MORGAN. Starring: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Giamatti, and Rose Leslie.. Directed by Luke Scott. Rated MA 15+. Restricted. 92 min.
This American science fiction movie is about an artificial human being, called Morgan, which behaves so erratically and aggressively that those responsible for her decide that she should be terminated.
The Director of the film is the son of Ridley Scott, who also co-produced this movie, and who was responsible for "Alien" (1979) and "Blade Runner" (1982). This is the first movie for Luke Scott.
In the film, Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) is a risk assessment specialist, who works for a research company that constructs artificial human beings from synthetic DNA. The company is trying to create "the perfect human".
Lee is called in to investigate an incident that has occurred in one of the company's' experimental laboratories. A human hybrid called Morgan (AnyaTaylor-Joy) has stabbed one of the scientists (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in the eye, and later violently kills a psychologist (Paul Giamatti) after being taunted by him. Faced with annihilation, Morgan becomes a killing machine. She demonstrates how "angry" she is by killing most of the scientific team, and murderously suffocates her handler (Rose Leslie), whom she had "affectionately" called mother.
Morgan is intelligent, strong, only five years old, and unpredictable, and the Corporate view is that she has to be terminated. The scientists who have raised Morgan, however, don't want her to be terminated, and Morgan goes on a rampage of violence to stay "alive". In a final fight, Morgan overpowers Lee and impales her, leaving her to die, but Lee survives for a final show-down that demonstrates she is perfectly able to match Morgan in the nature of her intent.
The film ends with the company's executives (one is never sure of who they actually are) sitting around a boardroom table, watched by Lee, while discussing what went wrong. The camera fades away, after one of the group of executives remarks that the old days were clearly the best, and offers the judgement that Lee has behaved "perfectly".
The notion of a genetically enhanced humanoid in conflict with humans is one that sci-fi movies try all the time to develop. It raises issues such as the challenge for a humanoid to genuinely express human emotion, the capacity for a machine to be ultimately controllable by humans, the limits of super-intelligent activity, and the sophisticated display of "real" feelings and cognitions. All these issues are relevant to this movie, but instead of the callous, "caring" intent softly delivered by Hal, the killer computer, in Kubrick's masterpiece, "2001: Space Odyssey" (1968), this movie substitutes the thrill of explicit, violent action to make its points. Its suspense comes not through the thoughtful communication of ideas, but through the constant threat of gruesome events that are always going to eventuate.
The character of Morgan is suitably complex and threatening. She is coldly compelling, and beneath her sympathetic androgynous appearance as a young teenage girl lies a violent machine that erupts when provoked. Taylor-Joy is impressive in the role of Morgan, but the movie manages to explore only superficially the meaning of the question,"what being human is really like?". In the film, Morgan is depicted as "vulnerable", but in the final run we don't know exactly what her (or its) vulnerability really means.
This is a thriller movie that engages the viewer dramatically, but erratically. It manages to achieve a little of the cognitive fascination of "Ex Machina" (2015) now and again. Essentially, however, the film fits a horror, rather than a sci-fi, genre.
Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
20th. Century Fox
Released November 25th., 2016