Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a bioengineered child who began walking and talking after one month of existence, exceeding the wildest expectations of her creators. When Morgan attacks one of her handlers, a corporate troubleshooter named Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) visits the remote, top-secret facility where she’s kept to assess the risks of keeping her alive. When the girl breaks free and starts running amok, the staff members find themselves in a dangerous lockdown with an unpredictable and violent synthetic human.
The big allure here was the Ex Machina vibes from the trailer. These didn’t end after the trailer as the film definitely shares a lot with Ex Machina from its look to its similar story as in what the events from Ex Machina may have looked like if they had gone wrong (or at least more wrong than they did). Don’t be fooled, however, this isn’t Ex Machina, one of my top 5 films of 2015 (you can read the list here). Ultimately it doesn’t have to be but these similarities do play on expectations a little.
Instead of a A.I humanoid, the focus here is an artificially created super child named Morgan (Taylor-Joy). Once one of the scientists is attacked, a corporate risk-management consultant named Lee Weathers (Mara) is called in to assess the situation and the members of a top-secret facility in which she resides. Of course Morgan doesn’t stay locked up, otherwise that would be a boring film. As soon as she escapes, this was when things started to happen, more on those later.
Weathers first appeared under very mysterious circumstances, talking to a mysterious voice on the phone. Sure the voice tells her what to do but her, or the voice’s, motives aren’t immediately clear. This mysteriousness continued with Weathers’ interactions with the facility’s staff members. She was always brief and to the point with everything which did not allow any of her personality to come out. This made her come off as a little boring and slightly unlikable. We also never learned anything about her but she wasn’t alone in this as just about every other character was a mystery. This made it easy to not care about them.
The scientists at the facility included Morgan’s quasi-creators Dr. Simon Ziegler (Toby Jones) and Dr. Lui Cheng (Michelle Yeoh) who had an emotional connection to her for obvious reasons. More so because of their previous failed attempts at creating life. The other scientists all shared a similar connection seeing that they have been with her from birth to now five years later (you heard that right). While they see her as a person, Weathers sees her as an “it” and a means for her corporation to make a profit.
Morgan wasn’t that exciting a character either. The movie is called Morgan but it didn’t feel like she got the attention she probably deserved. It often seemed like it was more about Weathers than it was about her. She could’ve been better if the film spent more time with her or even just given her more of a backstory. This may have made her more likeable as a character and would have helped to flesh out her relationships with the other characters which the film heavily relied on. She is supposed to be some sort of advanced being but we see little evidence of this. What we got was an unlikeable nuance-free, bipolar teen.
Regardless if you like Weathers or not, her investigation into Morgan could have been cause for some excitement and intrigue but wasn’t. She pretty much had her hand held the whole time but this part of the film didn’t last long anyway because of Morgan’s aforementioned escape. The film was okay up to that point but from this moment on, the film started to fall apart. It tried to deliver a message about the value of life but this gets lost as it devolved into incoherent silliness and nonsense during the film’s second half. The tone of the film followed Morgan’s bipolar nature and changed drastically here as its focus shifted from one point to another.
Without getting into too much spoilery detail, not much of what happened from this point made much sense. Characters were frustrating to watch as they kept making stupid decision after stupid decision. This was more evident with the facility characters as their emotional connection to Morgan clouded their judgement. We could see the bad stuff that was happening but they just couldn’t. As far as Weathers was concerned, she was just “doing her job”. Her mysterious nature, along with this, were seemingly used as excuses in order to justify her actions and behavior.
The above reasons made it hard to ever get invested in the story, more so in the film’s more intense second half (when compared to the first half). It was just hard to get over the bad writing but despite the subpar material, the film still had a decent sense of suspense thanks to the music and score and the way in which the film was shot. The acting was okay to poor but it isn’t completely the actors’ fault because of the bad script. Mara and the rest of the cast were okay but Taylor-Joy needed some more emotion in her performance. Also the end will surely cause head-scratching.
Overall, this was a film with great promise but was squandered by inconsistent performances, brought down by a terrible script.