Published Sep 01, 2016Robot thrillers that reveal a dark, essential truth about humanity via artificial intelligence are a longstanding tradition, and sleeper successes like Ex Machina have added an emotional gut punch to the genre in recent years. Luke Scott's Morgan, though, goes straight for the stylistic elements that make these films great, without any of the substance.
Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), a consultant for some sort of mysterious agency, is a "fixer" called on to clean up extraordinary messes, and this one is particularly huge. A clone crafted via government experiments out of synthetic DNA, "Morgan" (The Witch's Anna Taylor-Joy, whose alien appearance is one of the only effectively creepy things about this film), has gone amok, retaliating with violence and unpredictable behaviour whenever her freedom is threatened. It's up to Lee to decide what to do with her, as she and the team of scientists on Morgan's case discover that she's interchangeably both human and inhuman.
Morgan feels like it was directly inspired by Ex Machina: the sparse minimalism of its design, its characters and their Steve Jobs-esque outfits discussing philosophy in a lab in the woods — even the glass enclosure Morgan is imprisoned behind — are so reminiscent of that film that its failure is even more obvious in contrast. Conversations between Morgan, Lee or the scientists are so wooden, the themes so familiar, that its central narrative trajectory — that Lee and Morgan are really similar, but also really different! — is obvious and unsatisfying.
The story itself is also pretty frustrating. Most of the scientists are so totally in love with Morgan it's inevitable that things will end badly, and because of a lack of directorial basics, we're not even sure how she's earned their love or why they feel this way. It's not even really clear what they hope to accomplish with the clone series Morgan is a part of, though it attempts some sort of half-baked "nature vs. nurture" explanation anyway.
By the time Morgan reaches its action-packed climax, we're left even more baffled, as the moody dramatic thriller suddenly becomes a different movie when it didn't even finish explaining what it was before.