Anyone else getting a serious EX-MACHINA (2015) or SPLICE (2009) vibe from this movie? Young girl that was created, not born, escapes killing people, becoming smarter than their creators dreamed, yeah, it feels like a rip-off of SPLICE. Not that I took any particular issue with that, as the cast for this film is pretty awesome.
Let’s dive into that, shall we? Our title character is played by the unbelievably talented relative-newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy, whom y’all should recognize from this year’s critically acclaimed THE WITCH. Personally, I think she’s a great young actress and shows wonderful potential, so if nothing else, I’m excited to see what she brings to this role. Next we have the equally fabulous Kate Mara. I really like her as well, she’s got mad talent, and she’s shown it before in such films as THE MARTIAN (2015), but has had a string of not-so-great films like, CAPTIVE (2015), FANT4STIC (2015), and TRANSCENDENCE (2015), but even in these stinkers, she wasn’t bad. I enjoy her work and I’m still happy to see her on the big screen. And oh my god, Paul fucking Giamatti, this man is a cinematic asshole gem. Seriously, I’m more scared of him than I am of Sylvester Stallone with a machine gun, what with his amazingly depraved performance from LOVE & MERCY (2015) and SHOOT ‘EM UP (2007). He can do no wrong and I can’t wait see how much of the scenery is left when he chews the crap out of it. Others include Toby Jones (this year’s ANTHROPOID, the Hunger Games films, and the first two Captain America films), Jennifer Jason Leigh (THE HATEFUL EIGHT , THE HUDSUCKER PROXY , and TV show WEEDS), and many more.
Now for the crew. In the director’s chair is Luke Scott making his feature-length debut. Congrats, dude. Penning the script it newcomer Seth W. Owen, who wrote an unknown film called PEEPERS (2010). I’d say this marks his first big project.
Overall, the film has a mix of fresh and veteran talent in front of and behind the camera, so things should prove to be interesting. I’m going in with moderate expectations, hoping to be more entertained than anything else, but I am excited for the ensemble cast if nothing else. This is my honest opinion of MORGAN.
The story follows Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), a proclaimed risk and assessment agent for a company that is specializing in nanotechnology enhancing humans. In one of the company’s more remote locations, they created their breakthrough project: a genetically altered girl named Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy), whom the scientists treat like family. But there was an incident. Morgan had a violent episode resulting in her stabbing one of the scientists in the eye and the crew forced to keep Morgan locked in a room. While the crew is optimistic that their research is clear, the company needs to assess Morgan and what to do with her. It doesn’t take long for Morgan to realize this and a burning desire to escape exceeds her desires to cooperate anymore.
I won’t say that this was a good movie, but I won’t say that I hated it either. In fact, I don’t know if I like or dislike the movie.
So let’s get cracking and as usual, start with the on screen talent. I think Taylor-Joy is a great young actress, but I think her talent was somewhat squandered here. This role of a young girl, grown practically in a test tube, is learning how to be a person. When you see footage of the toddler version of her, as well as some of her as her current age, her facial features do change. You see smiling, you see laughter, so why is the rest of her performance so… robotic? I mean, I can tell this is Scott’s fault, as there are bouts of really nuanced scenes of her completely conflicted and unsure of what decisions to make, showing concern, but it bizzarely feels underplayed.
Mara’s alright, if not a touch… cliche. At first, I thought she was being played like Max Rockatansky, an observer, not the real character since everyone else around her is significantly more interesting. I was fine with it up until she was kissing a dude and given a mysterious ending, so now I’m just thinking it was somewhat lazy writing. Okay, lazy may not be the right word, but clearly there’s a hint for a sequel. Owen must have been banking on his story because if there’s no sequel that has the intention of developing Lee, then this was an elaborate first hand-shake and a little more thought probably could have been put into Lee’s character now in this film.
