Morgan (thematic spoilers)
Cert: 15 / 92 mins / Dir. Luke Scott / Trailer
Before the film has even begun properly, there's the feeling that Ridley Scott's company-name could be on the production credits for Morgan largely because his son, Luke, has directed it*1. And there's the additional feeling that names such as Paul Giamatti, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Toby Jones, Michelle Yeoh and Brian Cox are in the cast credits largely because of Ridley's aforementioned attachment. These feelings do not desist throughout Morgan's 92 minute run-time...
When a top-secret tech-project to genetically engineer a new breed of enhanced human (Morgan, Anya Taylor-Joy) begins to go violently awry, the funding-body despatch a risk-analyst (Lee Weathers, Kate Mara) to survey the situation and report on its continued viability. When Lee finds her ice-cool reputation has preceded her and the core team have become emotionally attached to their test-subject, matters begin to escalate, irreversibly...
And as you may have gathered, the film is one-part Silence Of The Lambs, two-parts Blade Runner and about ten-parts Species*2. Visually, the shadow of Prometheus hangs over the whole film's lush green landscapes and desaturated performers. In fact, with characters as archetypal as the ones in this film, I spent more time picking out thematic references to other movies than I did wondering what was going to happen next. I'd like to say that there's a better movie to be made here, but the main thing holding it back is its own story, so I'm not sure that's the case.
In front of the cameras, Anya Taylor-Joy is great (although she always is), but Kate Mara never quite seems to gel with her role, and while that could be deliberate in this film*3, I don't think she's found her ideal role yet (because Fantastic Four certainly wasn't it, although that also wasn't anyone else's, either). Rose Leslie puts in a good supporting turn as the behavioural researcher who shares the strongest emotional bond with Morgan, but there's not really anywhere for her to go with it. The secondary cast are reliable enough, but you get the impression that those bigger names have been called in for a morning-or-two's filming (Cox especially), as the story tends to narratively compartmentalise anyone who's not Morgan or Lee.
Despite being a not-unpleasant distraction from bonafide remakes and sequels, Morgan is never going to be more than a straight-to-video sci-fi/psych-thriller with nice cinematography and an interesting cast-list (cf Solace). The film's not going to win any awards or further the career of any front-of-house stars, because it has only one card to play, namely "Silly scientists meddle with things they don't understand; poetically-licenced carnage ensues", which is a trope as old as cinema itself.
Just ask Ridley Scott…
Any of those sci-fi films where someone makes a thing and instantly loses control of the thing having never had control over the thing to begin with.
Director; I hope not.
Level 1: This film stars Jonathan 'Jebel' Aris.
That link will have more relevance after Rogue One comes out...
*1 And sure, nepotism's a cheap call, I know. But at the same time, when the producer of your science-fiction thriller is not only the director of Aliens and Blade Runner but also your dad, it's a call you've got to be ready for.
'Scott Free' did not pick up this film because it's a ground-breaking piece of cinema.
*2 While it might seem lazy to just compare Morgan to a bunch of other movies, rest assured that it feels worse when you realise that's what screenwriter Seth Owen has done, too.
*3 It's also worth mentioning that the film's Trump Card™, when it's finally played, has been so solidly telegraphed for the last hour and a quarter that it's surprising no-one. And it hasn't been telegraphed by the screenplay, but by Kate Mara's interpretation of it. Brian Cox (the actor, not the physicist) sits filming a revelatory coda in a separate set thinking he's b!owing the audience's minds, when they're actually just nodding along in agreement...
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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