Artificial intelligence gets stabby in Morgan; is it worth a look? Lee and Maria let you know with their reviews.
[FULL DISCLOSURE: One of our writers worked on this movie, credits and all. While we try not to let this colour our reviews (or at least, not unless we mention it), it would be wrong to deny some of us don’t have something of a personal interest in how Morgan turned out. Just worth noting.]
Science fiction need not be cerebral by definition. Sometimes, you just want to watch a film about a robot who learns just enough about emotions to flip out and just straight up murder people. Audiences are fine with this; the reason Will Smith’s I-Robot gets frequent airtime on terrestrial television is not because its stellar writing is a tool with which to teach the ignorant masses.
A concept need not be well-explored for it to prove insightful or interesting; we’ve seen this countless times. Interstellar, for a more recent example, does a good job telling a story based around half-understood facts and unfinished theories. All the audience asks is that the film tell the story well (read: at minimum, with consistency) and, when it comes time to suspend our disbelief, convince us what makes the act worth the time and effort.
Morgan does a pretty great job setting the scene, taking its time to help us understand the scenario while also setting up the chess pieces so that, when it comes time to play the game, there’s no waiting around. And the build-up of tension and investment gathers pace rather steadily through the first two acts, climaxing in an excellent and pivotal interrogation scene that really steals the show. It’s just a shame what one crossroad decision can do to waste that well-earned tension.
In the final third, and it’s no real spoiler as its pretty much in the trailer, title android Morgan goes crazy and starts killing people. It’s certainly not very cerebral, but that’s fine, it’s not a bad idea at all really for a good thriller. Unfortunately, the movie lays a lot of Morgan’s reasoning on several very underdeveloped relationships, and, perhaps more unfortunate still, the narrative actually teases a pretty exciting alternative story that the writers, for whatever reason, chose not to take.
To simplify without giving too much away, it’s pretty much the choice between a poorly explained slasher movie and an against-all-odds, run-for-the-hills survival story featuring robots and violence and chases and, most tantalising of all, a chance for the likeable characters to really shine in a scenario that really tests how committed they are to one another. It’s an absolute shame, but one ‘misunderstanding’ cliché sets us barrelling down one more boring path instead of a potentially much more interesting one, and whether the writing or the budget are the blame, ultimately it’s the wrong choice.
What’s left is a film that, while entertaining in parts, feels shallow in the wake of a much more interesting film set up by its own narrative. Couple that with some subpar, dawdling forest action and potentially the lamest car chase in all of science fiction and it’s a real nosedive in quality that feels pretty difficult to recommend.
Still, for the curious, there is plenty to like in Morgan. Performances are pretty great all round, the setting is nice, the characters aren’t terrible and that faint glimmer of hope is still more interesting than feeling nothing. Just don’t expect this chess game to get too interesting; it is still chess after all.
I worked on this – woohoo!
But it wasn’t very good – boohoo 😦
[Lee’s review originally uploaded 5th September 2016]