Starring: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Toby Jones
Genre: Science Fiction, Action
Morgan (Taylor-Joy) is a bioengineered child with many physical and mental capabilities beyond her years. However, after an incident in which Morgan savagely attacks one of her handlers, a corporate trouble shooter (Mara) is sent to assess whether this breakthrough in modern science should be kept alive or terminated.
Artificial intelligence is certainly very popular in the film world these days, which is understandable as it is quite a topical subject, but every bandwagon has its passengers that are both welcome and unwanted; and with every Ex Machina (review) there is an Automata (review).
Well, to exhaust the bandwagon analogy, as a passenger that has just joined, Morgan is certainly initially interesting and intriguing and a passenger worth having a chat with. However, after the initial conversation it is easy to get bored as you realise this is a passenger with ideas that may have initial potential, but there is no real genuine intelligence or substance to see them through. This is the key problem with Morgan as a film; not only does it ultimately fail to offer anything new to an increasingly populated bandwagon, but it also runs out of genuine ideas very quickly and its second half is essentially a generic action film, but without the substance or intelligence to give the excessive abundance of action sequences any proper intelligent meaning or true engagement.
Initially Morgan starts off very well; exposition is kept to a minimum and the audience only learn the facts about Morgan at the same time as Kate Mara’s protagonist. For the film’s first third the tension and intrigue does build very nicely as we get to know about both Morgan and every single member of staff at the facility and their unique roles.
It also seems that director Luke Scott has picked up a few things from dad Ridley, as Morgan is also very well put together; the static camerawork only enhancing the film’s mysterious atmosphere and the sense of remoteness of its location. Likewise Mark Patten’s gloomy cinematography and the sombre and ambient score by composer Max Richter (a trademark of his) also add to the film’s rich atmosphere and certainly serve to make Morgan feel genuinely cinematic.
Scott has also assembled an impressive cast list of names that can be relied on to deliver solid performances, and all do excellent jobs. Kate Mara certainly convinces in her role, while after impressing in The Witch earlier this year, Anya Taylor-Joy is also excellent as Morgan, brings genuine menace to her character while also depicting her child-like naivety perfectly.
The scene stealer though is Paul Giamatti; he only has one scene at about a third of the way through, but is exceptional in his role, and this serves to make this scene by far the most engaging and genuinely tense scenes of the film. Is at this stage that everything is shaping up nicely as we have genuine suspense, intrigue and intelligent musings from various characters that certainly provoke a few ideas and broader discussions.
However, after this excellent scene it does feel that writer Seth W. Owen runs out of ideas, and the remaining two thirds of the film are just a generic action film. Admittedly the scenes are very well put together, so Morgan is certainly watchable from start to finish, but it does get increasingly predictable. This therefore renders it not only highly forgettable, but what is more frustrating is that it is a real waste of potential.
A final twist in the tale adds a little intrigue and does save the generic nature of the narrative that has preceded it, but it is nowhere near enough. Hopefully Luke Scott will make more films, as with Morgan he has proved that he has a great visual eye, he just needs to get a script with more substance next time.
An excellent first third brimming with potential ideas and intrigue is let down by a painfully generic final two thirds; Morgan has certainly showcased Luke Scott’s potential as a filmmaker, let’s just hope he makes more films, as Morgan will be forgotten about very quickly indeed.