Kate Mara in Morgan
One of the all-time great good-bad movies is Deep Blue Sea, the movie about the super-shark that eats a bunch of people, and figures out how to turn an oven on in order to kill someone inside it. Deep Blue Sea is just the right amount of terrible, action oriented, and batsh*t insane to make for perfect guilty pleasure viewing. Morgan, a low-rent Ex Machina knock off, could have been the Deep Blue Sea of artificial intelligence movies, but while it has some decent action and is certainly terrible, it’s not quite batsh*t insane enough.
Kate Mara stars in Morgan, which features a slew of more interesting actors in smaller roles. When you have Michelle Yeoh, Toby Jones, Paul Giamatti, Brian Cox, and Jennifer Jason Leigh in a movie and Kate Mara is the lead, you know you’re in for a bad time. She’s not a bad actor, per se, it’s just that up against actors like Leigh and Giamatti her limits are thrown into sharp relief. Her chief talent is looking doe-eyed during intense exposition dumps, and she gets plenty of chances to use it throughout Morgan, which features characters explaining things even after other characters have said, “We get it,” and you have long since stopped caring.
The eponymous Morgan is played by Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), challenging Maika Monroe’s title as “actress you put in every scary movie”. She’s effective as Morgan, a blank-faced teenager with a personality deficit, but she’s stranded—along with everyone else—in this terrible—and worse, dull—movie. Morgan is an artificial intelligence human hybrid, and Lee (Mara) has been sent to investigate her following a violent episode during a tantrum. (She may look like a teen, thanks to accelerated growth, but emotionally she’s five years old.) The twist is blatantly obvious and the movie takes itself so seriously it’s a total drag to sit through, even with a sub-ninety minute run time.
Morgan is a Frankenstein’s monster of other, better sci-fi films, from Ex Machina to Species to Blade Runner, which makes sense because it’s the feature film directorial debut of Luke Scott, youngest spawn of Ridley. Scott the Younger isn’t a horrible director, but directly referencing one of his father’s most famous films isn’t helping, either. Morgan could have used less self-importance and more bonkers plotting—it isn’t as clever as it thinks it is, so it could at least be fun. But it isn’t fun at all. It’s so invested in building up to the Shocking Twist which is apparent within the first third of the movie that it forgets to be engaging. Or even interesting.
The only scene that has any kind of verve is the one in which Paul Giamatti interrogates Morgan, and that’s because Paul Giamatti is a goddamned national treasure who can make anything watchable. If he was the lead, and Kate Mara was replaced with LL Cool J, and Morgan was a super smart shark devoted to murder, then we’d be onto something. But instead Morgan is a derivate, clunky, dead boring exercise in science fiction more notable for nepotism than any creative achievement.
Attached - Kate Mara at a New York Fashion Week event last night.
Astrid Stawiarz/ Mark Sagliocco/ Getty Images