This science fiction thriller attempts to be too many things which have been done before, but still has potential.
Director: Luke Scott
Writer: Seth W. Owen
Stars: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rosie Leslie, Michael Yare, Toby Jones, Chris Sullivan, Boyd Holbrook, Vinette Robinson, Michelle Yeoh, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Giamatti, Brian Cox
When an incident involving an artificially created humanoid being happens at a remote facility, Lee Weathers (Mara), a risk management consultant is sent in to determine if Morgan (Taylor-Joy) should be terminated. Lee runs into many issues when she realizes the scientists see Morgan as their child and will do what they can to protect her.
The directorial debut of Scott is a quality first start, but unfortunately the film itself is not sure what it wants to be. Owen’s script is muddled in too many ideas, but this is his first major studio produced work as well. Morgan starts off as a conversation about what it means to be human. The five year old AI looks like a teenager, displays emotions, enjoys music, and feels connections with her makers. Those who created her, from the beginning, treat Morgan as if she is a child they are all raising and feel the connection with her as well.
When Morgan displays a very disturbing “temper tantrum” her family quickly makes excuses for her and justifies her actions to Lee, talking about how “truly special” Morgan is. They love her. The film then ventures into the question of where is the line between creating a human using the good ol’ fashion way and the artificial way? Does creating a being in a lab make you a parent? If the being feels love, joy, hate, anger, sadness, is it alive? But that is quickly dispatched as the film dives into the realm of horror film when Morgan starts to realize what is going to happen to her. Then there is a twist (I’m not going to give that away here) that is no surprise as long as you are somewhat paying attention and it makes the entire movie frustrating.
Going from a debate about AI to a film about surviving science project gone very wrong is fine. Science fiction and horror have often gone hand in hand, especially when dealing with a subject that does strike some fear into us. What will happen to humanity when AI becomes more like one of us? But the twist spoils what could have been an interesting conversation about what it means to be human and the ethics behind creating artificial intelligence that resembles a human in almost every way.
Morgan is very simple in how it looks, allowing for the audience to relate to Morgan’s aching in the beginning. Outside in the wilderness, it is warm and green. Inside of the lab, it is very blue and sterile. The world Morgan is stuck in (the lab) is painful in comparison to the world she wishes to exist in (the woods). Most of the film takes place during the day or under bright lights allowing for the pale skin and odd color of Morgan’s hair to look slightly out of place next to her human caretakers. She is familiar and alien all at once.
Scott allows for his actors to do most of the heavy lifting which helps the audience believe this group of scientists have become a family unit and do not behave like cold robots as they do in most science fiction films. There is not tricky camera work or glossy effects. Up until the last third of the film, it is mostly people in a room talking about the titular being. The best work the new director does is between Morgan and Dr. Alan Shapiro (Giamatti) that is heavily displayed in the trailers. He mostly relies on the back and forth shots with a minor push in between the subject and the psychologist evaluating her, highlighting the progressively intense scene and sense of dread as the conversation evolves.
Morgan starts off with a very interesting concept before coping out and making itself into something very typical, wasting what could have been a smarter film. Despite the frustrating twist, it is still an entertaining film and I am looking forward to Scott’s next project.
3 ½ out of 5 Stars