After an introduction where we were told we may not be able to relax while watching such a “scary” film, Morgan turned out to be much less of a horror movie and much more of a sci-fi thriller. Following in the traditions of movies like I Robot, A.I., and Ex Machina, human creates an artificial life form to resemble humans, life form develops feelings or becomes aware, destruction/chaos/misery ensues. However, in an effort to put a new spin on this genre, instead of dealing with a robot, we find a team of scientists who have developed an organic, human hybrid. Bringing new meaning to the idea of a test tube baby. Morgan is genetically engineered and grown, and after a few failed attempts, they successfully produce an organic, human like specimen, or so they think.
Of course, if the experiment was successful it would make for a pretty dull movie. The film opens with Morgan becoming upset at the idea that she is still not being allowed to leave her room and come and go as she pleases. Only 5 years old but with the fully developed body of a young teenager due to genetic modifications and growth acceleration, her tantrum is much more violent than what you would expect from the typical, human preschool-aged kid. Her violent outburst leads the company funding the project, only referred to as Corporate throughout the film, to send in an in-house expert to assess the situation and do damage control. Enter Corporate’s risk assessment manager, Lee Weathers, played by The Invisible Woman herself, Kate Mara. Mara does an excellent job at being cold and calculating, which after her lifeless portrayal of Sue Storm, is no surprise.
The movie starts off somewhat slow, playing on character development that isn’t really needed since most of them, unfortunately, are common archetypes. The earthy and rebellious soul child, the token nerdy black guy, the couple created by the tight quarters, the overly proud scientist disgusted by Corporate’s involvement, and of course the “reputation precedes her” leader, the only one capable of curbing her emotions when it comes to making any recommendations for Morgan’s future. Let’s not forget the smoking hot nutritionist, the non-lab rat and the only person on the compound that finds the creature creepy, at least the only one willing to admit it. You are meant to feel for these people but none of them bring much life to these typical sci-fi characters. Of course the down-to-earth behaviorist, Amy, played by Scottish actress and Game of Thrones star, Leslie Rose, evokes some connection from the audience. But then again, that is exactly what she is meant to do, soooo no surprise there.
Paul Giamatti brings all kinds of credibility to the movie as the Corporate-sent psychologist there to do a psyche eval on Morgan after the incident. The only actor in the film that shows more range of emotion in his short, albeit plot driving scene. He seems to play a middle ground as he scoffs at the team’s overprotectiveness of the subject but is also puzzled by Morgan saying she feels love. He seems to understand exactly what the situation is and it’s the acute awareness of the reality of things that also seems to portray an air of superiority to everybody but Lee, who has also displayed an immense amount of neutrality to the situation as well.
What is the situation exactly? Well, promises of lake trips have been made and broken due to an “incident” in the woods that isn’t revealed until well into the second act of the film. Even then, the true repercussions of said incident aren’t fully connected until Morgan’s climatic meeting with Giamatti’s character. But overall you start to get the sense that she was created with a purpose and that purpose does not include frolicking in the forest. The attempts to create a subject with more emotional intelligence or awareness eventually backfires and when faced with the harsh truth that the scientists aren’t her friends and she does not, in fact, have an actual mother (despite connecting with Dr. Cheng in that way), is just too much for an emotionally fueled organic weapon to bare.
Overall, the movie was not awful. After having seen 3 movies in the past week, I’d definitely say it’s the one I enjoyed most. The problem lies in its predictability. The so called surprise at the end should really come of no surprise to a smart audience, I figured it out very early on as the hints of what’s to come are not very subtle. Then there are those “lab rat” archetypes. So typical, they are disappointing. While writer Seth Owen may not have delivered the most original piece of sci-fi fiction, he did bring a bit of an interesting spin to it and visually, director Luke Scott has clearly learned a thing or two from his famous father (Alien/Blade Runner/Gladiator mastermind Ridley Scott) about using scenery to enhance the mood or the feeling he is aiming for. However, the performances from Mara, Giamatti, and the star, Anya Taylor-Joy, who delivered a performance that showed us an underlying, sinister personality emerging and shaping her outlook on what love and connections are, bring enough life to the film to push it just over the edge and make it worth the watch.