Movie Review: “Morgan” aims for “Blade Runner/Ex Machina Lite”

morg

The “big surprise” in “Morgan,” a bloody sci fi thriller spun around genetic engineering, is so obvious I won’t insult your intelligence by giving it away.

Hell, some of you have already figured it out, anyway, based on the headline, the still photo and my mention that there’s a “surprise” twist.

What they were shooting for here is an action-packed/bloodstained suspense pic about a scientifically engineered “It” who — OK “which” — is in danger of escaping from the lab where it was created.

Seth W. Owen’s script has moments that suggest he might have seen “A.I.,” or “Blade Runner” or “Ex Machina.”  And many, many more moments that suggest he didn’t and should have.

“Morgan” (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a paler-than-pale test-tube engineered human who with ashen lips, a teenage “girl” who is five years out of the test tube. And now she’s hurt somebody and a corporate “risk assessment” officer (Kate Mara) has been sent to the remote forest lab to figure out if she is too risky to bring to market, and how the isolated team that developed her — Toby Jones, Michelle Yeoh, Rose Leslie, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Boyd Holbrook, Michael Yare, Vinette Robinson and Chris Sullivan — screwed up. 

The team refers to Morgan as “her.” Lee isn’t having it. An “It” is what they’re dealing with, as in “after ‘It’s’ so-called birth” and the like. It hurt somebody.

“She has a right to make mistakes.”

“SHE has no rights whatsoever.”

Most have formed an attachment to Morgan, but not to Skip (Holbrook), whose scientific function is a mystery. He calls Morgan “C3PO,” at one point.

The story sets up a clumsy psycho-sexual dynamic and a faux family, but the film doesn’t develop those. The money scene is provided by “Corporate’s” psychologist, who carries out a psych evaluation. Paul Giamatti plays this scene the way you’d expect him to, with an utterly illogical eruption thrown in for bad measure.

There’s a lot of forest footage and production designed grays “Morgan,” down to the five year old teen’s omnipresent gray hoodie. What there isn’t is a lot of suspense. And I’m not just talking about the big reveal.

Mara and Taylor-Joy (“The Witch”) don’t give us much to cling to, as viewers. Only Michelle Yeoh (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) invites empathy. And only one moment has the poetry of its better sci-fi antecedents.

“Do you know the cruelest thing you can do to someone you’ve locked in a room? Press their face to the window.”

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MPAA Rating: R for brutal violence, and some language

Cast: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Paul Giamatti, Michelle Yeoh, Rose LeslieToby Jones, Boyd Holbrook
Credits: Directed by Luke Scott, script by Seth W. Owen. A 20th Century Fox release.

Running time: 1:32

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