Genre: Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Directed by: Luke Scott
Starring: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rose Leslie, Toby Jones
Simultaneous invention, the scientific theory that inventions and theories are simultaneously created by multiple scientists, has applied to the likes of the discovery of Oxygen, the crossbow and evolution. Now, it can be applied to Luke Scott’s debut film, Morgan. Set in the woods of North America, a group of scientists have created a synthetic human, Morgan (Ana Taylor-Joy), who has abilities that surpass what nature has managed to create. Yet, after the scientific breakthrough takes a knife to its carer’s eye, the company who created Morgan send out Risk Assessment officer Lee Weathers (Kata Mara) to assess their creation. The rest of the team is made up of every cliché you could name. Rose Leslie’s Amy is a hipster Behaviourist and Morgan’s BFF, Toby Jones is the head scientist with an ever changing accent and there are brief cameos from Paul Giamatti and Brian Cox.
It might seem lazy to compare Scott. Jr’s first time feature to Alex Garland’s (vastly superior) debut film but the thematic and visual resemblances are so uncanny it’s nigh impossible to watch one without thinking of the other. Ex Machina was not the first film to tackle the idea of humans playing God, it’s one of the most prominent in the science fiction genre, but it managed to use these themes to great effect. Morgan doesn’t. The film’s first act conjures up questions of whether Morgan is more human than the humans who created her but never does anything with this thought provoking question. Instead, it opts for a strange blend of slasher and Bourne-esque action for it’s third act that highlights Scott’s inexperience behind the camera as he attempts (and fails) to capture the fluidity of Paul Greengrass’ editing. A film that aims to be as intellectual as Morgan, shouldn’t end in a fist fight but for some reason it does.The film is never sure where it wants to focus its attention. Scott’s script frantically jumps between Morgan and Lee but never gives adequate time to either. Leslie’s Amy has an interesting relationship with the titular character, with subtle sexual undertones, but the script ruins it’s greatest accomplishment as it finds its way to a conclusion. That’s not the only issue with the script. The interaction between the film’s characters is so poorly written it all feels as synthetic as the science experiment they’re all talking about.
The poorly put together script never offers up much for the cast to do. Mara’s performance is as bland and lifeless as her take on Sue Storm, while Taylor-Joy gives it her best but is utterly clipped by the film’s misguided attempt at a climax. The rest of the cast are either there to spew some lazy exposition or act as cannon fodder.
Scott offers up glimpses of promise amidst the wreckage – the opening act is impressively slick – but Ridley’s son needs to find something more original to say with his sophomore effort. Thankfully though, it’s never Brandon Cronenberg levels of duplicity. It’s a modern replicant of Frankenstein with the body of Ex Machina but the brain of a 90’s slasher film.