I remember seeing the trailer for this and thinking it was kindred to Ex Machina (2015), which overall was underwhelming in the second half. Behold Morgan, a story about a bioengineered child who has exceeded expectations by age 5. Her creators are overawed by her but unfortunately due to a brutal incident the synthetic human Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy) has to be risk-assessed by the company that created her. They send risk management consultant Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) to the secret laboratory facility.
In this age, society is always reminded of scientific and technological developments. Scientists are continually improving AI and allowing robots to become human-like. The traditional people of this world question when will the line be crossed, when will it get to the point that developing something so advanced that it can think for itself passes the principles of human life, where the AI are more dangerous and able than us. I have had this argument countless times, that we should always look to continue to develop technology to improve our quality of life, and to protect the Earth’s environment. Those scientists cannot just stop at a certain point because that’s the point of science – it continuously evolves.
And in a sense, that’s what the first half of the film reminds audiences. The directorial debut by Luke Scott (son of Ridley Scott) created a movie that touches on the subject matter above. If we create something wonderful but could potentially become a risk to human life, do we terminate that creation or try and assess it to improve it? A lot of this film’s sound elements extract those from Ex-Machina when it comes to this topic, and you detect the same dilemma. The first part of the movie reminded me of a quote from the TV show Fringe (2008-13) where Walter Bishop belts, “There is only one God in this laboratory – and it isn’t yours.” Scientists sometimes fail to remember that even Gods can be overthrown. That quote essentially summarises the first half of the film. It’s interesting to watch this debate unfold on the screen while all the scientists at the facility seem emotionally connected to a somewhat violent synthetic human.
Kate Mara does her part to play the enemy on site coolly. She is risk assessing, which means nobody likes the potential outcome of that risk.
The first half of the feature precisely touches on the theory, yet like Ex Machina, the second half goes away from the purpose and becomes an action-packed thriller that sees itself off for the rest of the film. Luke’s debut, unfortunately, suffers from a predictable and mediocre second half where violence becomes full throttle. Luckily Mara is used to a fast moving action film as she has proven in her filmography, but I felt the film suffered from straying too far from the point of the narrative. When the movie questioned the use of synthetic humans it became enticing, and you felt on the edge, but as soon as it starts to become a cat and mouse episode, it becomes predictable and leisurely.
On the plus side, Anya Taylor-Joy puts in a heroic performance as a human that’s created, and she portrays a person that looks and feels human, but is not, and the confusion that it must place on someone that has grown up in a laboratory. Nothing to grumble about in the other performances and overall everyone puts in a decent effort to at least make it a watchable film. The scenes as a whole are viewed from the perspective of Lee, and the other characters do a praiseworthy job at allowing you to feel as Lee feels. She is naturally scrutinised and not allowed to breath as she moves through the compound to assess various aspects of the situation. Have you ever been micro-managed? You get this suppressed feeling of always been watched, and that has to be the credit of the performances from the cast to make you understand what it must be like to walk into this site.
Morgan is worth watching for the first half alone, and if you are interested in the discussion of scientists having proposed limits, then you will enjoy it in parts. And you may even enjoy the second half if you are into action-packed sequences.
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Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.