s present day, or present-day-ish. Risk Management Specialist and all-around fun killer Lee Weathers (hollowly otherworldly Kate Mara) visits a rundown hipster compound full of high-concept AI developers. Apparently one of the scientists in this community got attacked by their latest creation; a human-looking creature named Morgan (beautifully otherworldly Anya Taylor-Joy), who lashed out when she couldn’t control her emotions. Seems the nanotech/DNA combine may not be working as well as they’d hoped. Or is she simply trying to figure out what it is to be alive? Better hurry though; Lee’s really tehre to assess if the “asset” should be “terminated”.
First things first. For a film that has a Big Reveal, it’s way too easy to guess the final scene “twist”. In fact, that reveal is so obvious from the get-go that it’s simply a matter of how the film is gonna get to it. It’s as if screenwriter Seth W. Owen crafted the entire script so it could twist and contort itself painfully to the last line of dialogue. That everyone who has a pulse can see coming rocketing at us from ten miles away. And poor director Luke Scott simply follows the script, letting things unravel as the story progresses.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good Man vs. Created Man storyline. I do. But not when everything gets dropped a third of the way in (I’m being generous with the timeline here) in favor of the usual stalk-n-kill. It didn’t work for The Lazarus Effect, and it doesn’t work here. #Protip to filmmakers: if you’ve got an incredible story idea, don’t hobble it with the usual ol’ ultraviolence simply for a hopeful cashgrab. Work the story. Don’t end it mid-point just so you can put your FX team to work. Want gore? Make it interesting. Make us care about the characters. Don’t simply pull a 180 on the tone of the film. Because viewers will notice.
Morgan has themes that are well worth exploring. The price of technological advancement. How far is too far when it comes to playing God? Nature vs. Nurture vs. Manufactured. Who has the right to determine what someone’s humanity is? And yet while these ideas are trotted out, that’s all that happens. After that it’s boom – time for the action show! Except even as a thriller, it’s a dud. Characters get mowed down one by one, as if it’s a live action first-person-shooter game. There’s a callous lack of interest in these characters, a feeling that they’re only chess pieces to serve that all-powerful last line of dialogue. And did I mention that last line is so obvious that when it finally comes it lands with a thud (and not a little laughter in the multiplex that was screening this dud)?
Speaking of characters, there’s a surprising amount of star power up in this joint. Kate Mara, Rose Leslie, Toby Jones, Michelle Yeoh…even Jennifer Jason Leigh and Paul Giamatti make appearances. Guess the mortgage was due? Or they were duped into believing this was going to be an art-house think piece. And it could have been. But it so totally isn’t. Shame. I’d have watched the hell out of a film that had dug into the ideas this film first started out with. But in Morgan it’s a bait-n-switch. Bummer.
So yeah; go see Morgan if you’re into nihilistic obvious stories that play to the lowest common intellectual denominator. Me? I’m still pissed at all the money and talent that got thrown at this pointless exercise in yawn-inducement.