‘Morgan’ review: To err is human, but this girl sure isn’t
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SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT
I’m trying to warn you away from this debacle, so yes I will be revealing SOME plot details about said debacle.
Dear future “brilliant” movie scientists intent on genetically engineering a human-like life form and nurturing that life form as if it’s your own child:
When that human-like life form begins to act up, don’t be idiots. Be scientists. Realize the experiment didn’t work — because according to Movie Law, MAN SHOULD NEVER TRY TO PLAY GOD — and terminate the experiment before the experiment tries to terminate the whole lot of you.
From “Frankenstein” through “Westworld” through “Blade Runner” through “Ex Machina,” have we still not learned that nothing good comes from creating artificial beings that look, behave and begin to act like actual human beings?
“Morgan” is maybe the most infuriating movie of the year, in which the supposedly advanced minds that have succeeded in creating a frighteningly realistic artificial being behave like petulant, stubborn children when things start to go wrong and commit such egregious blunders you’ll be tempted to throw your popcorn at the screen and bellow, “Come ON, you guys!”
Before we’re even formally introduced to Morgan, we can see she’s a bloodbath waiting to happen. Via security camera footage, we watch as Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Dr. Kathy Grieff sits down inside a cell-like room with what appears to be a young adult woman in a hooded sweatshirt.
That girl is Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy), who has been created via synthetic DNA and is a kind of superhuman non-human. She’s chronologically just five years old but she has the appearance of a teenage girl, the mind of a genius and the physical prowess of a superhero in training.
Apparently Morgan has been sad lately and is in a brooding state of mind. Kathy tells Morgan she thought it would be nice if the two of them had lunch together.
Morgan responds by leaping across the table with the speed and ferocity of a crazed chimpanzee, and viciously stabbing Kathy in the eye.
Go to your room, Morgan.
• • •
Kate Mara plays Lee Weathers, a tightly wound, no-nonsense risk management consultant with the powerful and quite possibly nefarious global corporation that bankrolled the Morgan experiment and now wants her to decide if they should continue with their investment or pull the plug.
Lee arrives at a remote, bunker-like camp that contains the labs and living quarters for a handful of doctors and researchers — as well as the glassed-in, glorified cell where Morgan has been housed since she/it was created a half-decade ago.
With black eyes that seem to look right through you, an unnervingly calm way of expressing herself, an almost condescending way of dealing with her human creators/captors, a love of classical music and a mind clearly capable of elevated if not empathetic thought, Morgan is like the granddaughter Hannibal Lecter would have loved to death. (Or vice versa.)
In addition to Kathy, who is tripping on massive doses of painkilling drugs and is sporting a blood-soaked gauze eye patch (hello, doctors, infection?), the tightly knit band that has lived on the compound for more than five years includes:
• Dr. Ziegler (Toby Jones), the mastermind behind the creation of Morgan. He’s a twitchy, sweaty, seemingly paranoid fellow.
• Dr. Brenda Finch (Vinette Robinson) and her husband, Dr. Darren Finch (Chris Sullivan). They tell Lee they regard Morgan as their daughter. Not toooooo creepy.
• Dr. Lui Cheng (Michelle Yeoh), who makes vague references to Helsinki and a similar humanoid experiment that resulted in the deaths of two dozens of her colleagues.
• The amiable Ted (Michael Yare), who shows Lee around the compound, and Skip (Boyd Holbrook), a dreamboat whose sole function is cooking fabulous meals for the scientists. (I’m surprised Skip doesn’t have “Alien” playing on the TV in the kitchen, as both homage to the similarities between characters and the fact “Morgan” is directed by Ridley Scott’s son Luke.)
• Dr. Amy Menser (Rose Leslie from “Game of Thrones”), a behavioral psychologist who clearly has a thing for Morgan, and yes, I’d say it’s crossing a few ethical lines for a doctor to have a serious crush on a five-year-old, A.I. creation who looks like a high school girl.
From the get-go, it’s abundantly clear Morgan isn’t quite right — and yet time after time, doctor after doctor does something really stupid to exacerbate the problem. It gets to the point where you almost WANT to see bad things happen to these people.
Kate Mara is a fine actress, but if whether it’s the script or Mara’s performance or a combination thereof, only someone who has fallen asleep for the bulk of the film will be surprised by what we learn about Lee. The great Paul Giamatti lends some spark as the world’s most arrogant psychologist, who is brought in to analyze Morgan and thinks he’s firmly in control of a situation in which he is slowly but obviously losing the upper hand.
Scenes in which characters holding weapons keep saying things like, “Don’t come any closer!” instead of firing the weapons don’t help. The hand-to-hand combat sequences are cut so rapidly they’re nearly unwatchable.
The only thing worse than the first three-quarters of “Morgan” is the supposed payoff, which veers from the dumb to the really dumb to the so-dumb-you’ll-hardly-believe-it.
This is one of the worst movies of 2016.
20th Century Fox presents a film directed by Luke Scott and written by Seth Owen. Running time: 92 minutes. Rated R (for brutal violence, and some language). Opens Friday at local theaters.