Directed by Luke Scott | Written by Seth W. Owen | 92 min. | ▲▲▲△△
Nice to see young directors go into the family business. Consider Sofia Coppola and her many excellent films, or more recently, Brandon Cronenberg’s body horror Antiviral, which evoked some of his father David’s work. Now we’ve got Luke Scott, son of Ridley, with Dad in the producer’s chair. It should be no surprise that the product of their collaboration is straight-ahead, pulpy sci-fi.
Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) is a consultant working for a corporate entity, with Brian Cox’s dulcet tones giving her v/o instructions. The corporation isn’t called Weyland-Yutani, Alien fans, but it may as well be, given what they do: They fund research into developing synthetic beings. We get some indication that previous versions were weaponized, but this one in question, a little girl named Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy), is a human hybrid with high intelligence.
Unfortunately, she recently stabbed one of the scientists (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in the eye with a pen. Even so, the rest of the group taking care of her—including Michelle Yeoh, Toby Jones, and Rose Leslie—are very fond of her, refusing to treat her like a thing. Weathers has no compunctions on that front, nor does the psychologist (Paul Giamatti) who’s called in to examine Morgan pull any of his punches.
Though it’s being marketed as a horror, Morgan isn’t that. A little gore and some scenes of violent hand-to-hand combat are the scariest stuff you’ll get. Seasoned sci-fi watchers will see the final twist coming from the first act in this Frankenstein story, but that hardly matters. This isn’t the cleverest tale of AI you’re likely to see—in some ways it’s a more populated but much less sophisticated version of last year’s Ex Machina, or a less monstrous take on the terrific Splice—but thanks to the quality casting and general confidence in the storytelling, it still manages to be a good amount of fun as it plays out in a straight-ahead action third act.