Monday, May 7, 2018

My Hood Is Like a Shark Fin

Morgan was one of those films I like to call "the eternal trailer," a distinction it shares (for me) with the Wolfman remake and Shutter Island. All three, possibly due to adjusted release date, seemed to be included in the previews for just about every film I saw in the theaters in the months (and sometimes years) leading up to their release. 

That plus the general apathy that seemed to accompany Morgan put it low on my watch list. Had someone sold it the right way -- i.e., a reimagining of Renny Harlin's Deep Blue Sea -- I may have actually paid for it.

Quick Plot That's Essentially Just Deep Blue Sea Without Sharks: In an isolated green forest (replacing the blue sea), a team of pretty good-looking scientists have spent the last five years raising and monitoring Morgan (The VVitch's treasure Anya Taylor-Joy), a genetically modified young woman who is sadly not quite a shark.

Stepping in to Stellan Skarsgard's shoes as the most physically abused of the scientists is Jennifer Jason Leigh, who opens the film with her eye gouged out by her charge and is later beaten to death with about the same level of pain as having your arm eaten by a shark, then your body rammed against glass underwater.

This initial Macbethian incident is what summons Samuel L. Jackson stand-in Kate Mara as Lee, a risk assessment manager brought in to evaluate the Morgan experiment. Sporting Saffron Burrows strictly serious haircut, Thomas Jane's combat moves, and Jackson's corporate doubt, Lee regards most of the team suspiciously, particularly the too-soft behaviorist Amy (Ygritte the Wilding, aka Rose Leslie). On the flip side, Lee seems most positive towards Skip, the handsome nutritionalist (aka chef).

No, he does not have a pet parrot, but SPOILER ALERT yes, he does (almost) make it to the end, so OBVIOUSLY, he is LL Cool J.

The poor white man's LL Cool J. 

You might think I'm stretching the Deep Blue Sea comparison, but when the REAL Samuel L. Jackson (in the form of Paul Giamatti) strolls in for one scene to be essentially eaten by the super smart, super fast, and super strong Morgan, it's hard NOT to see the parallel. 

It is very possible that forcing this comparison made the exceedingly mediocre Morgan an exceedingly more interesting film. Directed by Luke Scott (son of Ridley), Morgan has a great look and unfairly great cast, most of whom are essentially wasted. The action offers some thrills, especially when the film takes a not-that-surprising turn and delivers entertaining fight scenes. Then again, nothing you see here is that much more exciting than, say, an episode of Agents of SHIELD.

The point is, pretend Morgan the character is a super smart shark and Morgan the movie is okay.

High Points
Hey, I'm an easy mark for a powerful female lead who's good at her job and also happens to fight like a ninja

Low Points
The dire lack of actual sharks

Lessons Learned
Everyone loves lasagna!

Comfort can be a thorn in the side of revelation

Genetic experimentation companies invest a lot in training employees in hand-to-hand combat

Eh, Morgan, in one word, is an "eh" of a review. With its high production values and good action, it's not a waste of 100 minutes, but it's hard to summon much enthusiasm without relying on, you know, Deep Blue Sea. Then you remember that Morgan doesn't end with anyone rapping and everything is terrible once again.