Director: Luke Scott (Loom, one episode of The Hunter)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Quick Synopsis: Scientists create Morgan, a genetically engineered advanced human, who then goes “grrr”, “arg” and *stab in eye*.
First off, this film has been horribly marketed. I haven’t seen a single trailer at the cinema, or a poster. In fact if I wasn’t checking comingsoon.net every day I wouldn’t even know this film existed. Which is a shame as the trailer showed a lot of potential, a more human Ex Machina starring Toby Jones, Paul Giamatti, and the lead from (the very very creepy) The Witch. This could be a true cult classic. So my expectations were high going in. The opening scene is very well done, it’s shot like security footage and the screen is full of lots of little details which help make it seem more real. Actually there’s a lot of stuff like that, there’s nothing visually that seems fake. The environment they’ve created looks like people live there, and have done for a while. One scene in particular stands out; when Kate Mara’s character (I wouldn’t really call her the protagonist, and I’ll go into that later) is speaking to Toby Jones’ character. They’re just watching something on his computer screen, now, ordinarily you can just do that and it will be fine. But they did something different here, they wrote notes on post-it notes and dotted them around the room, notes on the facility etc. This really helped the world seem real and they should be commended for that. Also, Morgan, the title character, isn’t too heavily featured in the opening section. The scenes of her are either from far away, or the security footage which is almost overhead, as such you never really get a good look at her, you just see her through people’s descriptions of what she’s like. This is a masterclass in setting up a character, a masterclass in which they forgot to do the final exam and just spat on a piece of paper and handed that in. See when you do something like that, the reveal has to have a certain weight to it, you need the main character to step out of the shadows, or step into frame in a certain way, basically you need to have a moment where it feels like you’re opening the curtains to the character, and this film doesn’t do that. The first main look at this character is just a standard shot, someone’s talking to her and it cuts to her. As such this robs the audience of that “wow” moment, it makes her seem ordinary. Which is another problem I had with this film, most of the time you’re told she’s intelligent and advanced, but she’s not given many chances to showcase this as (spoilers) they don’t have her attack people on a large scale until quite far into the film. As such they have to just have other characters tell you how brilliant she is, then follow that up with things we associate smart people with, like playing chess, listening to opera music, and…..actually that might have been it.
That’s kind of a running theme with the movie, they built up Morgan to be something she’s not. The way the actress plays her is more Children Of The Corn than anything else, but only in the present day scenes. There’s a few flashback scenes where Anya Taylor-Joy REALLY nails it, in those fleeting moments the character is brilliant, likeable, and human, everything that’s not there in the present scenes. No idea why there’s such a stark difference between the two but it’s kind of disappointing. This would be more acceptable of course, if Kate Mara’s character was engaging, but she’s not. She’s not even really the protagonist, which is odd as it means the movie doesn’t really have one. It’s not a problem with the acting, she does brilliant with what she’s given, it’s just the way the character is written means she doesn’t have much substance. There are two characters who I found interesting, Boyd Holbrook’s character, and Michelle Yeoh’s character. Yeoh’s character is really the emotional linchpin of the movie, but it’s not one they do enough with. Boyd Holbrook is given what could be a really unimportant character, the chef. Yet his character has some of the best lines of the script. He’s the only one who finds the character of Morgan a bit “off”, and one of his reasons for doing so is that she made a perfect risotto, and he was unnerved by that as he feels cooking requires heart and passion, things which are inherently human. As such the fact that she managed this shakes his whole belief system and the actor handles it subtly and perfectly. In fact, whilst we’re on the subject, I really think Holbrook could be a fantastic romantic lead in a film, and I hope he’s given the chance.
Honestly I think this film’s biggest problem is another film. Throughout this whole film I was just thinking, “that reminded me of Ex Machina, I really need to watch that again some time”, and that’s the main thing I got from this film, that I need to watch another film again. I wasn’t thinking about this film, I wasn’t thinking about how character’s deaths effected me etc. On the bright side this meant I also wasn’t thinking of the really asinine obligatory twist ending, and I also wasn’t thinking of how much I hated some of the fight scenes as they were cut too quickly so they didn’t flow naturally, it was shot exactly how a student would film it, which is an accurate summary of the entire film actually: a very well made student film.
- Creates the universe very organically.
- Good side characters.
- Some very good shorts.
- It feels more expensive than it’s budget would make you think it is.
- Lacks a good protagonist.
- Really obvious twist.
- Waste of Paul Giamatti.
- Most things it does well, Ex Machina did better.
- The trailer made you think the film would be about Morgan turning violent, but that doesn’t happen until the final third of the film.
Instead of this, watch: