Morgan Review #2: Great Cast, Great Idea, So-So Movie
As humanity inches ever closer to real deal artificial intelligence being a thing, the line between science fiction and reality is going to get all kinds of blurry. That is what makes something like director Luke Scott's Morgan so potentially fascinating. The trick is making the material live up to its potential, and when it comes to sci-fi, even if you have all of the right pieces it can be a tricky thing to accomplish. Morgan definitely has all of the right pieces and then some, but it may not totally live up to the potential that exists with all of those great pieces that were positioned for Scott to work with. That isn't to say the movie isn't fun, interesting and enjoyable, because it is. Just maybe not as much as it feels like it could have been.
Morgan centers on a group of scientists and other people working at a facility in a remote location who have been working with an artificially created humanoid being. After an incident occurs, a corporate risk-assessment consultant is sent in to decide if the being needs to be terminated or not. Things don't exactly go according to plan, resulting in a very messy, intense situation.
If you were to just look at the cast of this movie, you would thing this movie was a sure-fire Oscar contender. Kate Mara as the mysterious risk-assessment officer and The Witch's breakout star Anya Taylor-Joy as Morgan makes for an excellent double-headliner. The cast also includes the criminally underrated Toby Jones, Rose Leslie, Boyd Holbrook and the never not awesome Paul Giamatti. It is truly stacked, and that is part of what might be frustrating for some watching this movie. It doesn't quite feel like a movie with this much talent in it, but there are moments where the potential rears its head, only to subvert back to simply being decent. Not outstanding. That being said, Anya Taylor-Joy looks to be at the start of a long, promising career.
There are two pretty unfair things that Morgan has going against it. For one, Luke Scott just so happens to be the son of another very famous Scott, first name Ridley, who has made some of the best sci-fi movies the world has ever seen. It isn't quite fair to measure Scott up against his father, or to measure a movie like Morgan against something like Blade Runner, but it is an impossible connection to avoid, and we are naturally going to make it. Even with that aside, this movie bears similarities to a little movie from last year named Ex Machina, which just so happens to be one of the best sci-fi movies of the 21st century. Timing isn't everything in the movie business, but it definitely counts for something. Morgan is no doubt going to suffer from its proximity to such a great movie with a similar core concept. Are these things fair? Maybe not, but they are factors.
Sci-fi is and always has been a tricky thing. At its very best, think Blade Runner or Star Wars, it is some of the greatest filmmaking that the world has ever been treated to that endures and inspires imagination or provokes deep, human thought. At its most awesomely bad, think Flash Gordon or Plan 9 From Other Space, there is still something admirable or fun about it. Something that is still very watchable or thought provoking, maybe even inspiring. There is some form of joy to be had. Then there is everything in the middle. It suffers from being perhaps forgettable, which is not to say it is bad, but it doesn't have that sticky quality. Morgan does not have that sticky quality from either end of the spectrum.
As a sci-fi fan, you may very well enjoy yourself and get something out of the movie, but you may not think about it again after you've had dinner that night, and that is a shame. If you just want some popcorn sci-fi with some good action and thriller elements, go see it. If you are hoping for something more nuanced and deep, you may find yourself a little, but not totally, unsatisfied. Morgan hits theaters on September 2 from 20th Century Fox.