Luke Scott -Son of Ridley- takes a stab at the well travelled idea of artificial life and the implications of creating it.
There’s a reason that fiction continues to come back to this idea and it’s a simple one. Basically it’s interesting and topical since the advances in computers and robotics are starting to make this a very real possibility. Science fiction has always being a great vehicle for exploring theories as if they were a reality so it’s a perfect subject matter for making an audience think.
Morgan isn’t a great example of an exploration of this idea because it doesn’t really commit to exploring it in any significant way. The story is that a corporation has created an artificial life form that they have called Morgan and sent in a corporate risk-management consultant to assess it after a bout of violent behaviour makes the corporation nervous about continuing with the project.
So far it sounds great and there was a lot of potential here. Having a character take a very clinical look at something that is alive to decide whether it gets to live or not. The idea of corporations creating a living thing that they don’t value as being alive is a terrifying thought that also speaks to the influence of big business in the modern world.
Unfortunately, Morgan fails in the execution. The first half is clearly designed to get to know the characters and how they relate to this artificial life form but there isn’t an awful lot of depth to any of them and the discussions they have are superficial at best.
Kate Mara plays the lead as the corporate risk-management consultant, Lee Weathers who also acts as the eyes of the audience as she enters the facility and gets an outsider view of the dynamic that has built up with the others. Lee isn’t an interesting character because she has no opportunity to really develop. She is written as being very one note with very little personality so Mara has almost nothing to work with. As I said above most of the conversations she has are superficial.
The facility is populated by equally uninteresting characters. Toby Jones is a scientist who is very proud of his work in creating and studying the artificial life form and that’s about all there is to him. Boyd Holbrook is a chef with an eye for the ladies, Michael Yare is a guy called Ted who has things to say. There really is very little more to these characters than what I’ve said here.
Rose Leslie’s Amy is the exception in all of this. She suffers from being poorly written but Leslie runs with it and really manages to make an impression. She has a lot of personality and charisma that rises above the lack of worthwhile material. Her relationship with the artificial life form almost becomes the heart of the film.
The artificial life form, Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy) is almost an interesting character as well. Taylor-Joy does a great job bringing this character to life with subtle displays of emotion and an overall sense of confusion as if she doesn’t quite understand the world that she has been forcibly brought into. As with the other characters the writing isn’t quite there but Taylor-Joy’s performance is staggering and captivating.
I would say that the main problem is that this film doesn’t really know what it wants to be. The first half reminded me of Ex Machina but this was nowhere near as sophisticated. Ex Machina spends the bulk of its running time asking the important questions of what counts as life and what it means for the modern world but Morgan dances around the issue as if it’s afraid to take a stance on it. This makes potentially interesting conversations fall completely flat since there’s no grasp of what they are supposed to achieve. The second half devolves into an uninteresting horror experience and any potential it had is completely squandered.
It is a very good looking film with an impressive use of the old house repurposed as a scientific facility serving as a memorably unsettling setting. The fact that it all takes place in a single location makes the whole thing feel claustrophobic. It’s a shame that it isn’t used to it’s full potential but it does help set the tone nicely.
A bland and uninteresting exploration of the nature of artificial life in a corporate world. The film suffers from not knowing what it is trying to be with characters that are all thinly written and uninteresting. A couple of performances stand out but none of it ever rises to the point that it becomes worth spending any time on. Watch Ex Machina instead to see how good an exploration of this idea can be.
- an impressively unsettling setting
- Anya Taylor-Joy and Rose Leslie’s performances
- a failure to commit to being about anything
- poorly written characters
- sloppy execution of the ideas