Movie Review: Morgan (2016)
“Don’t let it out”
Director: Luke Scott
Cast: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rose Leslie
Synopsis: A ruthless risk management consultant must decide whether to terminate a prototype humanoid lifeform.
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The day that synthetic lifeforms indistinguishable from humans walk amongst us is one that we should all anticipate with much impatience, for surely this new dawn will mark the end of filmmakers’ apparent inability to see artificial lifeforms as nothing more than futuristic counterparts of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It’s ironic that the director of Morgan, which is the latest in a long line of films to rehash Shelley’s plot, is Luke Scott, the son of Ridley, whose Blade Runner explores similar themes regarding the line between artificial and human intelligence in a far more innovative and creative fashion.
Morgan takes place in a remote facility where a group of scientists have toiled for years to create a synthetic lifeform. Their first two efforts failed, but their third attempt appears to have been successful – or, at least, it had appeared to be until its subject stabbed one of her keepers in the eye. Its name is Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy – The VVitch), and she initially appears to be an ordinary young woman, even though she is only five years old. When she was younger, she was permitted to venture out into the woods with Amy (Rose Leslie), whom she looks upon as an older sister, but now she spends her days in a roomy cell behind a pane of toughened glass. It’s no wonder, then, that she’s a little out of sorts with everyone. After all, as one character says, the worst thing you can do to a person you’ve locked in a room is to press their face against the window.
Morgan’s violent outburst has prompted a visit from Lee Weathers (Kate Mara – 10 Years), a Risk Management Consultant for the corporation funding the project, whose job it is to assess whether it’s necessary to terminate her. It immediately becomes apparent to her that all of the scientists involved in Morgan’s upbringing have lost sight of the fact that the subject is not a human being but a controlled experiment, a fact which has inevitably coloured their judgment. And when Morgan carries out a second attack, this time on a visiting psychoanalyst (Paul Giamatti – The Amazing Spiderman 2, San Andreas) during questioning designed to elicit an emotional response, Lee decides that the experiment is no longer viable. However, she didn’t reckon on the level of resistance she meets from the staff – and from the subject.
Since the release of Morgan, Luke Scott has no doubt grown heartily sick of being compared unfavourably to his famous father, but he’s done himself no favours by making a movie which shares many of the themes of one of Ridley Scott’s most famous films, while possessing little of its insight or depth. The incongruence of human emotions co-existing with a machine’s overriding survival instinct should provide the starting point for an intelligent and intriguing exploration of the implications of trying to mould synthetic lifeforms into our own likeness. Instead, after a slow start, Morgan eventually devolves into a by-the-numbers killer on the rampage flick, devoid of excitement or suspense because most of the characters are one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs. Even Morgan lacks any kind of personality – good or bad – making it impossible for us to care what happens to her, although Taylor-Joy and Mara both put in solid performances.
(Reviewed 10th September 2016)