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Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016 06:03 pm

Been There, Done That with "Morgan"

The antecedents to Luke Scott’s “Morgan” are many – Frankenstein, A.I., Lucy, Ex Machina – so much so that we should simply regard this movie as yet another variation on the artificial life vs. human beings theme. Truth be told, there’s little new at play here and this latest entry suffers from being released in such close proximity to Lucy and Ex Machina, similar plot points and narrative beats being far too obvious to ignore.  Still, Scott, whose father Ridley explored these themes as well in “Bladerunner,” brings a degree of style and menace to this project that can’t be denied, while the fine efforts from his game cast make sure that we don’t shake this at times effective, but familiar tale, soon.

Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) and Dr. Menser (Rose Leslie) are a bit perplexed by Morgan.
Courtesy 20th Century-Fox

Having been called in by a nameless corporation to assess an incident that occurred at one of their off-site labs, Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) describes herself as a “risk management professional,” to the team of scientists who’ve been working on something called the L-9 Prototype in isolation for seven years.  Their project is an artificial life form they’ve named Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy), whose accelerated maturation finds her fully grown by the age of five and acting out in disturbing ways. Seems she gouged Dr. Grieff’s (Jennifer Jason-Leigh) eye with a spoon when she suggested Morgan’s time outside her prison home be cut back.  It’s up to Weathers to determine if this was a one time glitch or if this is the first sign of a pattern of behavior that would lead to the termination of the project.

Scott and screenwriter Seth W. Owen quickly and effectively introduce the sequestered scientists, all characters who make an impression during their initial time on screen.  Of note is Toby Jones as Dr. Ziegler, who’s quite adamant that Morgan be treated as a human being; Michelle Yeoh as Dr. Cheng, a physician haunted by a tragedy in her past that she fears will reoccur; and Paul Gaimatti as Dr. Shapiro, an expert on behavior whose aggressive approach Morgan takes exception to.

Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy) grabs a quick bite in Morgan.
Courtesy 20th Century-Fox

These veterans give the story the required emotional heft it needs to keep our interest while Taylor-Joy steals the film in the title role, giving us a confused, child-like creature that’s simply acting on instinct, a construct to be pitied and feared as she acts on in a world she doesn’t understand. Her work, and that of her co-stars is what stays with you after the climactic, inevitable confrontation between Morgan and Weathers.  And while, the movie does contain a twist (sharp viewers will be able to predict it 15 minutes in), it plays like so much of the rest of the film – stale, unimaginative and a bit desperate.    

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