Release date: 2nd September 2016/Watch the trailer here
Morgan is the feature film debut for director Luke Scott (son of Ridley Scott, who’s producing), telling the all too familiar story of a man-made monster gone rogue. In this version, Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) is the corporate risk management consultant who must decide whether or not to terminate Morgan (The Witch‘s excellent Anya Taylor-Joy), an artificially created humanoid.
Morgan begins as a compelling psychological drama. Mara and Taylor-Joy are joined by a talented supporting cast starring as the various employees – from doctors to the chef – at the facility where Morgan was created and is kept. Time is carefully dedicated to introducing us to each of them, including Morgan’s creators, Dr Ziegler (Toby Jones) and Dr Cheng (Michelle Yeoh), who have an almost parental relationship with Morgan, and Amy (Game of Thrones’ Rose Leslie), the behavioural specialist who has developed a close bond with ‘it’ (Lee is quick to remind us that Morgan is not a ‘her’).
This is when Morgan is at its most interesting. It’s rare to find a film of this genre with two women taking centre stage, and it’s captivating to watch Mara – rigid and controlled, always – and Taylor-Joy – bringing just the right amount of human to her quiet yet menacing performance.
However, there is a specific, easily pin-pointed moment when Morgan shifts in tone to an entirely different film. When Dr Shapiro (Paul Giamatti) is brought in for Morgan’s psychological evaluation after the incident that brought about the question as to whether to terminate Morgan or not, it becomes a mindlessly violent thriller.
All of the riveting drama and intrigue from the first half are discarded: an incident in Helsinki that is alluded to, the unnerving relationship between Amy and Morgan – a thrilling premise and all character development is lost amid the standard action and bloody violence that ensues.
It’s never boring – some beautiful cinematography and the joy of watching Mara and Taylor-Joy going head-to-head ensure that – but it’s frustrating to watch a film lose its potential seemingly instantaneously.
For the most part, however, Morgan is tense, well-cast genre fare, despite unfortunately losing its edge towards the end. The cast are good enough to make you care about the questions that Morgan raises, but it’s a shame that the filmmakers chose to abandon answers in favour of more commercial action.