Starring: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor Joy, Rose Leslie, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Michelle Yeoh, Chris Sullivan, Michael Yare, Vinette Robinson, Paul Giamatti, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brian Cox
Directed By: Luke Scott
Plot: A corporation has created a synthetic life form named Morgan (Joy). After an incident in her lab, a risk management specialist (Mara) has been sent in to determine whether or not the product is still viable.
What Works: Actually, the fact that the film flopped really hard is a huge plus because I knew almost nothing about Morgan heading into the film. I had seen a trailer, maybe once, but so much time had passed I didn’t really remember it. The only thing I knew about Morgan heading into it was that it was a sci-fi, possibly horror, starring Kate Mara and Anya Taylor Joy about some kind of artificial life. That’s it. That’s honestly all you really need to know. I say that because this film is one that gets marketed incorrectly, which causes it to target the wrong demographic, and ends up with a pissed off audience. This film is not a horror film, it’s not even remotely scary. It is a psychological science fiction film, packed into under 90 minutes, with most of the “action” saved for the third act. It would rather ask you questions about “what is a human”, “what makes us human”, because it’s trying something different, which I appreciate. I thought the film was well shot, so Luke Scott has clearly learned something from his father. The film is also well acted, even by actors whose characters are poorly written. The real star here is Anya Taylor Joy who got a ton of undeserved hype for The Witch, which I kinda hated, but has a lot more to do here, and actually carries this film. I wouldn’t have cast her based on The Witch, but I would based on Morgan. It also has a nice twist in the third act that I didn’t see coming, which I thought was kind of a smart way to tie everything together.
What Doesn’t Work: Someone wrote a smart film but forgot to include smart characters, or really anything resembling character structure. Aside from Mara and Joy’s characters, the other people at the compound are very loosely characterized. I’d say there was a solid attempt at giving Amy (Leslie) a character, but it’s a two-dimensional one, as is Skip’s (Holbrook). Mara spends the first act of the film meeting everyone, and I felt like as that act progressed, it always seemed like… oh here’s one more character you should know. It’s the kind of first act that works well in a teen horror film, because you’re getting loosely introduced to everyone in order to help distinguish them once the body count starts. Since this is not a horror film, the first act feels out of place, because we have five or six random scientists walking around with very little personality. Some of them I wasn’t even sure what their job was, like Vinette Robinson’s character. Why was she even there? Why was Jennifer Jason Leigh in this? Brian Cox? Brian Cox is a phenomenal actor who was used only in voiceover, and one scene. Then we come to Paul Giamatti, who has, also, one scene. He’s very good in it, but that scene just didn’t work for me. I get him wanting to be in the room, but considering what he already knows about Morgan, and why he’s there in the first place, I can’t see someone of his intelligence and “expertise” antagonizing Morgan the way he does. That scene felt like it was there just to fuel the plot, and it didn’t feel true to the movie.
Final Word: I definitely enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would, considering how bad this movie did. However, it does only have a 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is suggesting it is not actually a terrible film, rather it just is not a great one. I think it’s on the line for me, between fresh and rotten. I appreciate what it attempted to do with the story, and because the film is so short, I wasn’t actually bothered by the expository first act other than it was out of place in this film. It doesn’t have pacing issues, really, just an inability to write characterization for supporting characters. It’s probably worth a glance on DVD, or streaming if it ever gets there. That being said, one more time, I want to say how much I loved Anya Taylor Joy in this film. She’s definitely a future force to be reckoned with.
FINAL GRADE: C+