From Oscar-Nominated producer Ridley Scott and director Luke Scott comes this visceral, edge-of-your-seat thriller with an all-star cast starring Kate Mara, Paul Giamatti, Toby Jones, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rose Leslie. Inside a remote, top-secret lab, a group of scientists are working on an experiment that is leading the way for the next steps in human evolution. But when the experiment's subject – a genetically designed "human" (Anya Taylor-Joy) – triggers a terrifying event, those involved must decide if the promise of infinite potential outweighs the incalculable danger.
In the horror genre, there is a some level of stupidity and dumb decision-making granted to certain characters so as to move the narrative along and create suspense. This is not a hard and fast rule that filmmakers must follow. But this trait is a common enough trope throughout many movies as to be almost expected, even to some very small extent among reasonably bright, moderately smart characters. And it's for this reason that the latest sci-fi thriller 'Morgan' from producer Ridley Scott arrives as such a massively frustrating disappointment. As though following similar suit to his father's depressingly unsatisfying 'Prometheus,' Luke Scotts makes his feature-film directorial debut in a story bursting with stupid intelligent scientists that make asinine decisions and apparently lack even the most basic of critical thinking skills. It's high time the Golden Raspberry Awards include a Darwinian Award-like category celebrating portrayals of supposedly smart, rational people voluntarily selecting themselves out the gene pool of fiction.
Plucked from the silly, so-called "Black List" of unproduced screenplays, Seth W. Owen's script pretty much dives into its own dopiness with Brian Cox's sternly serious voice unnecessarily expositing on a scene shown only a moment ago. Although it doesn't follow any recognizable formula, which could have been to its advantage in the hands of a better-skilled filmmaker, the plot nonetheless follows a predictable order of chaos from these opening moments. In fact, one could envision the entire movie in their imagination based on the trailers alone, and not only would that have made a better piece of entertainment, it also probably would have played out exactly in the same way. And chances are, even the obligatory shock twist revealing the purpose of genetically breeding the human hybrid known as Morgan (Anya Taylor-Joy, who was much better in the greatly superior 'The Witch') will wrap up the mystery. In the end, there is nothing wholly original, exciting or worthwhile to convince people to watch this dreck.
But before meeting the precocious and highly-developed five-year-old who looks thirteen, Scott attempts to demonstrate his skill at establishing an atmosphere of mystery. By which I mean to suggest there isn't any. Instead, when Kate Mara as Lee Weathers arrives at a gray and dreary home with an even drearier and grayer underground research facility, it feels as though Scott is forcefully dragging us through a meet-and-greet with some of the dullest people on Earth. As the deadly solemn and coldly austere risk-assessment specialist for a mysterious corporation, Mara is arguably the most interesting person on screen with a good deal of personality. And that's saying a lot amongst an ensemble cast of living-breathing mannequins when she's meant to be the least human of them all. And sadly, it's because of Mara's gravely odd behavior that a child could easily predict her pointlessly dark secret. It doesn't help Lee and Morgan clearly share a bond every time they stare at one another, as though knowing each other's sadness.
If that's not enough to ruin the suspense and any surprises in 'Morgan,' which can't be considered as spoilers since Scott makes these plot points pretty obvious, then the smarter members in the audience will be infuriated by the stupidity of Morgan's creators, Dr. Lui Cheng (Michelle Yeoh), Dr. Kathy Grieff (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Dr. Simon Ziegler (Toby Jones). It's reasonable to imagine they know the deviously sinister motives behind her design since they were hired precisely for this research, so then, why act as though having a parent-like attachment to the creature is somehow more noble and virtuous? Wasn't the whole point for it to be eventually taken away and used for its intended purposes? Besides, the creation turned out violent and defective, so the next logical step is to put it down and start over. Even worse, why hire others just to keep them in the dark, and they turn out to be complete idiots who are literally the cause for the ensuing mayhem and the death of everyone around? But here's a better question, why even make this idiotic mess when it was obviously "black listed" for a reason.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment brings 'Morgan' to Blu-ray as two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital HD Copy. The Region Free, BD50 disc sits comfortably opposite a DVD-9 inside a blue, eco-cutout case with a glossy slipcover. A couple skippable trailers kick things off before switching to an animated menu screen imitating the high-tech security footage seen in the movie while computer sounds play in the background.
Morgan is brought forth unto the Blu world with a great-looking, highly-detailed 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode, but Mark Patten's heavily stylized cinematography might leave some viewers feeling cold and distant. The squeaky-clean, sterilized digital photography comes with a grayish overcast appeal that admittedly complements the plot well, but it leaves colors seriously wanting and lackluster though they appear accurately rendered. Occasionally, primaries break through, and flesh tones seem natural with excellent textural details and visible pores. The complexions of the cast are of interesting note because Morgan always looks intentionally pale, sickly and flushed.
Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the freshly-minted transfer also displays a dreary, subdued contrast, but whites come through cleanly and bright while the rest of the picture seems to suffer. Black levels are often hit and miss, sometimes looking deep and rich, and at other times, shadows are drab and murky, making for a largely flat presentation where background information is continuously engulfed and lost. On the plus side, the high-def image is very well-defined during many of the well-lit sequences with distinct, fine lines in the house, of the surrounding foliage and inside Morgan's bleak, concrete prison.
Although Fox was kind enough to equip Luke Scott's directorial debut with a cracking and overall satisfying DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack, it would have been nice if the studio offered the Dolby Atmos version that was made for the film and heard in theaters.
But as it stands, the design is quite enjoyable, employing the surrounds on various occasions and creating a reasonably gratifying soundfield. When in the underground bunker with Morgan, the voices of characters bounce off the concrete walls and echo all around with convincing effectiveness. During action sequences, of which there are not many, the sound of gunshots reverb with incredible distinction and realism, and in the last quarter of the runtime, cars whizz by into the side and rear speakers. Quieter, dialogue-driven scenes, of which there are many, are unfortunately lacking of any activity, falling noticeably silent. Even when Morgan is outside exploring a nearby forest, the conversation with Dr. Menser doesn't seem to feature much wildlife and atmospherics are sporadic at best.
As one might guess, much of the action is contained in the fronts, providing a wide and broad soundstage with plenty of appreciable warmth and fidelity. Even at its loudest, which really are the couple moments of guns being fired, the lossless mix maintains excellent detailed clarity thanks to a room-penetrating, extensive dynamic range. Max Richter's enjoyable score benefits most, spreading across all three-channels with excellent separation and balance while lightly bleeding into the surrounds. At the same time, vocals remain precise and well-prioritized throughout. Most impressive of all is the surprisingly powerful and authoritative low-end, delivering weight and presence to the music and the more suspenseful moments. On various occasions, the bass even hits ultra-low depths as low as 16Hz (bass chart).
Ridley Scott's son, Luke, makes his directorial debut in the utterly boring and frustratingly disappointing 'Morgan' where supposedly intelligent scientists behave very stupidly. Starring some familiar faces alongside bigger named stars, the sci-fi thriller cautioning the dangers of genetically engineering human hybrids is neither suspenseful, thought-provoking or cautionary, leaving very little reason to watch it. The Blu-ray arrives with a great-looking picture and a better audio presentation, but the small collection of supplements make the overall package a rental at best.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.