Morgan (film review by Frank Ochieng)

Following in your film-making father’s footsteps can be perceived either as a credible career choice or an inevitable curse. So the question is put forth to ‘Morgan’ first-time director Luke Scott as he oversees this kinetic but overly familiar choppy and saggy SF horror-thriller.  Of course, Luke is the son of famed ‘Alien’ and ‘Blade Runner’ movie mastermind Ridley Scott, the co-producer of his offspring’s muddled and mediocre futuristic feature.

Sure, the young Scott incorporates some of the elder Scott’s cinematic flourishes but, for the most part, ‘Morgan’ toys around with interesting philosophical concepts and perceptions but fails to make any of these adventurous ingredients gel with any lingering forethought beyond the identity of a probing and generic genetics-oriented melodrama.


Indeed, ‘Morgan’ has its moments of energetic lapses but the tension is telegraphed from miles away. There is something superficial about the manufactured dilemma in ‘Morgan’ that simply misses the mark in mustering any legitimate skepticism about artificial intelligent ingenues gone roguish. The continued genre of artificial human beings – male or female – seems like a fascinating fable to tap into the mind of humanistic arrogance and progression. With past showcases as Michael Crichton’s ‘Westworld’ or Steven Spielberg’s ‘A.I.’, one can see the preoccupation with revisiting this film phenom topic especially in the age of millennium movie-making. Unfortunately, the arrival of the mediocre ‘Morgan’ does not quite follow a glorious path in this cinematic tradition.

The center of attention in this lucrative experimentation of artificial life forms involves a ‘girl’ named Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy). The construction of Morgan is quite ambitious as she is composed of synthetic DNA while placed physically in the body of a wild-child acting teenager. Morgan has the mentality and physicality of 5 year-old lab-grown specimen kid and we get to check out her so-called psychological malfunctioning when she aggressively attacks Dr. Kathy Grieff (Academy Award nominee Jennifer Jason Leigh, ‘The Hateful Eight’) in her claustrophobic room. When Morgan tragically stabs Dr. Grieff in the eyeball, we are bluntly hit over the head with the brutal hinting that this little hoodie-wearing dangerous diva is a walking disastrous time-bomb waiting to happen among the opportunistic human lab technician capitalists that invented her caustic existence.

Enter Lee Weathers (Kate Mara). Corporate risk analyst consultant Lee is sent by her profitable employer to the remote testing lab where Morgan was conceived to obviously oversee their expensive investment in the artificially crafted feminine pet project that now is showing telling signs of defiance and disobedience. The uncontrollable Morgan is an unhinged handful to contain and the lab staff at the facility are scattering about to contain the selective damage done by her destructive hands. In general, the massive and deep-wooded compound that houses Morgan and the various doctors, lab techs, researchers and business associates that come in unison for the sake of human technological tampering is a sinister setting to say the least.

Morgan is downright deadly and not a techno-tart to tangle with at will. As Dr. Kathy continues to nurse her severe eye-related wounds inflicted by the haunting human-like honeybun with indescribable speed and strength, the other facility caretakers realise that the brooding Morgan may in fact be too much to handle for the self-appointed brilliant scientific minds that gave her questionable life. Among the brainy bunch that are trying to lasso the unpredictable tiny terror is Morgan’s main creator in the Nervous Ned-like persona of geeky Dr. Simon Ziegler (Toby Jones). Dr. Lui Cheng (Michelle Yeoh from ‘Mechanic: Resurrection’) is not new to the controversial rodeo where humanoid experimentation is concerned, resulting in Lui’s former colleague’s tragic fates. Married doctors in Brenda and Darren Finch (Vinette Robinson and Chris Sullivan) hold some glossy parental fondness for the hostile teen-experiment-in-turmoil. Dr. Amy Menser (‘Game Of Thrones’ star Rose Leslie) has eerily taken some head-scratching ‘fancy’ to the youthful Morgan that goes beyond inappropriate means. Rounding out the colourful group that cater to the facility functioning and Morgan’s every step of chaos is Lee’s tour guide Ted (Michael Yare) and cooking guru Skip Vronsky (Boyd Holbrook).

Has Taylor-Joy's Morgan snacked on a human organ? Only her telling bloody lips knows the truth in Luke Scott's synthetic sci-fi horror showcase
Ready for a caustic rhyme? Has Taylor-Joy’s Morgan snacked on a human organ? Only her telling bloody lips knows the truth in Luke Scott’s synthetic sci-fi horror showcase

‘Morgan’ has some tension-filled wallop that resonates occasionally but the draggy drama never quite stimulates to the point of presenting Taylor-Joy’s lab-table vixen as nothing more that a brutish brat with a temper. The thought of Taylor-Joy’s minor-aged monster being unleashed on an unsuspecting world must have looked intriguing on the creative drawing board. However, being a pesky thorn in the side of misguided scientific minds does not exactly spell tasty devastation on society as a whole. In fact, we find ourselves cheering for the maligned Morgan to knock off these myopic medical duds to get some guilty pleasure relief from this lethal but lumbering horror sideshow.

Owens’s laboured script is never challenging enough to buy into the cynicism of the profitable propaganda involving artificial intelligence at the expense of human curiosities. ‘Morgan’ routinely dips into the blank coldness of hollow despair with only Taylor-Joy’s random naughtiness as the reliant stimulant. Mara’s Lee Weathers is surprisingly effective as the truth-seeking corporate drone out to uncover the mysteries of Morgan and the pricey lab compound that needs to prove its usefulness to her inquiring organisation. Paul Giamatti pops up as the only sensible soul diagnosing the unwound Morgan as a potential toxic teen to the world environment.

There is some slickness and saucy sentiments to the uneven ‘Morgan’ but it channels nothing dynamically distinctive from other considerable fare that competently tapped into this theme with more profoundly in-depth pizzazz and promise. Morgan may be a super-powered enigma and the hard-nosed Lee Weathers wants this frenzied freak show deactivated and put out of her misery. This is rather funny because the true troubleshooters that need deactivation are the Morgan-made manipulators, both on screen and off screen, that should return to the lukewarm lab room.

Morgan (2016)

Scott Free Films

1 hr. 32 mins.

Starring: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Toby Jones, Rose Leslie, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Giamatti, Michelle Yeoh, Rose Leslie, Vinette Robinson, Chris Sullivan, Boyd Holbrook and Michael Yare

Directed by: Luke Scott

MPAA Rating: R

Genre: Horror & Science Fiction/Fantasy & Technology/Artificial Intelligence Drama

Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)

(c) Frank Ochieng 2016









Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.