September is always a weird month for movies. We're just exiting out of the May-July Summer Blockbuster season, but we're still not into the November-December Oscar Bait showcase. Basically, we're in limbo. Anything could happen over the next few months. While there are a few interesting movies coming out in September and October ("Snowden," "Voyage of Time," "Certain Women," "The Handmaiden" and a few others), it's also possible we might not get a truly remarkable piece of work until Ang Lee, Denis Villeneuve and Kenneth Lonergan bestow new work upon us around mid-November.
"Morgan" fits the September bill nicely as it's most definitely a movie that was made with actors, lights and a camera recording the action, but the script is so sloppy and under-developed that it barely feels like a pilot to a TV show. It's filled with good actors that are let down scene after scene by a script that lures the audience into thinking there will be growth or arcs for its characters. Each and every person in this movie exists only to be possible fodder for Morgan to tear through like flesh piñatas.
Kate Mara plays Lee Weathers, a risk-assessment specialist for a corporation that has funded a research project dedicated to creating artificial human beings. Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy) is one such artificial human being and she is having some behavioral problems. After Morgan stabs one of her handlers multiple times in the eye, Lee is sent out to the corporation's remote compound in the woods to decide whether Morgan's life is worth the eventual profits to be made.
The first two acts are very economical, setting up the compound and the scientists who run it with an ease not normally found in a freshman director. Luke Scott (son of the great Ridley) frames his shots well and shows an aptitude for action set pieces, but his film goes so far off the rails in the third act that it almost erases the good work he does in the first two.
As the trailers have repeatedly shown, Morgan escapes and starts picking off the scientists one at a time. The film basically goes from an interesting sci-fi morality tale like "Ex Machina" or the first third of "Prometheus" to a bloody thriller similar to "The Lazarus Effect" or the last two-thirds of "Prometheus." Which (if Morgan's change from childlike to murderous was well developed), would be fine, but all we're left with is a monster we don't understand killing people in lab coats we don't care about.
"Morgan" is exactly the kind of movie critics are picturing when they describe something as a "mixed bag." The film is paced well and never boring, but it's so inconsequential and downright stupid as to be forgotten almost instantly. There's also a "twist" ending that is so predictable that instead of being interesting, it's actually laughable. This is the very type of movie for which Redbox was invented.
Dir. Luke Scott
Now playing at Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX