By Catherine Erskine
She’s got style! She’s got flare! She’ll have you questioning the very fabric of reality! It’s M3GAN!
There is much to say about this “horror” sci-fi movie. (And, personally, I prefer the term ‘thriller’ over horror in this case) But let’s start with the facts and then get into my feelings about it.
From the minds of Blumhouse Productions and Atomic Monster, M3GAN is the very latest of AI technology, wrapped into a doll. (“The only toy you will ever need” M3GAN is referred to in the movie.) When Cady (Violet McGraw) loses both her parents in a car accident, her workaholic, tech whiz aunt Gemma (Allison Williams), who also the creator of M3GAN, takes her in.
Gemma is struggling to deal with a major deadline at the company where she works to get out the newest, money-making machine. Looking to push the boundaries of AI technology in toys, Gemma has been secretly working on M3GAN with her tech sidekicks. Swamped with work, she decides to test the doll out on her niece in order to give her a friend to hang out (and a much needed distraction for Cady). (Because when a kids parents die, an AI robot who learns at a rapid pace and slowly becomes murderous is always the way to go!) Cady quickly “pairs” with M3GAN and the two become completely attached to one another. Cady sees M3GAN as her best friend and a distraction from her grief and M3GAN develops the an obsession with her owner (and a willingness to destroy anything that comes between them).
What could go wrong?!
A lot apparently. After unveiling M3GAN to her boss, Gemma becomes even busier. By the time she can see the destructive turn that this relationship is taking, it is already too late. M3GAN has danced and sang (yes, you read that right) and murdered her way to the point of having her own free will. And no one will get in between her and Cady.
There are several key points addressed in M3GAN that make it interesting. These AI beings have come so close to being a reality that one wonders if they’ll eventually remove all need for human interaction. (Hopefully, without the murder/dancey part.) The truth is that these things are already a reality in our homes, looking to make our lives “easier” with mixed results. (I, for one, argue with Google home all the time when it can’t understand to turn off the light!) But, as our reliance on technology grows, it also seems to be removing our relationships from each other and impressionable kids who are now leaning on virtual reality are using screens to distract them from real feelings or emotional support. Though it’s also understandable that parents need to give their kids screen time to get a meal cooked or just get five minutes of silence, too much of a good thing can turn evil real quick.
In the end, humanity, love, and connection win out in an epic battle between aunt, niece and sassy murder robot.
While I appreciated the themes of M3GAN, I also felt the acting was as it should be. McGraw and Williams work well together as the traumatized child and workaholic aunt while the supporting cast handle the comedy and poignant one liners to steer the stars in the right direction. But, if you are looking for true horror, you will not find it here. Featuring some jump scares, a doll that runs creepy and kills people with a sassy attitude, sure. (Think when Chucky got super cheesy.) But, ironically, that’s what makes the film work. The good thing is this movie seems to know that it is being ridiculous, and fully leans into it as it goes off the rails.
If you have seen the trailer, you get the gist of the film. M3GAN made me want to sleep with one eye open, and trust the AI in my cell phone even less than I already did. But it has also reminded me to check in with the youth that I work with one-on-one, off our electronics, which if anything is what is most worth taking away from it.
If you still want to watch M3GAN after reading this, fair enough! Just go in wanting a laugh with a couple moments of murder. We laughed quiet a few times I will give it that. My advice, save your money, wait, and stream it. After all, I hear Cocaine Bear comes out in February, that could be an interesting watch….
M3GAN is in theatres on Friday, January 6th, 2023.