Luke Scott’s debut is like a crummy Ex Machina

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Opens September 2

Very few filmmakers make their first feature within the studio system. Then again, being Ridley Scott’s son opens a few doors. But while Morgan, Luke Scott’s debut film, isn’t totally incompetent, it retreads themes other movies have done much better — including his dad’s Alien.

Risk-assessment specialist Lee Weathers (Kate Mara, House of Cards) is sent to a remote research facility to evaluate a bioengineered individual (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch) who stabbed one of her doctors with a fork. Under the suspicion that the hoodie-loving entity — the Morgan of the title —  may not be able to control her emotions, Lee must determine the fate of the asset.

Because of isolation and amount of work invested, the scientists behind the project have developed emotional ties with Morgan, and are not particularly willing to cooperate.

Even for a slow burner, Morgan takes too long to get going. A dream cast of character actors — Toby Jones, Michelle Yeoh, Paul Giamatti, Jennifer Jason Leigh — is wasted in stock roles (the socially awkward genius, the frosty chief, the asshole psychologist, the glutton for punishment).

Given all the time Scott had to give the characters some substance, there is no excuse for these cardboard figures.

The film’s unevenness is punctuated by intense bursts of violence. Sure, Morgan comes alive with every jolt, but do we really need an over-choreographed mano-a-mano between the very tiny Mara and the only slightly taller Taylor-Joy?

Plenty of sources of inspiration can be found in Morgan. Frankenstein is the most obvious reference, but elements of Ex Machina (the soullessness of artificial intelligence) and the Alien saga (corporations protecting their investment over their personnel) can be found. Testament of Scott’s inexperience is that, instead of exploring Morgan’s capacity for morality, he would rather show someone violently murdered.

The only profound question this film inspires is, “why did I pay good money for this”?