Playing God is risky business.
At a top-secret location, a team of cooped up scientists and their cook (Boyd Holbrook) have created and nurtured an artificial life form, Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy). After a horrific incident occurs between the rapidly growing Morgan and staff member Dr. Kathy Grieff (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), a cold corporate risk-management consultant is sent to the facility to investigate. Like most people in her field, Lee is an unbiased professional, tasked with assessing their creation and ultimately deciding whether or not ‘it’ should be terminated.
Morgan is the end result of seven years of experimental research. ‘She’ is the successful third attempt at creating an advanced humanoid life. When Weathers refers to Morgan as ‘it’, the team, (Michael Yare, Rose Leslie, Toby Jones, Chris Sullivan, Vinette Robinson and Michelle Yeoh) quickly learns the outsider does not understand the relationships they have developed with Morgan in such a short time. They continually excuse Morgan’s violent outburst as ‘her’ only being a child and not being able to properly control ‘her’ emotions. Torn between the life they have created and their moral obligation to society as scientists, select members of the team begin to campaign for Morgan’s life, resulting in an apparent rift between the group and Weathers. Much debate and deliberation follow, as they await a renowned psychiatrist (Paul Giamatti), who has been sent to evaluate Morgan further.
All the ingredients that are needed for a successful sci-fi thriller are there, but in the end, the film steers away from the deeper concepts that are involved when playing god. Instead, we are left with a shallow, short-lived, fairly obvious horror flick. The simple and one-dimensional story of Morgan fails to achieve what others in the genre have accomplished. Landing in-between 2009’s Splice and last year’s stylish Ex Machina, Morgan’s subtle ride ranks low due to an overplayed hand. Towards the films already suspected ending, the predictability eliminates any feelings of suspense, thus making Morgan forgettable.
Unfortunately, the obvious nature of the story overshadows many of the stand-out performances. Mara’s cold but attentive demeanor holds up her character’s somewhat robotic persona with grace but is unable to redirect our attention from the slowly paced, hand-holding plot. Similar to the rest of the ensemble, Rose Leslie’s portrayal of Dr. Amy Menser, is worth mentioning, as she is Morgan’s one true friend. The relationship they built through various cut-scenes has some impact as to where the team finds themselves before crawling to the third act. Anya Taylor-Joy in the title role of Morgan performs as expected—odd, soft-spoken, and innocent. As an ‘it’ on the road to ‘her’ self-discovery Taylor-Joy’s performance stands up alongside Mara’s which helps create a believable world but in a nap-inducing hour and thirty-two-minute story.
Morgan is director Luke Scott’s feature debut and like his father (Ridley Scott), plays a heavy hand in the sci-fi realm. The Scott family knows action, which is one redeeming aspect of Morgan. The hand to hand combat scenes will allow you to reset your expectations and sit up in your seat. While beautifully shot and pieced together well, Morgan makes a mediocre debut stumbling to a finale they had hoped “we didn’t see coming.”
Verdict: 2 out of 5
Overall Morgan deserves two stars out of five. The “it’s not what you thought” style was, in fact, exactly what I thought. The two stars represent the previously mentioned performances and the clean finished product presented on screen. I don’t recommend abandoning this film entirely especially if you do not like horror/thrillers. This very well could be in your wheelhouse as something you could easily enjoy at a matinée as you will not be frightened. But as a horror/thriller fan, you may want to pass. Surprises and suspense are key ingredients to the genre in which Morgan does not have.