From the Archives: Morgan review

From the Archives: Morgan review

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.
Originally posted on Cinema76.

Morgan is only 5 years-old, but you wouldn’t know it to look at her. Played beautifully by Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), she has the appearance of a teenage girl, even if her skin is a little too shiny, her pupils a little too big, to be human. This is because she’s not human. Unlike the rest of us, Morgan has been created in a lab by a team of scientists who, by nature of their  arrangement, have become a de facto family for the young, um, lady. But when Morgan exhibits a upsetting capacity for extreme violence, something must be done. Lee Weathers (Kate Mara, perfectly cast) is a corporate troubleshooter who has been sent to Morgan’s compound to assess the damages which have been put forth by the mysterious subject. She represents a faceless corporation who seeks to weigh the pros and cons of continuing the Morgan project. She’s cold, mostly emotionless, and sees Morgan merely as an asset. Morgan is not a “she.” Morgan is an “it.” In stark contrast to Weathers are the scientists who have been spending the last five years creating and raising Morgan. To them, she is human. She is family.

This clash is explored in a variety of ways, while the script takes pains not to let on too much in terms of exposition. We are given slightly less information than our characters have, and I suspect it’s this lack of information that will make Morgan a pleasure to revisit. Even though the film’s ending is largely telegraphed (I, admittedly, did not pick up on the obvious), I sense a richness in the ambiguities of the first 2 acts that are sure to pay off the second time around.  As it is, Luke Scott’s debut film is a sleek hybrid of Alien and Ex Machina (although inferior to both) that more than qualifies the first-time filmmaker as a talent deserving of work, and not just a product of nepotism.

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That said, the DNA Luke Scott shares with papa Ridley (and uncle Tony, RIP) is very apparent on screen. Not only does he share a similar command of digital shot composition, but he seems to be interested in many of the same themes. There are plenty of Blade Runner questions being asked here. Seth Owen’s script spent some time on the coveted Black List, and it’s clear why. This is a story that can be done on a meager budget, and is a great opportunity for an array of actors to do quick, meaty work without a huge time commitment.

Getting Paul Giamatti for a single scene is better then not getting Paul Giamatti for any scenes. Getting Jennifer Jason Leigh for anything at all automatically makes your movie better. Toss in some Toby Jones and a few up-and- coming faces from Game of Thronesand Stranger Things and you got yourself a cast worth watching.

Btw. Michelle Yeoh for the win.

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The film comes off the rails in the third act as the proceedings get a bit ridiculous. Scott loses control of the tone, and it becomes difficult to gauge the film’s intentions. Just what, exactly, is Morgan trying to be? The final act is indeed thrilling, but it feels silly, and the action choreography is amateur. Scott’s ability to elevate pulp isn’t so refined as his father’s was when he made Alien, but he gets the job done well enough. Bonus points for conjuring more than a little Sigourney Weaver in Kate Mara’s third-act pivot. It’s doubly delightful to see a movie’s final moments hinge upon the actions of two very powerful women.

Morgan is a throwback sci-fi pulp piece that thinks a bit too highly of itself rather than reveling in what should have been a B-movie aesthetic. Regardless, it’s better than most Labor Day releases, and is sure to provide a good time at the movies as well as some food for thought afterwards.

Morgan opens in Philly theaters today.

Official site.

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