Starring: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy and Toby Jones
Directed By: Luke Scott
Running Time: 92 minutes
20th Century Fox
Our Score 1.5 out of 5 Stars
Sometimes when I watch something so promising, and filled with so much talent, I wonder if I genuinely missed something when I walk out not liking it. “Morgan” features veteran talents like Paul Giamatti, Ridley Scott as producer, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and a script that made 2014’s Blacklist (a list of the best unproduced scripts currently floating around Hollywood). So here I am a week removed from watching “Morgan” and I think to myself, I didn’t miss anything. It’s a bad movie.
Anya Taylor-Joy (someone who’s bound to get an Oscar nominating performance one of these days) is stuck as the science experiment gone wrong, Morgan. The five-year-old, by human years, is actually around 18-by-whatever-made-up-logic-this-movie-makes-years-old. She’s the end result of a human embryo breeding project. She’s birthed with some of the best genes out there as well as a couple of super human capabilities that are never really explained. After a month, Morgan is able to walk and talk. After a couple of years, she’s a self-sufficient preteen with a childlike wonder about the world. After five years, she’s capable of inflicting bodily harm on her creators and show signs of deep hatred. And after Morgan stabs a scientist in the eye for no apparent reason, it’s time to bring in the corporate business suits.
“Morgan” has the capability to deliver a message about cloning, the inability to understand raw human emotions, and eugenics, but instead focuses more on visual technique. “Morgan” ends up being all style with no substance. The groundwork is there as we watch sterile and emotionless scientists suddenly become parents, growing up and watching Morgan’s guileless nature. Then we watch as the parental instinct kicks in when the scientists try to understand and defend Morgan’s growing sociopathy. She may be a monster, but she’s their monster. Another missed theme is how corporate culture looks at the numbers more than the human impact, but I digress because this movie failed on all thematic levels.
But even as the movie slowly falls apart, “Morgan” still has one final chance to deliver upon any resemblance of meaning behind its script. The writers, producers, and director, fail to give anything outside slick visuals, bruising action sequences, and a disquieting environment for its characters. The third act of the movie turns out to be more of an experiment in forbearance as the twist of the movie slowly gets unraveled. Although I figured out the twist about 30 minutes in while another critic I spoke to after the movie figured it out five minutes in. I guess even M. Night Shyamalan could recognize “Morgan” has a bad twist.
It’s really unfortunate watching Taylor-Joy get generously applied with Dave Chappelle white face make-up and play in one of the more frustrating creature features in recent memory. Taylor-Joy popped up on the scene earlier this year in “The Witch” and has a lot of talent waiting to be displayed. She does a fine job relaying Morgan’s genuine wonder and empathy, while balancing Morgan’s uncharacteristic murder streak. Taylor-Joy does all this well, but it’s hard to piece together the mind of her character when the movie continuously jumps back and forth between Morgan’s personalities.
It doesn’t help that the movie states she’s only five, despite having the mind and body of a full blown teenager. Is she a test tube bred deadly assassin battling teenage hormones with the id of a child progressing too quickly into an adult world that she has no comprehension of? If so, why is this experiment worth anything to anyone, especially a company? Those are questions no one making this film ever thought to ask and inherently asking that question gives away the movie’s twist.
Just like its character, “Morgan” lacks any growth, meaning, or excitement. Whenever the movie gets close to developing a theme or message, it reverts back to finding meaning behind violence like a Kindergartener throwing a temper tantrum, frustrated that it couldn’t find a way to expel upon its interesting premise. If this is the final movie of the summer, the summer certainly goes out on an uncreative whimper.