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Director: Luke Scott

Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller

Year: 2016

As 7:35 rolled around and the lights began to dim in anticipation for the previews, I looked around and was confused. Where the Hell was everybody? MORGAN was released less than a week ago! 7:35 accommodates “dinner and a show” dates! Thursday night is pretty much the new Friday! Was this really going to be the first film I’d see completely, entirely alone in the theater? Yes, yes it was, and when the credits rolled around, I could certainly see why.


Me, but without the people in the back

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No part of MORGAN speaks of any sort of creative idiosyncracy or artistic style. Telling the story of Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), a corporate agent sent to shut down the cloning project that produced the initially impressive Morgan (Anna Taylor-Joy), from the very first seconds of footage, any audience member possessing the tenets of basic cognitive function will be able to predict exactly how the film will shake out. Furthermore, the film certainly doesn’t gain any good will with its nearly gleeful aping of EX MACHINA, whether it be the isolated, heavily forested setting, the sleek, modernist portrayal of technology, or the obvious parallels between Morgan and Ava’s eventual realization of violently antisocial behavior.


It’s a shame not everything was copied

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Already intensely familiar in concept alone, MORGAN similarly doesn’t manage to throw any redemptive twists or turns our way in terms of its specific story, with a rote, lifeless checking of all the basic facets of a script. There is one mildly surprising narrative beat, where the team of scientists responsible for Morgan violently turn on Lee after she attempts to kill her herself, but even this gets predicted from miles away considering that the first 20 minutes of the film consist of everyone on the team telling Lee how much they love Morgan and view her as their child. Add a third act that almost entirely consists of recycled scenes of Lee and Morgan beating the shit out of each other with a disappointing lack of gore, and you have a recipe for watch-checking.


It’s essentially this face for 92 minutes

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While this is all tired, worn, and boring, the far more frustrating aspect of MORGAN is how ridiculously the characters behave despite their apparent intellectual pedigree. Despite witnessing Morgan kill each and every one of their peers, the next scientist in her line of sight always give it the ol’ college try and tells her that she has to stop behaving that way, never even making much of an attempt to disarm her or impede her progress in any way. While this complaint could generally be applied indiscriminately to any installment of modern throwaway thrillers, all of the scientists seem to act far, far outside of the parameters of knowledge and reason that the profession necessitates. It may take a village to raise a child, but it certainly doesn’t add up that even the most tertiary of facility employees care for Morgan as if she were their own. In fact, the film shoots itself in the foot once again by having Dr. Lui Cheng (Michelle Yeoh) appear in a whopping singular scene before she’s reintroduced and we’re expected to buy an apparent maternal bond she shares with Morgan. However, by far the most egregious example of baffling decision making is Dr. Shapiro (Paul Giamatti). While Giamatti’s extended cameo is the best scene in the film, the head-scratching plot decision to have Shapiro mercilessly taunt Morgan until she snaps and kills him does not live up to Giamatti’s acting presence.


The man was in JOHN DIES AT THE END for Chrissakes!

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MORGAN manages to remain even remotely watchable by the stellar performance of Kate Mara. Grim, professional, and as Arctic as they come, Mara entirely sells Lee’s cold, calculating persona. Unfortunately, Mara can’t do all of the heavy-lifting herself, and her character’s dogged determination to be as unlikable and unrelatable as possible isn’t saved by a performance that manages to achieve those goals. However, Mara does get some kudos for the flawless Mandarin she whips out when Dr. Cheng walks in the room, although the film could have landed a much-needed joke if Dr. Cheng mentioned that she doesn’t, in fact, speak any Chinese.

Having made it on the 2014 Black List, I am curious to find out, what, exactly enamored the judges. You’ll notice that I haven’t outright claimed that MORGAN is bad, and I suppose in all good faith I can’t. But worse than being bad, MORGAN is simply boring. At least in its current incarnation, the film feels like someone checked out all the books on screenwriting from their local library and churned out the most calculated functionality imaginable. Stepping even further back, MORGAN is a definitively small story, considering the fact that it’s mostly limited to one location and doesn’t need to indulge in any detailed world building. What could have stood a chance as an exciting indie breakout instead feels like a particularly unfortunate Hollywood misstep. Although claims of despotism are generally lazy, considering Luke Scott’s father, one has to begin to wonder…

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

Crossfader is the brainchild of Thomas Seraydarian, and he acts as Editor-in-Chief.

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