I do about as well with science fiction as I did with science class, which is to say I usually zone out at the important parts that explain what I need to know, and why. This is exactly what happened while watching Luke Scott’s Morgan, so I have no idea how the team of scientists in the film bio-engineered a human-ish… thingy. Luckily, in the synthetic human sub-(sub-?)genre, the how isn’t as important as the why of it all. From Blade Runner to Ex Machina, we delve into murky questions like; is an artificial human being necessarily a better human being? Just because something looks like a human, does that mean it thinks and feels like one? Does it have the same rights as the rest of us? Oh God, why is it killing everyone?! And so on.
Admittedly, the most enjoyable part of the ‘fake human’ narrative for me is the opportunity it provides to yell at onscreen folks who can’t actually hear me. Much like people yell, “Don’t go out there alone!” at girls in horror movies, I yell, “Don’t make the fake humans smarter than the real humans, bro!” at onscreen scientists who are all, “What could possibly go wrong?”. Don’t worry, I didn’t yell in the movie theatre, I am not that person yet. But I was sure as hell yelling on the inside.
The first third of the film sets up the requisite list of things to ponder, and does so quite effectively, if a little on-the-nose, with tired, groan-worthy lines like, “She’s not a ‘she’, she’s an ‘IT’!” And as Morgan’s behaviour grows increasingly erratic and aggressive, I couldn’t help but wonder if she wasn’t acting more human instead of less. I mean, if you locked me in a bunker for my entire life, then sent Paul Giamatti in there to scream in my face for half an hour, I would probably snap, too.
It quickly becomes clear that Morgan is simply not equipped to explore or address the ‘big questions’ of the ‘synthetic human’ film. There is no time taken to develop the characters, and no space afforded to explore the grey areas of their work. The film eventually tosses all those weighty moral and ethical questions aside and goes a bit Kill Bill, almost encouraging us to forget about all this narrative stuff and just enjoy the carnage. It helps that all the characters are just too flat and unlikeable for me to really root for their survival.
To this end, your fight sequences are really quite good. The stunts and choreography are complemented by a touch of blood & guts, and bone-crunching sound effects. It usually isn’t a good thing when a film’s stylistic elements completely eclipse the narrative, but in this case, there wasn’t a whole lot of narrative heft to worry about anyway, so no real harm done. If anything, your high-octane fisticuffs helped the film pick up its pace where it would have otherwise trudged flatly towards the credits, and the part where the audience files out of the theatre shrugging, “It was no Ex Machina.”