Morgan (2016) review
The Thing From Another Alien
Morgan (played by Anya Taylor Joy from The Witch), a hybrid biological organism with synthetic DNA (or artificially created human), begins to develop violent tendencies for seemingly no reason at all. With her superhuman abilities and a hyperactive growth mechanism that sees Morgan go from newborn infant to full-grown adult in the span of six months, Morgan is a scientific breakthrough. After the incident, the staff at the highly technological facility have become close to her and have spent years away from the rest of civilization. A risk management consultant from corporate named Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) is sent in to determine if Morgan would be a danger to innocent people if she escaped and if she should be terminated immediately.
Morgan is the directorial debut of Luke Scott, Ridley Scott’s son. Luke served as a second unit director on Ridley’s Exodus: Gods and Kings and The Martian. This is interesting in the sense that Morgan is trying to capture the same atmosphere found in Alien. This team of scientists has become a very close-knit group who have actually become friends of sorts to the artificial human they’ve created. Luke is attempting to mimic in Morgan what Ridley accomplished with the Nostromo in Alien, but you never really connect to any of the characters and the horror that unfolds fails to be anywhere near as unnerving as Ridley Scott's 1979 classic.
Even though Alien was likely Luke Scott’s biggest influence, you can’t help but feel like Morgan is attempting to be a clone of John Carpenter’s The Thing. While Morgan isn’t a hideous tentacle flailing alien with hidden teeth that go on for days wearing human flesh like a costume she is a monster in her own right. Morgan basically comes to terms with her own blood lust. There isn’t much of a reasoning behind her murdering ways other than she knows she’s capable of these things and enjoys doing them. Feeling like she’s alive, getting a glimpse of heaven, and actually being human are the elements that Morgan is truly made of despite what her DNA might say. Morgan is essentially a fleshier version of Pinocchio if he killed Geppetto by stabbing him in the eyeball repeatedly while lying with his forever growing nose and continued his crimson-drenched rampage on everyone located on Pleasure Island.
The screenplay for Morgan was written by Seth Owen and was on the Black List of Best Unproduced Screenplays back in 2014. This is surprising since the storyline for Morgan feels like every run of the mill science fiction or horror film that follows a similar formula. You can predict where the film is going to go long before it actually reaches its destination. The ending is such an obvious horror cliché that it’s nearly unbearable. Meanwhile the pacing is so sluggish that you’ll be fighting sleep up until you’re beard deep in Paul Giamatti’s interrogation sequence, which is a good half hour or so into the film
The acting is also lacking any sort of substantial relevance. Paul Giamatti steals every ounce of screen time he has and Toby Jones is almost always fantastic. Rose Leslie, who you probably recognize as Ygritte from Game of Thrones and as Chloe from last year’s The Last Witch Hunter, portrays fear to a believably scary extent. The leads are where things get messy as Kate Mara is ridiculously wooden in her performance and Anya Taylor-Joy fails to scratch the surface of anything she accomplished in The Witch. After showing up in Mechanic: Resurrection last week, it’s an interesting coincidence that Michelle Yeoh appears in yet another unsatisfying film the following week.
Morgan is the pistol whipping, flesh eating, test tube baby of this sloppy scientific experiment that combines elements from Vincenzo Natali’s Splice and last year’s Academy Award winning Ex Machina. The sci-fi thriller resorts to inducing its audience into a comatose-like state only to wake up to mediocrity, an overused storyline, and performances completely devoid of any actual acting.