One subgenre of science fiction we don’t see enough of is the mad scientist-story. This is where people attempt to play God and bring something into the world that nature had never intended to. While sometimes the experiments are done with dark intentions, many of the stories feature such scientists as naïve and only trying to improve life. The ones with the beakers and electricity often get lost within their goal and loose their morals in favor of success. The prime example of this has to be Frankenstein. Mary Shelly’s novel of a man trying to give life to a body has captivated and spooked people for decades. So where are the rest of these mad scientist stories?
The majority of them have been found in film format with other examples including The Fly, Re-Animator, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the one that pushed it the furthest, The Human Centipede. Today’s film seems to be a combination of two movies, Ex Machina and Splice. This movie also happens to be directed by Luke Scott, son of the acclaimed Ridley Scott. Now if his father can change science fiction with Alien, can the son do so again with Morgan?
Lee Weathers (played by Kate Mara) is a risk assessment specialist who is sent to Northern Ireland to examine a company’s top-secret project about a child that has been created by artificial DNA inserted into a test tube egg. It may be only five years old, but Morgan (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) is already a young woman who is intelligent and seems human enough that her behavior specialist treats her as such. Morgan recently has a tantrum that caused her to lash out a one of the scientists. As such, she lost her privilege to go outside and is the reason why Lee is there; to determine if she is worth keeping alive.
Lee immediately senses that Morgan might be too dangerous and unpredictable to keep going with. Despite the pleas of other scientists that see Morgan as a daughter, Lee only sees her as an inferior company product that needs to be stopped. Things reach a breaking point when a psychologist (played by Paul Giamatti) pushes her feelings enough to murder him and to try and make an escape. It becomes a cat and mouse chase when Lee follows Morgan into the woods to eliminate her.
You can tell that Luke Scott had a lot of influence from his father as there are a lot of elements of Alien towards the end. I’ll say that Morgan is a nice looking movie, but not only is it telling stories we’ve seen before, but creates more problems. Ex Machina is one of the best artificial intelligent movies I’ve seen in a while, but this is similar, but without the intelligent ideas nor the script to pull it off. I’ll say that the transition from a scientist movie to a horror movie has to be one of the sloppiest transitions I’ve seen in a while.
While a lot of critics seemed to have enjoyed the performance of Kate Mara, I found it surprisingly stilted and plain. While the movie explains it in the story’s twist (you can figure it out very early on), it came off as emotionless, as if the actress put herself on autopilot. An insurance seminar would have been more interesting then Kate Mara’s performance. The movie happens to be pretty short, barley making in at an hour and a half. I’ll bet that several pages of the script were torn out in favor of speeding up the action.
I’ll give this one bit of artificial DNA out of five. Morgan simply doesn’t offer anything new, nor tells it’s own story in an entertaining way. If you want a good movie about tampering with human genetics, just watch Splice. Morgan is one word movie title I doubt I’ll remember come next year. Stop this experiment.