I don’t know if you saw The Witch – as a slow-burn horror set hundreds of years ago, it didn’t really get much interest outside of genre fans. Still, one of the highlights of the picture was the young actress Anya Taylor-Joy – her performance in that film suggested that she’ll have big things in her future. Morgan, her next picture, is far from being a big thing – in quite a downward move, it’s a fairly boring film that muddles far too much – but she remains the highlight in a film really lacking good points.
Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a bioengineered child who began walking and talking after one month of existence, exceeding the wildest expectations of her creators. When Morgan attacks and severely wounds one of her handlers, a corporate troubleshooter (Kate Mara) visits the remote, top-secret facility where she’s being kept to assess the risks of keeping her alive, investigate her emotional development and decide whether or not to terminate her. After things go wrong and the girl breaks free, the staff members find themselves trapped in a dangerous lockdown with an unpredictable and violent synthetic human who is determined to survive at any cost.
In many ways, Morgan is a modern day Frankenstein story, although it lacks the heart and the clear focal points that those movies normally have. The film continues to narratively place us with Mara’s Lee Weathers, but the story suggests we should root instead for Morgan herself, and the resulting mess means we go through the film detached from them both. It should help that Morgan is by far the more interesting of the two – Lee is a particularly bland character, really – but it doesn’t. The rest of the cast are strong performers, but their characters are pencil sketches at most (Paul Giamatti makes the strongest impression as an insufferably smut psychologist, but his appearance
Having Morgan be so interesting makes it a great shame that the movie doesn’t really delve into some of the thematic questions it raises. The ideas of synthetic life and what it means to be human can be made into gripping sci-fi cinema – look at Ex-Machina, to give one example – but they aren’t on the plate here. The movie instead chooses to stage some generic action sequences, a massive change of pace from the first half of the movie, featuring nothing but tediously slow set-ups that don’t pay off later. This isn’t the kind of film that should be ending with overblown fistfights, nor with the ludicrous final twist that really comes from nowhere and takes away from what we’ve already seen.
This is director Luke (son of Ridley) Scott’s first film, and although it is helmed competently enough (with strong cinematography, helping to really clash the cold nature of Morgan’s home with the warmth of the outdoors), it is clear that Morgan is the work of a director honing his craft. It is a muddle of a film that toys with interesting concepts and chooses to focus on daft action instead, and it comes across as gratuitous and boring. I could recommend this film on the strength of Taylor-Joy’s performance, but little else – Morgan is not well-done.
Director: Luke Scott
Cast: Kate Mara (Lee Weathers), Anya Taylor-Joy (Morgan), Rose Leslie (Dr. Amy Menser), Toby Jones (Dr. Simon Ziegler), Brian Cox (Jim Bryce), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Dr. Kathy Grieff)
Running Time: 92 Mins