After working as the second unit director to Ridley Scott’s films (Exodus and Martian), his son, Luke Scott now makes his directorial debut with Morgan. There was a lot of anticipation for this film, partly because it looked thematically identical to Ex Machina, a similar hit AI story released in 2015. The bags of potential it possessed was further boosted by the fact that it was being produced by Ridley Scott as well, whose essence of filmmaking is heavily captured in the film as it is clearly very well shot. But despite all this promise, the film falls flat to a very predictable, linear storyline with bland characters. It feels like it sets out to be something like Ex Machina with its imagery and set pieces but it barely scratches the surface of that sensation.
Anya Taylor-Joy plays the title character, Morgan, who is a test tube child created by a group of talented scientists. She displays extreme intelligence and advanced cognitive skills as evident from her walking and talking after one month. You can call it/he/she an AI (artificial intelligence). The progress of Morgan seems to be going smoothly for them but a freak accident happens when Morgan viciously attacks her caretaker, Kathy (Jennifer Jason Leigh). This is when Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), a risk management consultant is called in by the company’s corporate department and tasked with evaluating the viability of Morgan as a product for the future given the recent events of violence. All hell soon breaks loose when Morgan escapes from her room and begins to threaten the safety of everyone in the research facility.
For all the parallels drawn between Morgan and Ex Machina initially, Morgan fails to hit any of the benchmarks the 2015 AI spectacle did. It was a downward spiral right from the beginning as we were shown how boring and flat the script can be with characters exchanging dialogue back and forth with nothing much happening. Essentially too much talking, not much doing. The film sort of wants to have an aura of mystery surrounding its main characters but that backfires completely as almost every character was annoyingly half-baked and thinly written. It was kind of a love hate relationship for them. I wanted them off-screen because they were as useless as tits on a nun. But when they did meet their tragic fate, it was just followed by an orbital facepalm from me due to how sloppy their deaths were written.
Paul Giamatti (Dr. Alan Shapiro) is the company hired doctor and his psych evaluation scene with Morgan is arguably the best thing about the show. He demands to be together with Morgan in the same room for his test without any form of protection and it immediately dawns on us that it is not going to end well for him. And it pays off for the viewers because we get to see Morgan pushed to her absolute breaking point. Giamatti and Taylor-Joy play off of each other wonderfully by questioning their own emotions and threshold for nonsense. Add that together with the subtle music in the background and we got a nice tension filled scene. Probably what the movie should have felt like for the majority of its short runtime.
By now you must be thinking of how the action sequences must have somehow been a salvaging point for the film, one way or another. Unfortunately, it was the other way around as the cutting of those scenes were atrocious. I was literally counting how many cuts they made in every fight scene, ‘1…2…3…4…’ and so on. This made the choreography pointless and the only way I could appreciate those scenes were from the sounds and the flaying of limbs which, surprisingly had a lot of impact.
With all the flaws Morgan possess, the most disappointing part of the show for me was how poorly executed the concept was. It floats around the many thought provoking questions of artificial intelligence and playing God but it never does address those morally implicating ideas. Whenever it did look like it was on the brink of tackling those topics, it avoids it completely and instead focuses on the building up of generic action. Ultimately it doesn’t develop the paramount ideas for such a genre which will certainly catapult the film into something more captivating and not remain stagnant as a one tone science fiction thriller.
Overall, Morgan is a film teeming with fascinating concepts but it falls short of going beyond its myopic vision of vanilla science fiction action to focus on the truly important subject matter and transform it into something of greater substance. An ordinary case of a movie with ‘too little meat on its many bones’.
p.s, kate mara did everything in heels
Directed by: Luke Scott
Written by: Seth Owen
Starring: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Toby Jones, Rose Leslie, Boyd Holbrook, Michelle Yeoh, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Giamatti
Running time: 92 minutes
Genre: Mystery/Science fiction