Things had been going so well with Morgan.
Until, that is, the day she—the synthetic young humanoid who's being raised by a passionate, devoted, secluded group of scientists—unexpectedly takes a knife to the left eye of one of them.
Even then, the scientists are willing to give her the benefit of the doubt—including Dr. Kathy Grieff, the victim recovering from the attack. After all, Morgan continues to exceed their wildest expectations. And, really, she was just upset that she'd just been told that she couldn't go outside anymore. Can you really blame a frustrated young android for resenting being confined to a cold, concrete bunker behind bulletproof glass when she can practically smell the beautiful pine forest just outside?
No, the scientists raising Morgan don't blame her at all. Not even a little bit. It's just a setback, they're convinced. A violent one, to be sure, but nothing that can't be overcome as Morgan grows in her understanding of actions and their consequences.
These researchers' corporate overlords at Syntech don't agree, however. And so they send in cool, competent corporate fixer Lee Weathers to assess the situation. Translation: She's here to discern what kind of risk Morgan really poses … and whether or not it's time to pull the plug on her. Of course, the language used to describe the decision Lee will make is a bit more calculated: to evaluate Morgan's "viability as a product stream."
But Morgan is so much more than just a potential product to the team that's spent seven years creating her from synthetic DNA, watching her gestate, and celebrating her "birth," birthdays and growth.
To them, Morgan isn't a robot gone rogue. She's more like … their daughter. "She's innocent, she's learning, she has a right to make mistakes," one of her parental scientists tells Lee.
"She has no rights whatsoever," Lee responds.
Lee's perspective differs on what Morgan is … or isn't. To Lee, Morgan is something other than a beloved digital daughter. And when Morgan does manage to break free of the quarantine she's been placed in, everyone involved gets a deeper understanding of her true nature.
Morgan is set in the near future, and it imagines a world in which sentient, artificially intelligent creatures are a reality. It begs ethical and philosophical questions about what such creations actually are and what responsibility the humans who created them have toward these synthetic lifeforms.
The team of scientists who've painstakingly created and raised Morgan really do see her as something like a child, as a person. (One member of the team, Amy, dearly loves Morgan and has even broken rules about where Morgan is allowed to roam outside, the violation that's landed the young android indefinitely in her underground bunker.) Thus, they're horrified at the implication that she be treated as anything less than that. They're willing to let her fail and to give her time to learn from her mistakes—even a mistake as egregious as gouging out a woman's eye with a knife. The scientists' deep loyalty and affection toward Morgan is ultimately shown to be simultaneously virtuous and naive.
Lee, for her part, is sure of what Morgan is. She doesn't see Morgan as a her, but as an it, a synthetic creation that is definitely dangerous … and definitely not a real person with the rights that real people have. Though much of the film depicts Lee very nearly as a villain, Morgan's actions suggest that Lee may actually be right and calls into question the scientists' shortsighted understanding of the being they've manufactured.
Morgan has "emergent precognition" capabilities, which the film seems to depict almost as mind-reading clairvoyance. At one point, Morgan recites the details of the private life of another scientist, Dr. Shapiro, who's come to evaluate her psychiatric wellbeing. Among other things, their conversation gets at subjects including whether or not Morgan is able to feel regret or to demonstrate love (both of which Morgan insists she can do, despite Dr. Shapiro's mocking suggestions otherwise).
We hear that two researchers quickly paired off and became lovers once they arrived at the remote house and underground facility where Morgan's been created. There's a line of dialogue about that couple being noisy lovers in a home with thin walls.
Another scientist named Skip says he had a brief sexual fling with Amy early on, but he then says they're no longer together. Skip, who's slightly intoxicated, makes a pass at Lee by kissing her unexpectedly. Lee doesn't respond.
It goes without saying—but I'll say it anyway—that Morgan is capable of horrific violence. She's not evil or vindictive, per se. In fact, in some significant ways she genuinely reciprocates affection for at least one of her handlers. But when Morgan's had enough, watch out.
Twice we see grainy security-camera footage of Morgan leaping across a table to stab Kathy Grieff in the eye repeatedly. Another scientist intentionally prods Morgan with difficult questions. She attacks the man's throat—graphically—with her teeth. (We watch as he bleeds out from the bloody attack, and Morgan's mouth is smeared a horrific crimson). Other victims are shot to death, stabbed with a syringe full of poison and have their necks broken. Two women eventually go head-to-head in a stunningly brutal battle that involves multiple hits, kicks and body slams.
At one point, Morgan's strapped to a table and about to be euthanized. Elsewhere, several other people are shot. We see a deer that's been accidentally impaled. Another character gets impaled as well. Someone else is forcibly held under water until that person has drowned.
Crude or Profane Language
About half a dozen f-words. Two or three s-words. Five misuses of God's name, including four paired with "d--n." One misuse of Jesus' name.
Drug and Alcohol Content
The scientists drink wine, beer and hard liquor. Morgan is tranquilized after attacking someone.
Other Negative Elements
If the scientists working with Morgan treat her almost like a human daughter, Dr. Shapiro, who comes to give her a psych eval, is on the other end of the spectrum. "She's a g--d--ned microwave oven," he says before interviewing her. Dr. Shapiro's contempt for Morgan spills over into his interview of her.
Morgan is a provocative, speculative, gruesome sci-fi thriller by first-time director Luke Scott, the son of the film's famous producer, Ridley Scott.
And the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree here. Morgan effectively generates the same kind of psychological horror that the elder Scott's 1979 sci-fi jumpfest Alien did. Like that film, this one features an isolated group of characters essentially trapped in a facility with something they don't understand, something more deadly than any of them—save Lee Weathers (played with chilly aplomb by Kate Mara)—actually realize.
Morgan also echoes one of Scott's other sci-fi benchmarks, 1982's Blade Runner, it the way it unnervingly probes at the question of what it means to be human, to be a person. In that film, synthetic "replicants" are so human that they may not even know that they're not. Here, everyone—including Morgan—knows that she's not human. But she's desperate to prove that the gap between her and her creators isn't as great as Lee and Dr. Shapiro believe.
Still, the gap is greater than almost any of them realize. It's an error they pay for bloodily, even as those watching this grim cautionary tale unspool are reminded of the potential consequences of tampering with creation and trying to play God.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Anya Taylor-Joy as Morgan; Kate Mara as Lee Weathers; Rose Leslie as Dr. Amy Menser; Michael Yare as Ted Brenner; Toby Jones as Dr. Simon Ziegler; Chris Sullivan as Dr. Darren Finch; Boyd Holbrook as Skip Vronsky; Vinette Robinson as Dr. Brenda Finch; Michelle Yeoh as Dr. Lui Cheng; Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dr. Kathy Grieff; Paul Giamatti as Dr. Alan Shapiro; Crispian Belfrage as Charles Grimes; Amybeth McNulty as Younger Morgan
Luke Scott ( )
20th Century Fox
September 2, 2016
December 13, 2016