To his credit though, he does write very likable supporting characters. Yeah, they were the real heart and soul of the flick if you ask me, and I’m pretty sure that’s what the story intended. Rose Leslie, Jones, and Michelle Yeoh are probably the real standouts for me, but even the others have their nuances. Leslie’s character, Dr. Menser (Haha! Men-sir. What, was Woman-ma’am already taken?), is like Morgan’s sister, and those two probably had the best chemistry in the film. Leslie really delivers on a conflicted soul. She’s so close and protective and loving toward her. But at the same time, when she goes ape-shit, she knows how dangerous she is. But she’s a scientist, not a fighter. So her fear paralyzes her into inaction to either listen to reason or act against Morgan in any way. Yeoh is in the same vein, though not as prominent. Doctor Cheng is the mother figure to Morgan, clearly loves her like her own child, but knows that her job takes priority when things go wrong and the decision to kill Morgan is made. She’s kind of cold about it, but it’s a coping thing, and it’s hard to fault her. Perhaps the two best performances are from Jones and even Giamatti, of course. Yes, if you’ve seen the trailer, Giamatti as Dr. Shapiro really is that intimidating and slimy. This is probably the point where I might say that Taylor-Joy wasn’t acting, that Giamatti really was making her cry because… fuck, man, I was crying with her. I wouldn’t want Giamatti yelling at me! That shit’s scary! His role is brief, but he successfully high-jacks the film in a beautiful way. Finally, Jones. I suppose Dr. Ziegler is the father-figure to Morgan since both he and Dr. Cheng have the greatest investment in Morgan and really want to see her come into her own person, despite the setbacks. He clearly cares about Morgan and he just lights up whenever he’s talking about her or the research that brought her to be, and how angry and depressed he is when he knows that, in the eyes of the company, Morgan is irredeemable. It all feels pretty legit.
I already mentioned how Mara was one of the weaker elements of the movie, and this is only made worse at the end.
While the ending with Lee doing the same hand-gesture as Morgan, sort of implying that Lee was an earlier version of Morgan (possibly), the ending feels like a big ole excuse for violence and death. I mean, I won’t say it comes out of nowhere or anything, but it’s certainly not the direction I would have wanted to see the story go. What do I mean by this. Well, the story as a whole doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to begin with. It’s never really explained why Morgan goes haywire. I know it’s because she kills a deer out in the woods, which frightened Dr. Menser and everyone puts Morgan in her room, leading to her stabbing Dr. Grieff (Jennifer Jason Leigh – and seriously? “Grief?” These names are just so… stupid) in the eye. First of all, why does Morgan kill the deer in the first place. She just does it out of nowhere. She doesn’t even know why she did it. I might understand why she’s antsy being locked in her room, but again, because the killing of the deer made no sense, stabbing Dr. Grieff makes just about as much sense. Morgan keeps claiming that she loved Dr. Grieff, even though we never see a connection between the two, so it’s not particularly meaningful to the story. None of this is explained. It’s just, “she went crazy.” Well then why are we shown so much footage of her happiness? Shouldn’t we be hoping that she gets better and hope that she becomes her own person? That’s what the story was building up to, but nothing about her snapping makes a lick of sense.
The ending, which I’ve been building up to, again, feels like an excuse for violence. Morgan escapes and literally starts killing everyone. Except Lee, for some odd-fuck reason, even as she has a gun and Lee’s trapped like a rat (for about five minutes anyway). But she goes on a rampage and kills everyone. There’s a scene earlier with Dr. Menser telling Morgan about a beautiful lake and Morgan wants to see it, making her way there with Dr. Menser, and Lee hot on her tail. And… Lee kills her. It’s a straight-up action brawler here and Lee kills Morgan… and then kills Dr. Menser. Just… out of the blue. No reason whatsoever, or for the thinnest reasons imaginable. Then she kills Skip (Boyd Holbrook), a pointless, directionless romantic subplot, by the way, and… it’s such a dissatisfying ending unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time.
Whatever sequel that was clearly planned for this film, I’m hoping it joins the ranks of sequels-never-made to such bombs like THE SUPER MARIO BROS (1993) and THE LAST AIRBENDER (2010). This senseless movie was made and it’s not good despite some solid acting from the supporting characters, which prevents it from being a total disaster. But Taylor-Joy and Mara are criminally underplayed and deserve such better roles, as they are both extraordinarily likable and talented actresses. But Taylor-Joy needs more exposure if she’s going to get more work, and they can’t all be hits, but this movie’s failure isn’t her fault and I hope that doesn’t hurt any future opportunities for her. And Mara, damn girl, you need a break. THE MARTIAN can’t be your best because it’s not your movie. But here’s to a everyone’s future endeavors and that this goes under the radar.
My honest rating for MORGAN: a weak 3/5
- THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3uULkvZh1w