Perhaps this is what happens when the son of a veteran director scores a major studio debut with financing in place and a talented cast without truly proving himself as a filmmaker. That director is Luke Scott, son of Ridley, and the film is Morgan, a very undercooked, violent science fiction rip-off of about a hundred better films. The film absolutely tanked at the box office, raking in less than $9 million despite having a cast that includes Kate Mara, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Paul Giamatti. A bizarre mix of sci-fi, horror and moral drama, Morgan floats big ideas then does absolutely nothing with them. I do not know whether it wants to be some minimalist arthouse project or simply fails as popcorn entertainment, but Morgan should have been heavily reworked before hitting the screen.
In the opening, overhead shot, we observe a young woman jump across a table and stab another woman in the eye. The aggressor is Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy), a human hybrid that was birthed in a lab. She is only five years old but looks like a teenager. During a tantrum, Morgan lashed out and injured scientist Kathy Grieff (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The company funding this groundbreaking research sends a risk-assessment technician, Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), to determine whether or not to terminate Morgan and the rest of the project. At the remote, contained facility, Weathers meets Grieff and lead scientist Lui Cheng (Michelle Yeoh), who is Morgan's "mother." She also interacts with a psychologist, Alan Shapiro (Giamatti), and Amy Menser (Rose Leslie), Morgan's caretaker.
I am not going to rag on Luke Scott too much, as there are glimpses of the better filmmaker he may become on display throughout. He has an eye for staging, and does a nice job creating a lean, attractive movie. Seth Owen's derivative screenplay lets Scott down, despite having lingered on Hollywood's infamous "Black List" of unproduced screenplays for some time. Despite a last-second revelation that is not particularly surprising, I knew exactly where Morgan was going in the opening minutes. The only thing that did surprise me was the graphic violence, as I had in my head that this was a PG-13 affair. It is not, and there are some surprisingly graphic moments during the climax of Scott's film.
It is difficult not to compare Morgan to a host of other science fiction films, particularly last year's Ex Machina. As expected, the "machine" wants to be human, and begins to understand the concepts of love, fear and mortality. The film never explores deeper issues like the ethics of this research, and instead goes through one monotonous scene after another, where the talented cast drily recites their dialogue. Why is Morgan an effective killing machine? Is there something tainting these hybrid humans? What is the facility's cook making this evening? You'll never know, because Morgan does not care to tell you. Instead, it feels stuffy and pretentious, as if the air of superiority is there only to mask its many flaws.
The 2.39:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is sharp, clear and a bit drab, with cool greys and blues taking over the color scheme during much of the film. Blacks are a bit anemic in some shots, but shadow detail is good. Fine-object detail is abundant, and texture is readily apparent on the steel, glass and wood sets. I did not notice aliasing or compression artifacts.
The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is aggressive and immersive, with excellent dialogue reproduction and effects blending. Ambient and action effects make use of the surrounds, and the LFE supports the violent action. The score is weighty and layered appropriately. A host of lossy dubs and subtitle options are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy, a both iTunes and UltraViolet HD digital copies. The film's super generic artwork is replicated on the glossy slipcover. Modified Organism: The Science Behind Morgan (19:40/HD) attempts to support the plot with facts. You also get some Deleted Scenes (6:03 total/HD), with optional commentary by Scott; Loom (20:27/HD), the director's short film, also with optional commentary, with similar themes; an Audio Commentary with Luke Scott; an Image Gallery (3:38/HD) and Trailers (4:07/HD).
The directorial debut of filmmaker Ridley Scott's son, Luke Scott, is a disappointing rehash of numerous science fiction projects. Morgan has a talented cast and some violent action, but the film is a barely cohesive collection of undercooked ideas. Skip It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.