Ridley Scott’s progeny, Luke Scott, takes on themes similar to his father’s work in his feature directorial debut, “Morgan.” In a story that contemplates the emotional boundaries and consequences of artificial intelligence, Seth W. Owen’s script finds an appropriate marriage between material and yes, family legacy.
In Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner,” Deckard was compelled by the state to hunt for replicants. In “Morgan,” artificial intelligence is a privatized affair. Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), a corporate fixer/troubleshooter, is dispatched to a remote lab to check on the status of one of her company’s assets, a girl known as Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy) to her ad-hoc family of scientist caretakers.
In this iteration of artificial intelligence, the focus is on developing emotion, and the scientists have bonded with the girl of nearly psychic ability, who is almost fully grown at age 5. Nature walks and birthday parties are part of the routine until Morgan loses her temper with Kathy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and gouges her eye out. Lee’s job is to assess the situation and decide on a course of action.
Her task is complicated by the close relationships between Morgan and the scientists — team leader (Michelle Yeoh), free-spirited behaviorist (Rose Leslie), an idealistic geneticist (Toby Jones), their fastidious coordinator (Michael Yare), and a couple of loving doctors, (Chris Sullivan and Vinette Robinson). Some are unwilling to terminate her, despite the increasing levels of violence when provoked. With dissent among the ranks, and murderous chaos breaking out, only Lee can take control of the situation.
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“Morgan” takes its place in the canon of awesome female-driven sci-fi, including “Alien” and “T2.” Neither Lee nor Morgan are clearly heroine or villain — Lee’s only attempting to do her job and preserve the asset, while Morgan is attempting to preserve the asset, herself. The two tangle with an efficient violence, landing blows and drawing blood with nary a flinch. It’s a fascinating take on the possibilities and limits of artificial intelligence and artificial emotion, and it brings up questions about the rights and autonomy of these creatures.
The failure of “Morgan” is its lack of restraint. The first half of the film is as tightly controlled as the lab. The second half descends into a bloodbath, and the story twists are spoken aloud. But it’s far more fun when just a theory. Over-explanation takes a film from an eerie think piece to a banal sci-fi thriller; it robs you of the chance to trade post-film hypotheses. That kind of ambiguity makes “Blade Runner” a classic; the lack of ambiguity means “Morgan” strays into run-of-the-mill genre territory, despite its deeper ideas.
Rated R for brutal violence, and some language. 1:32. Fayette Mall, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester.