“There is an aura of desperation to make this story work”

by Steve Pulaski

The glaringly derivative premise of Morgan, along with its groggy introduction that takes forever to build to the tension it so desperately wants to convey, could’ve been forgiven had the film not beared a flat-aura in addition to a lack of character interest. Director Luke Scott (son of Ridley Scott) in his directorial debut and writer Seth Owen can’t find a likable character to latch onto in this picture, and instead juggle a handful of really great actors through a film that’s as emotionally and narratively sterile as a newly built hospital.

The film largely takes place in a laboratory, where a group of scientists contemplate what to do with a humanoid nicknamed “Morgan” (Anya Taylor-Joy from The Witch). Upon assigning her the female gender, as well as issuing further studies, Morgan severely mauls one of the workers and is confined to a plated-glass room. This would be the logical point where the scientists abandon whatever they were originally going to do with Morgan in favor of their safety as well as the rest of society. However, they can’t bring themselves to do such a thing, and instead contact Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), a corporate figure who is the decider of whether or not Morgan should be put down or not. She spends her days observing her, yet she’s not a psychologist nor a doctor, so her presence and involvement in this case is already a mystery. The psychologist job is actually reserved for Dr. Shapiro (Paul Giamatti), who is so underused it’s almost insulting to his terrific film career.

Directed by
Luke Scott
Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rose Leslie
Release Date
2 September 2016
Steve’s Grade: D+

Morgan’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic and unpredictable as the film goes on. Dr. Shapiro makes the best, most intelligent statement in the film when he arrives for a psychological evaluation of Morgan, saying that if he needs to communicate with her through a one-inch thick window of glass, that says enough about her psychological state.

The majority of the film is a great deal of wandering and babbling about Morgan’s condition, her whereabouts, in addition to watching some unpredictable behavior unfold. The film plays more like The Lazarus Effectthan it does something so thematically rich and intriguing as Ex Machina, initially masquerading as a psychological drama before segwaying semi-smoothly into the conventions of your average horror films. There’s not a lot to this film in regards to its narrative being particularly compelling or its premise offering anything in the way of depth; it’s a mediocre retread of well-explored waters, largely lacking in anything very distinguishing besides a competent Kate Mara performance and an electric one by Giamatti.

The only comparison it takes from movies of a bygone era that I can appreciate is the way Morgan herself is painted in a similar vein to the classic Universal monsters, in that her story is of a tragic outsider that never had a chance at real-life, almost like Frankenstein or The Wolfman. Of course her mauling, attacking, and killing those who brought her into this world is on her, but her likelihood at succeeding was always less so than her likelihood at failing. Morgan could’ve been a more intimate exploration of these ideas, but instead it glosses over them in order to play more like a slasher caper during the third act of the film.

Morgan is another film where a great deal of good actors play allegedly intelligent individuals that engage in many illogical acts of deviance; again, I must stress, more in the way the characters in The Lazarus Effect operated in contrast to those in Ex Machina. There is an aura of desperation to make this story work, as there is for the Morgan character to overcome her worst tendencies. The commonality in both is by the time the film is over, you won’t be bothered to care about either.