Morgan needs to be fleshed out more.
Morgan is one of those movies that starts with a couple cool ideas, but instead of building on them boldly, it quickly devolves into standard, unimaginative fare.
The premise revolves around the creation of a human-like lifeform through genetic engineering. It’s a science-for-profit venture that saw two previous attempts fail miserably. Morgan is the breakthrough. “She” started walking and talking after 1 month of life; “her” growth spurts were off the charts.
The pronouns earn quotes because in short order it’s argued Morgan is an “it” — neither male or female — and, furthermore, “it” doesn’t have any rights. There’s a lot of interesting territory to mine here (gender identity, what constitutes life, what earns equality, to name a few) and for a while (albeit a brief while, given the movie’s run time is less than 90 minutes) it seems like Morgan is going to walk the magical line of balancing topical matters with fantastical, scientific circumstances.
Alas, those hopes are dashed shortly after Lee Weathers (Kate Mara, The Martian), a thick-skinned risk management consultant from corporate, arrives at the remote rural laboratory for an assessment of Morgan.
Preserve the Asset
Character naming conventions. Reflections in windows. They’re standard clues and foreshadowing trickery that try to give this movie the veneer of complexity, but the scant run time does the material a disservice.
Flashbacks show Morgan rapidly growing, from newborn to adolescent. We’re told she had joy in her heart — before she was shoved into her laboratory bedroom. She was learning how to be herself, she was learning about the wonders of the world.
This motherless child was also learning how to control her temper.
It doesn’t help matters that some of the full-on, 100% human characters display completely unnatural reactions and emotions. Take the on-site chef, Skip (Boyd Holbrook, Gone Girl), for example. Apparently the rural setting has turned him into an emotionally-stilted young man with the same rapidity which saw Morgan mature.
There’s a movement to feel for Morgan, but that’s squelched as the movie introduces a theme of weaponization which at first seems to come right out of left field, totally incongruous with all the warmly-blurred flashback scenes.
Ultimately, that theme leads the movie down its rote route, running right off the rails and turning a little silly right when it should’ve provided some thought-provoking punch.
Granted, the movie looks good. The primary set — Morgan’s bedroom — is burdened with the clinical artificiality of a gorilla zoo environment. With the scientists protected by reinforced glass walls, Morgan is clearly living under constant observation. And this lab/bedroom has the topographic footprint of a womb. That tidbit was gleaned during an awkward post-screening Q&A session streamed from the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.
Another tidbit: Morgan is ostensibly an offshoot of Luke Scott’s Loom, a short film shot for Red Cinema.
Luke Scott. Director of Morgan and son of film legend Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator, The Martian), who serves as a producer on this one. On stage for the Q&A, they bookended Kate Mara and Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays Morgan.
The conversation felt cagey. Ridley offered typically ominous chatter about artificial intelligence and life-of-the-party talking points about how — basically — we’re all really screwed because technology has set sail and left humanity behind (or something to that effect). Aside from some humor surrounding Mara wearing heels on set, it was a discussion that tried to add gravitas to a movie that ends figuratively (and almost literally) in shallow water.