Rated R, 92 minutes
The downbeat new sci-fi thriller "Morgan" has an intriguing premise, though it falters with a story that never fully develops or engages the viewer. A corporate troubleshooter (Kate Mara) travels to a remote, top-secret location to investigate a bioengineered child ("The Witch's" Anya Taylor-Joy) that starts to become dangerous. Written by Seth Owen, directed by Luke Scott and produced by his father, acclaimed director Ridley Scott, "Morgan" is a well-cast but plodding thriller that plays like a much-less interesting version of last year's "Ex Machina," which did this thing much better. "Morgan" could've been much better had it made it a tight, efficient cat-and-mouse game like the recent "Don't Breathe" or with the mystery of the aforementioned "Ex Machina." Director Scott, in his first full feature film after doing second-unit work with his father, is mostly to blame here: the first act is a slog as it tells Morgan's backstory and he lets some scenes go on so long they ring with predictability, particularly an interrogation scene from Paul Giamatti's psychiatrist; by the end of that scene you not only know what will happen but you want it to happen just to get the film moving along. Newcomer Taylor-Joy, seen to good effect in the taut "The Witch" earlier this year, is memorable as Morgan, while Mara goes through some calculated paces as the corporate employee assigned to possibly terminate Morgan, and British character actor Toby Jones is a sympathetic doctor (blink closely and you'll miss the Jennifer Jason Leigh cameo at the beginning of the film). The film's supposed "twist" at the end isn't much of a surprise, either, but given it requires you to stay awake through the rest of the slow-as-molasses movie, it could be a mild surprise. The best thing about "Morgan" - it's premise - isn't fully developed (never really explaining why these creatures want to kill when raised in a loving, stable environment), ultimately becoming a disappointing misfire, which is unfortunate given Scott's pedigree and for the talented cast it wastes. There are a few million exciting things to do this Labor Day Weekend, and "Morgan" isn't one of them.