The Ridley Scott-produced Morgan, directed by his son Luke (in what is his directorial debut) and starring Kate Mara in the leading role, has been garnering a negative reaction from critics… it’s not hard to see why. On the surface it looks like another generic science fiction movie in which a science experiment funded by a shady branch of the government has gone wrong; and under the surface, while the film no doubt thinks itself smart, one is not overly shocked at the twists when they come.
You can probably sense a ‘but’ coming, and that’s because despite the lack of truly new ideas in this film, I actually kind of liked it.
Mara plays Lee Weathers, a ‘risk-assessment specialist’ sent to an isolated house that sits alongside a laboratory to, well, assess the risk posed by her company’s latest experiment. The lab houses ‘Morgan’, an artificial human hybrid created for reasons that aren’t quite made clear until towards the film’s conclusion; even then you may have a hard time working out what just happened and why.
Anya Taylor-Joy plays Morgan herself – or rather, ‘itself’ – having previously appeared in The Witch (still my favourite horror movie of the year) in what was her breakthrough role. Here she is undoubtedly one of the best parts of the film, her main competition coming from Paul Giamatti, who only appears briefly in the movie but makes a strong impression when he does.
Toby Jones also brings his unmistakable eccentricity to the film while Jennifer Jason Leigh helps round out what is a strong cast for a debut – though I imagine having Ridley Scott producing, and having Ridley Scott as one’s father, tends to help with that.
Themes of humanity and identity are touched upon, with Lee – the professional company woman here to do her job – routinely correcting the scientists who have become attached to Morgan, regarding her almost like family and referring to ‘it’ as ‘her’.
The first portion of Morgan deals primarily with this psychological aspect, keeping you guessing as to whether the scientists are right to regard it/ her so warmly, or whether there is something darker lurking underneath. For me this opening half, up to and including Giamatti’s character introduction, is clearly the strong half of the movie. In the second, we see it almost devolve into the generic sci-fi action flick one might have been expecting on the way in.
This isn’t groundbreaking or mind-blowing stuff by any means, but I found it entertaining. If anything, the major disappointment with Morgan is that it doesn’t fully commit to the slower, more atmospheric and horror-oriented genre it wants to be in its opening half, in which it showed genuine potential to be something more than it appears. I was intrigued… whereas in the end, it simply leaves you feeling indifferent at its unsatisfying attempts to wrap up the narrative.
6 / 10