Morgan (dir. Luke Scott)

Posted: September 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

Two of the better sci-fi films to come out in the recent past, and by sci-fi I mean films that actually deal with issues related to fictitious scientific advances and not movies where aliens make things go boom, were “Splice” and “Ex Machina”. “Splice” was about scientists creating a genetic hybrid of animal and human DNA, whereas “Ex Machina” was about a man who created A.I. and wanted another man to conduct a Turing test on his creation. Both films teetered on the precipice horror in their 3rd act after spending time dealing with the moral and ethical considerations of scientific advancement in creating heretofore unknown life forms. Both films were also quite good.

“Morgan” feels like the shitty direct-to-video ripoff of those films, except that it gets a theatrical release because it was directed by the son of famous director Ridley Scott. To be fair, Luke Scott does an admirable job directing the film, which contains a few good sequences and interesting shots, but the lame and shallow script makes the film feel like little more than the younger Scott’s resume builder. The film introduces concepts that might have lead to an intelligent film, but then decides that would take too much trouble and decides the second half of the film should be an empty killing spree. Oh, and this film has one of the most obvious twist endings in recent film history. More obvious than even “The Visit”.

The film begins with Lee Weathers (Kate Mara, who really needs a new agent). Lee works for Risk Management of an unnamed corporation. That corporation is funding a secret experiment in the woods of…somewhere (seemingly the Pacific northwest), where some scientists, including geneticists, nutritionists, and behaviorists, are working to create a genetically engineered human with some nanotechnology inside of them. Why? I’ll get to that later. Anyway, the creation in question, Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy) attacked and ripped the eye out of one of the employees, and it’s Lee’s job to decide if Morgan is salvageable or if she should be terminated. Most of the scientists don’t have much in the way of personality, but stand-outs include Rose Leslie as the behaviorist who is close to Morgan, and Boyd Holbrook as Skip, the facility’s nutritionist and cook who seems to take Lee’s side when no one else does.

It sort of goes without saying that Morgan eventually gets out of her laboratory cell and starts killing people. The ads give this away, even if you couldn’t figure out that it was going to happen. If you want to know why, well *SPOILERS* the company is interested in genetically engineering weapons. I’m not sure why it’s considered profitable and efficient to make human kill clones (ask the Empire from “Star Wars”) when bombs and drones seem to do just fine, but I guess the intelligence and infiltration aspects of a humanized weapon are what they are after. Anyway, the scientists in the film were trying to add a broader range of emotion to Morgan to show the company that they can make new “people” that are more than weapons (this seems to negate the fact that the company doesn’t seem to CARE about this as they are a profit making business and not a scientific research organization). It turns out that the weapon part is stronger than the sentience.

The film doesn’t really want to deal with what is or is not human, or sentience. It doesn’t care about taking corporations or the military industrial complex to task. It really seems to only care about making a bland horror film that puts on the airs of pretension without even trying to pretend it cares about saying anything. It is “Ex Machina” for people too stupid to enjoy “Ex Machina”.

The best scene in the film also makes no logical sense. Paul Giamatti visits the facility to do a psychological assessment of Morgan. He tries to establish trust and a rapport, and then pushes Morgan  to test her emotional reaction to anger. The idea of testing her response to negative stimuli is fine, but the film makes Giamatti’s character push her too hard, too fast, in a way that makes his character far more stupid and unbelievable than he should be. Despite the poor writing, the scene works because the tension builds rather well and because Giamatti acts the hell out of the scene. When your film’s best scene is also severely hampered by bad writing, it is not a good sign.

“Morgan” is a film that, if I saw it premiere on the SyFy channel, I would say it was a decent TV movie. Because it is released in theaters and stars recognizable and talented actors, I cannot so readily look past its flaws, especially when it seems to be emulating two different, and infinitely better films that are not even 10 years old. Hell, “Ex Machina” just came out LAST YEAR. The film is lazy, poorly written, and maybe more than a bit cynical if its only reason for existing is to provide a visual resume for a well-known director’s son, and if his directing gig was the result of daddy calling in favors.  C.

 

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