I've been given the opportunity to preview a selection of films over the course of this year to give my opinion and to build buzz for the releases, and it's not an privilege I take lightly. However, here are many, many media personalities out there, and living in Vancouver, it's especially difficult to have one's voice be heard among the many.
For that reason, I will at no point claim to be an expert in any field, nor a professional movie reviewer, nor even a filmmaker. In my reviews, I will present my findings from the perspective of one artist experience the work of another. I will consider my job complete if readers of this series feel as though they've taken something away that they can consider applying to their own creative process.
Morgan, described as an science-fiction thriller, opens with an almost futuristic, violent sequence that sets a tone for the movie that can be extrapolated from the trailers (I had only seen one beforehand). The titular character is quickly established as a volatile enigma who doesn't take centrestage herself, rather acting as the catalyst to introduce and develop Kate Mara's character, Lee Weathers.
The progression of the first act is interesting, introducing us to a series of characters assigned to the "Morgan" program, each with their own flakes of exposition that suggest there's more behind the scenes to each character - though, without going into spoilers, several of these characters never feel like they reach the peak of their potential arcs. Luckily, the filmmakers do a good job of using the supporting cast as a foundation to further develop Morgan her/itself, as we learn more about the time that the team has spent with Morgan and the bonds that developed.
Though Weathers' presence presents an idle threat to the rest of the characters' interests, it's not until Paul Giamatti's arrogant Dr. Alan Shapiro enters the story that things take a sudden, though predictable twist and the true threat becomes known. From there, we begin a path of predictable violence and deaths, redeemed by some small unexpected twists within each physical altercation, eventually leading to a large twist at the end of the movie.
Frankly, I enter most movies these days with the assumption that they'll fall short of expectations. As a viewer, I feel like I'm pretty good at identifying cliches, forced dialogue, interrupted plotlines, and so on. In the case of Morgan, I was pleasantly surprised. Scattered throughout were potentially cringeworthy moments, but it's as though the writers and director identified those early on and found a way to add a new twist to them that defied expectation. With the exception of one "escape" scene that felt like they were trying to write themselves out of a small corner, the plot made decent sense.
In terms of characters, as I mentioned earlier, a number of the supporting cast members felt criminally underused and one of the best parts of the movie was Paul Giamatti's character who had only a few minutes of screentime. The problem with casting such interesting actors as Toby Jones for supporting characters is that if they don't get enough dialogue to play with or enough screentime, it can become frustratingly distracting as we wait for them to take the stage. Regardless, even having them sprinkled in was fun and helped keep the audience interested.
The very end of the movie explains why everything happened as it did and ties up a few confusing loose ends, and interestingly, almost implies the possibility of a franchise opportunity. That, however, makes me a little uncomfortable - if that were to be the case, I'm not sure the limited mythology the plot established is rich enough to mine a sequel out of. If I had a vote, I'd recommend this movie be considered a decent one-and-done, and have audiences choose whether or not it was worth their time.
My biggest takeaway was the social commentary that positive screamed at the viewer during the "psychiatric evaluation" scene. With lines such as, "I am something new. There is no appropriate label for me yet," the viewer is forced the consider the implications of new categories of individual, which can applied to any number of social movements we're living right now - also interesting was the fact that there was debate throughout the story as to whether Morgan should be referred to as "she" or simply "it". Definitely good food for thought.
In conclusion, I recommend anyone interest in light science fiction (which is all this movie really is) check it out if they've got a free evening. Thanks again to Phil at Interact Communications for inviting me to the screening!
Morgan opens in theatres on September 2nd, 2016, released by 20th Century Fox.