Tis’ the season, boys and girls. I don’t simply mean the holiday season, Christmas has come and gone, but tis’ the season that I like to sit down an make my “Best of the Year” and “Worst of Year” lists. To do this, I sit down and marathon EEEEEEVERYTHING, good or bad. After terrible word-of-mouth and annoying Youtube ads, Morgan was certainly a film that was not on my radar. In fact, I avoided it at all costs. But, I knew that I had to watch it before putting together my “Worst of the Year” list. So, is it one of the worst films of the year?
After an artificially created humanoid–named Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy)–attacks one of the scientists observing her/it, a corporate risk-managment consultant (Kate Mara) is brought in to figure out whether or not the creature should be terminated. Although the problems with Morgan are obvious, troubles arise when the staff of scientists grow a bit too close to Morgan.
Although this isn’t a great film, I can’t help but feel shocked towards this films reception. The fact that it was just so universally tossed out and forgotten confuses me, because this is not a bad movie, in my opinion. In fact, it’s a pretty interesting one. This is the feature-length directorial debut of Ridley Scott’s son, Luke Scott. If there’s anyone involved with this film who really needs to be praised, it’s him. Much like his father, Luke has an incredible eye for the camera. The framing of things is always perfect, the lighting is great, the atmosphere is all built properly. This isn’t just some half-assed “Here, my son’ll take this one”, no Luke got this because he has a great eye for visual storytelling. He also has an effective ability to deal with actors, capturing a lot of their character in the camera lens, which helps with the shortcomings of the script.
This stacked cast includes Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), Kate Mara (Fantastic Four), Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones), Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), there are even some major names that come in here for just a scene or two. What I really like about all of the performances in this film is that they are all very quiet, very human. I found myself being able to level with everybody because they brought out that humanity in their characters so much, which says a lot because the script doesn’t provide anyone with great characters, except for one–Kate Mara. I’m going to be very hush-hush about her character, but her arc is the most interesting out of the whole cast. Throughout the whole film you’re trying to figure her out, Mara does a great job at making you believe every turn her character takes. Anya Taylor-Joy is another cast member who does a great job of capturing so much of her character in just a look. When she needs to sound “human” and sympathetic, she sells it, although whenever you look into her eyes–all you see is a predator. The weakest performance here would be Rose Leslie, but she’s not bad. Her performance is fine, but it’s that accent. This whole movie, she is struggling to do an American accent and it just doesn’t work. It clashes with her native accent in ways that just make it sound like she has laryngitis.
Seems like I love everything so far, right? The visuals, the direction, the acting are all on point–and that does go a long way–but this script is pretty flat. It’s not a bad script, it’s just generic. If it weren’t for the director and cast, it would’ve been just another straight-to-DVD horror movie, just another film where scientists thought they were doing something great but fuck it up. Splice is a film that does that better, as well as Ex Machina. Even Jurassic Park and Prometheus fall into this line of storytelling. Kate Mara’s arc is compelling, but that’s the most compelling thing in the script. Luckily, it seems like Luke Scott understands this and is able to pick up those pieces as well as he can, but it’s still glaringly obvious that the script really has nothing new to offer, outside of Mara’s character. I’ll even give them credit in the department of Morgan’s character, I thought they did an effective job of not quite revealing her true motivations (although it’s not that hard to figure out) and making her feel different from the creature in Splice or the AI from Ex Machina.
As I mentioned, the film is a clash of “meh” writing and effective direction in every other department, this really embodies the problems that arise in the third act. On a script level, it’s a weak climax. Motivations are a little wishy-washy and it turns into a very generic body-count. Once again, Scott manages to rescue the climax by making it feel way more tense than it should be. Although the hand-to-hand combat features a bit too much quick cuts for my liking, everything is shot very well. Most of all, I believe that these actors are doing these stunts. Obviously they aren’t, but it never broke the illusion–something that even great films do sometimes. I really wish that I could go into more detail about the third act, but we’d be getting into major spoilers.
Is Morgan just a cheap Ex Machina rip off? On a script level, it kind of is. I could certainly see where people are making that complaint, but I just feel like there’s so much more here to admire. I think Luke Scott proves himself as a very capable director, taking lame material and making a passable film out of it. I like aspects of the Morgan character and I love, love Kate Mara’s character. I know a lot of people are going to hate that final scene, but they totally pulled it off for me. As I said, this isn’t a great film. But should you watch it if you have the chance? Absolutely, this is a great Redbox rental. It’s a solid way to kill 90 minutes, despite it’s major fallings. I know I’m in the minority on this, but this is a film worth giving a chance.
Rating: 6 out of 10