What I'm Watching: Morgan
I have looked at a LOT of movies this year about emerging artificial intelligences and what constitutes new life. Ex Machina reigns the roost, and Uncanny was a pretty solid low budget version of that sort of story. Morgan is another take on a lot of the same ideas, although it's not about robotic life, but still a manufactured being. Very much in the same realm of playing god, just in a biological way instead of mechanical.
After a terrible incident where the titular Morgan attacks one of the scientists that created her, a risk assessment specialist, Lee Weathers, is brought in to, well, assess the risk of this project for their corporate overlords, and see if this is a project they still wish to invest in, or if it's time to terminate Morgan.
The comparisons to Ex Machina are almost impossible to avoid, so I'm just gonna dive into the deep end and say flat out, Ex Machina remains the best movie of these sorts of stories for me. It is much MUCH deeper in its thoughtful exploration of the topic, and uses cinematography a lot better. Which isn't to say this is a bad movie, no. I still loved Morgan. It was great, just in its own way, and without as much exploration on the subject of what makes something alive. Which is a bit surprising from a movie associated with Ridley "Blade Runner" Scott, but it's still a good flick. It's directed by his son Luke, in his first feature film, and he does a rock solid job, using the sets to great effect, and making good use of lighting and reflections.
This is almost the more popcorn movie version of the AI sort of story, with less deep thoughts on the subject matter, and more about the consequences of such a creation, and the dangers of it. It positions the plot in a much more action oriented range, which is perfectly fine.
The story is also very straightforward, as they talk a lot about what Morgan is, what her fate will be, and while there's a twist, and one of the big questions is just who walks out of this movie alive, they're almost afterthoughts of just exploring the story from start to finish. You think there might be some hope that Morgan might come through her evaluation okay, but right at the midway point things go HORRIBLY and wonderfully wrong, launching the second half into a breakneck pace of adventure as Morgan fights for her very survival.
Kate Mara is wonderfully cast as the risk assessment operative, showing emotion for how these people feel about their project, while also being very cold and distantas her job dictates she be to get the job done. She cannot become emotionally attached to Morgan, and she straddles that line of "I have a job to do, but I understand this is a tough situation".
Anya Taylor-Joy, fresh off The Witch, is also great as Morgan. She's believable in where she lies between humanity, inhumanity, and something all new. She shows flashes of familiar emotions, and then in an instant she is baffled by our own actions and metaphors. She's only five years old technically, but accelerated to late teens, early 20s, physically. She plays that disconnect of emotional maturity perfectly, with the added bit of flat out not being human. She makes you feel for her one moment, when you want this girl, created by man or not, to be free, to have a life, but then she does such horrible things.
Both of the leads keep the audience on their toes on just what they should be feeling at any given moment. This is a living being, but capable of horrible acts, but does she really deserve to be destroyed, or can they teach her, or...I love when a movie makes the audience question it's own feelings from one moment to the next.
Morgan is a definite recommendation, and while it doesn't quite blow your mind like Ex Machina does, it is still a very good movie, in its own way. Check it out!