Sometimes the power of a prominent name is all you need to get a project off the ground. Having the last name “Scott” when your dad’s name is “Ridley” is probably as much as heft as you need to make it in this industry, merit be damned. When your father directed Alien and Blade Runner, I imagine it’s easy to get what you want from the Hollywood system, even if what you want is a derivative work that would be otherwise destined for a direct-to-video release. Such is the case with Morgan, a film that stands on the backs of every artificial intelligence movie that came before it while forgetting to bring anything new to the table.
Morgan doesn’t just border needless, it crashes through the gates with the zeal and gusto of a championship team making their way onto the field in the first game of the new season. Not in years has a film so impressively embraced its utter pointlessness and tried to make something of itself despite its limitations. Wasting an impressive cast, the film plods and stumbles through one predictable scene to another towards its “shocking” conclusion (which astute film watchers will see telegraphed approximately ten minutes in—I will give neither the twist nor the single shot that reveals it away, but it’s there and kind of hard to miss).
The film follows Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), a risk management consultant for a large corporation, who is sent to a secluded farm to investigate an accident involving a secretive A.I. experiment team. Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy), a part biological, part technological lab grown experiment has been locked away following an attack on one of her handlers, Kathy (a sinfully underused Jennifer Jason Leigh). Now, Weathers must conclude if the continued experiment is both viable and safe while navigating the complex interpersonal relationships of the staff of researchers who’ve grown to love Morgan.
Ostensibly, Morgan, like all A.I. movies, tries to ask the big questions—what is life? how far would you go to protect it? do robots deserve rights? whose call is it?—but at no point are these questions posed in any meaningful way. The closest the film comes to presenting itself as interesting is in the single scene involving a psychologist (Paul Giamatti) interviewing Morgan to determine her (its?) mind state. Here, you can almost see the movie that its stars probably thought they were making, though it serves mostly as a reminder that Giamatti is still amazing and that Taylor-Joy has a decent career ahead of her.
Coming on the heels of one of this year’s best movies, The Witch, it’s a shame to see Taylor-Joy stuck inside this cinematic quagmire. It’s script, from writer Seth W. Owen (Peepers) feels like a writing exercise embarked upon after watching last year’s Ex Machina. Where that film had nuance, however, Morgan has giant stick, with which it continuously beats its audience over the head.
It’s too bad that Luke Scott used his father’s pull as producer to make this his feature debut. Despite its hackneyed and derivative plot, there are moments where the young Scott shows a keen director’s eye, and as the aforementioned scene between Giamatti and Taylor-Joy suggests, he’s more than capable of bringing out the latent tension in his scenes while getting solid performances out of his actors. Those moments of potential are few and far between, however, as the film meanders helplessly through a collection of scenes that all add up to 90 minutes of wasted time.
Instead of wasting your time or money seeing Morgan, you’d be better served picking your favorite A.I. vs. man movie and spending the evening at home. Chances are, the film you decide on is already ripped off by Morgan anyway. As it stands, the only majorly impressive feat accomplished here is somehow feeling like the longest two hours of my life in its just under 90-minute run time.
Morgan is now playing in theaters everywhere.