December 16, 2016

Blu-Ray Review: MORGAN

Starring Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Toby Jones, Rose Leslie, Michelle Yeoh, Boyd Holbrook, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Giamatti, Brian Cox. Directed by Luke Scott. (2016, 92 min).

The title character in Morgan is an artificially created young woman raised in a remote lab in the woods. Though she's only been alive for five years, her growth rate and intelligence has been significantly enhanced. The company behind the project has big plans for her, but after Morgan attacks a member of the team that created her, they send Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), a risk-assessment specialist, to determine whether or not they should pull the plug on the whole thing. Of course, Morgan is just getting started...otherwise, no movie.

Yet another film which warns us the the consequences of genetic tampering, Morgan sort-of plays like a brooding variation of Species. Only instead of hot & horny Natasha Henstridge mating & killing her way through Los Angeles, our monster resembles the kind of hooded, emo teenager you might see slumped in the back of a high school classroom with photos of Black Veil Brides plastered all over her binder. It must be said, though, that Anya Taylor-Joy is quietly unnerving - and surprisingly sympathetic - in the role. We always feel like she could go postal at any second with little provocation, providing much of the film's tension.

Peanut butter and jelly can be a messy affair.
Morgan is a smarter movie than Species, though not nearly as much goofy fun, taking the premise far more seriously than it should. After a gonzo opening scene that promises a messy good time, the characters (none of whom are as interesting as Morgan herself) do a lot of talking and arguing before anything really exciting happens. Not only that, Mara's icy performance essentially gives away the big final plot twist the film has worked so hard to set up.

Still, while ultimately predictable, Morgan has enough moments to make it worth checking out. Paul Giamatti's glorified cameo as a hateful psychologist livens things up considerably and there are a few nifty death scenes. Director Luke Scott (Ridley's son) does an decent job in his feature film debut, showing some admirable restraint in resisting the urge to turn Morgan into an over-the-top spectacle.

Perhaps too much restraint in the end. During the final act, Morgan fizzles out just when it should be gaining momentum. Instead of a whiz-bang climax as a reward for the sporadically-interesting first hour, it devolves into a relatively routine chase and unsatisfactory coda that most viewers will see coming a mile away. Had they tried to have a bit more fun with the material, Morgan could have been a lively good time. As it is, the film is watchable, but probably nothing most would feel compelled to revisit that often.

FEATURETTE: “Modified Organism: The Science Behind Morgan”
LOOM” - A 20 minute sci-fi short by Luke Scott, starring Giovanni Ribisi (with optional commentary), which is arguably better than the feature film itself

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