Review: 'Morgan'

A terrible prequel to 'Blade Runner,' a terrible sequel to 'Ex Machina'
Ostensibly a prequel to 'Blade Runner,' Luke Scott's 'Morgan' scans as an 'Ex Machina' sequel.

In essence, Morgan is a heinously overproduced student film, complete with a scad of actors who are too good for it, and a twist ending you'd guess even if director Luke Scott weren't the offspring of Blade Runner's Ridley Scott. A generous person could call Morgan as a prequel to that vaunted, cult sci-fi film from 1982. It's about the creation of genetically altered replicants by the Evil Corporation.

The praiseworthy underactress Kate Mara gives her first boring performance as a "risk management" specialist from EvilCo. Power-coiffed and business-suited, Mara imitates Lindsay Crouse's own numbness as she drives up to a remote forest lab in her Mercedes. While driving, she takes an info-dumping call from her boss (Brian Cox): "We don't want another Helsinki ... preserve the asset."

The "L9 Asset" is Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch) a depressed, greyish girloid in a hoodie being studied by the scientists who engineered her. Morgan has all but gouged out the eye of one of the researchers (Jennifer Jason Leigh, recovering from the assault, plays it stoned from heavy pain medication). Despite this security breach, the scientists conduct themselves slackly, coupling up, drinking in the evening, and not giving Morgan the healthy distance the creature deserves. The cold Chinese physician (Michelle Yeoh) who runs the project floats over her co-workers, keeping to herself the details of the Helsinki fiasco. Strangest of all this medical pack is Rose Leslie's Amy, who can't stop gaping at Morgan (her reflection on the bulletproof glass melts into Morgan's face). What stimulates this trembling, unprofessional passion? You can't tell if it's maternal, or a lover's interest.

It isn't until a shrink (Paul Giamatti) arrives that the trouble really begins. Giamatti's snideness gives some juice to this desiccated thriller. Too bad his only dramatic function here is to be the peasant who waves the torch in Frankenstein's face.

Morgan is an abject answer to Ex Machina. With a cast of characters determined to always put themselves in unnecessary danger—they keep doing what you yell at them not to do—and with the seriously brutal fight scenes to balance the mawkishness, Morgan seems created for the Svengoolie of the 2030s to mock.

R; 92 Mins.
Camera 12

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