Promising planning. Inadequate execution.
One is reminded of great low budget horror films when Morgan opens. Kate Mara, driving through remote woodland to an old, creepy house in the middle of nowhere to handle the erstwhile monster we see in the film’s prologue. Films such as The Evil Dead and Dog Soldiers. Except of course, we are tantalised with the prospect of rather than going to meet the monster, we’ve been riding with it the entire time.
Its one of a number of interesting ideas floated out by director Luke Scott (son of Ridley) and writer Seth Owen. Unfortunately, like the rest of those ideas, the execution and development is as clumsy, lazy and has all the subtlety of an episode of The Big Bang Theory.
Morgan actually starts quite compellingly. Kate Mara does a sound job of seeming self-contained and slippery. Toby Jones is engaging and excellent as he always is as one of the team of conflicted scientists who created a new synthetic life named “Morgan,” played by Anya Taylor-Joy. Taylor-Joy offers us something interesting in her performance as well, providing an imposing presence, belying her stature much as she did in last year’s The Witch, one of the best horror films in many years.
The concepts are interesting too. Touching upon IVF, cloning, the development of artificial intelligence and how to raise a child. Undoubtedly this is a film that owes a tremendous debt and bares similarity to last year’s Ex-Machina, a fine piece of science fiction. Driving at many of the same philosophical concepts and moral dilemmas over the creation of fully autonomous artificial life.
It is the initial similarity that makes this film so frustrating. It makes you desire for something intellectually satisfying and emotionally powerful as Ex-Machina was. Certainly, the film’s cast list and opening scenes suggest this will be the case. Toby Jones, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michelle Yeoh, Paul Giamatti and Kate Mara are all fine performers with the capacity for substantial work. You expect fireworks. You end up with a tepid, rained off bonfire.
The film that is staggeringly stupid at times. Starting out as a smart, sci-fi thriller we end up with a dumb, low rent action film, where a group of supposed intelligent characters embark on a series of decisions that are nonsensical and unconvincing. It’s not so much having to suspend disbelief rather than cutting its binds and chucking it off a tall building. It is a film so stupid, that the major twist of the story rather than catching you by surprise and challenging all perceptions you had of the story ends up being so predictable that you can see it coming from a long, loooong way off. My own reaction was “oh yea, I figured that out twenty minutes in.”
Brian Cox appears sporadically, or more accurately his voice, to lend some sort of gravitas to proceedings. It is a performance that I reckon it took all of about 15 minutes to phone in. Likely recording the lines while sat in his study drinking whisky for some easy money. Not that I blame him. If someone offered me silly money for as little work as possible. I would take it too.
The film is far from terrible. It looks good and has some bright spots. Chiefly Giamatti’s hilarious cameo as the world’s worst psychologist and Toby Jones is excellent, as he always is. Truly the most consistent and convincing thing in the whole film. I’m not even sure he was trying that hard, he’s that good even at 25% effort he can still out-act almost everyone.
I would talk more about Luke Scott’s directing but there is little to report. It isn’t bad, some of it, particularly in the opening half an hour is interesting, however, there is nothing you won’t have seen before in his first feature film as a director. Morgan, is not awful but it isn’t up to much good either. Ultimately it is a disappointment. The concept, cast list and a first time director with a hell of an education under his belt promises so much. Ultimately, Morgan delivers little.