Morgan (2016)
Morgan (2016)

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Release Date: September 2nd, 2016 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Luke Scott Actors: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rose Leslie, Toby Jones, Michael Yare, Boyd Holbrook, Michelle Yeoh, Vinette Robinson, Brian Cox, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Giamatti

 


 

2016

has seen plenty of news articles about advancements in robotics and warnings concerning the dangers of artificial intelligence running away from human overseers. When it comes to film, these notions are abundant, but can easily coax audiences into believing extreme technological and scientific achievements that are still decades (if not centuries) out of reach (as in “Ex Machina”). But “Morgan” also opts to go down a few paths that retain a minimum of realism by themselves, such as super strength and rapid learning with a bent on retaliation (plus, there’s talk of emergent precognition – an entirely different can of worms!). If it wasn’t difficult enough to buy into the idea of nanotechnologists manufacturing a superiorly intelligent humanoid, the use of inescapably phony additives makes the whole thing outrageous. Does every A.I. picture have to involve cyborgs who know martial arts (here adorned with the phrase “weaponized design parameters”)?

Starting off with aerial shots augmented by computer readouts, “Morgan” prompts viewers to believe the film will be about improper, abusive surveillance. In an unfathomable twist, the similarities to the world of Jason Bourne further include Brian Cox calling the shots in the background, designating Morgan an “asset,” and knee-jerk kung fu reactions. But in short time, the plot turns instead toward something like “Jurassic Park,” where the L9 prototype, dubbed Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy), undergoes monitoring in an incredibly remote, forested site, after a serious accident in which the “hybrid biological organism” attacked a scientist (an eye socket mutilation with a butter knife – played out as a security-footage scene and shown more than once, as if to compensate for a lack of other grotesqueries). Lee Weathers (Kata Mara), a risk management consultant – and one of those expectedly icy corporate people with no respect for the massive amounts of research that went into Morgan’s rearing, and consideration only for the monetary value of a product stream – arrives to determine whether or not the subject should be terminated.

“It’s a goddamn microwave as far as I’m concerned!” She’s soon joined by Dr. Alan Shapiro (Paul Giamatti), who is to head up a psychological evaluation, which should shed light on the unwarranted assault that resulted in Morgan’s current confinement. But just as his presence begins to introduce the common components of an A.I. movie, including the nature of curiosity, self-awareness, captivity and justifiable treatment, the rights of sentient creations, and connections or contrasts with humanity, “Morgan” descends along the path of a generic horror/thriller. She lashes out, people are hurt and killed, and Lee is forced to use her crisis training to stop an ungovernable maniac android.

The thing that really makes no sense (excluding, of course, the myriad nonsensicalities inherent in sci-fi ventures like this) is the team’s constant bewilderment at Morgan’s capabilities. Surely, in a world where synthetic creatures roam about indistinguishably from real humans, the top-of-their-class scientists would have some level of familiarity with such highly advanced artificial intelligence. A perfectly human-like robot doesn’t just appear overnight. Yet everything Morgan does is met with some aura of disbelief or wonderment, as if she were an extraterrestrial alien dropped into the middle of a research facility. Additionally, many of the employees argue over whether or not to call her an “it”; yet again, this is something that would have been resolved decades ago, back when tremendously less sophisticated versions of Morgan were being experimented upon. And in the context of the film, she’s specifically designated as a combination of human and synthetic DNA, which means she’s closer to a standard person (perhaps a genetically modified clone) than a genderless, mechanically engineered robot. It would be highly unlikely for anyone to think of a human – groomed as she is, behaving like an inquisitive child, and appearing as a frail girl – as anything but a person (recognizably tweaked DNA or not).

In the end, it becomes apparent that “Morgan” is designed to be a typical science-gone-awry slasher movie, only lightly decorated with thought-provoking themes on artificial persons. This becomes all the more evident through nods to “Alien” and “Blade Runner” – which would have been acceptable in any project other than one directed by Ridley Scott’s own son (Luke Scott is, in fact, Ridley’s son) – and a diverse cast of victims, written to be slowly offed in increasingly violent ways. Failing lights, subterraneous tunnels, and the antagonist suddenly appearing next to unwitting targets are all cliched horror movie tactics – quite disappointing for an endeavor that could have been more brainy than bloody.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10