RATING 2.5 stars
PLOT A consultant is sent to investigate an artificial intelligence experiment gone haywire.
CAST Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Paul Giamatti
RATED R (strong violence)
BOTTOM LINE A reasonably effective sci-fi thriller that owes its existence to “Blade Runner.”
A corporate-funded experiment gives the film “Morgan” its title. Morgan isn’t a code-name but a person, or at least a creature, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. She looks like a blonde teenager in a hoodie, but she’s really just 5 years old, which may explain why her creators — a team of scientists in an isolated compound — treat her so fondly even when she maims and kills them.
Into this weirdness steps Lee Weathers (Kate Mara), a risk-management consultant sent to check out “the asset.” Mara, a whippet-thin actress with penetrating eyes, is a perfect choice for the steely Weathers, who doesn’t care at all that Morgan feels human and calls Dr. Lui Cheng (Michelle Yeoh) her “mother.” Weathers is very particular about pronouns: “It’s not a she. It’s an it.”
“Morgan” is written by Seth Owen and marks the directorial debut of Luke Scott. He is the son of Ridley Scott, whose 1982 film, “Blade Runner,” about a cop who hunts humanoid replicants, is surely the definitive film about artificial life. And herein lies a problem: “Morgan” essentially is “Blade Runner,” almost beat for beat and character for character. One difference is that “Morgan” takes place not in a teeming metropolis but in a single, constrictive location, though even that conceit feels awfully similar to Ridley Scott’s “Alien” (1979). It’s hard to escape the feeling that the son is simply retracing his father’s movies, especially given that Ridley is a producer here.
Luke Scott may earn few points for originality, but his directing skills deserve decent marks. The best moments in “Morgan” are the action sequences, particularly the savage fistfights between Morgan and Weathers. Scott also deserves credit for staging a jittery confrontation between Morgan and a hostile psychologist (played to cocky perfection by Paul Giamatti). The solid cast includes Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rose Leslie and a very good Toby Jones as Morgan’s protective father figure.
“Morgan” gets a little grim and heavy-handed, especially as the bodies pile up. What’s more, you’ll spot the film’s “twist” ending from at least 50 minutes away. Still, “Morgan” works as a reasonably effective sci-fi thriller — perhaps even more so if you’ve never seen a movie by Ridley Scott.