Risking comparison to murderous doll flicks of yesteryear, M3gan swings gracefully on screen in January 2023 with mechanical grace and manic sass.
Based on the promo material alone, one can be forgiven for passing the film off as a gender bent Chucky riff. This is a disservice. On viewing it is clear, director Gerard Johnstone, screenwriter Akela Cooper, producers James Wan and Jason Blum have crafted a somewhat original direction for the creepy doll conceit while landing some cheeky commentary on parenting pitfalls in 2023.
An important detail needs to be put up front, M3gan isn’t really a horror film. It’s a Sci-Fi thriller that benefits from the proven horror chops of its producers. M3gan is more action and suspense, with little body or psychological horror.
This is not to say that M3gan is not enjoyable. Young Cady, (Violet McGraw, Doctor Sleep), loses her parents in a tragic car accident and finds herself ward to her aunt Gemma (Alison Williams, Get Out). Gemma is unprepared for these circumstances, a career focused designer working on R&D for tech toy company Funki. Gemma’s recent ill advised and off the books pet project M3gan (Model III Generative Android) has spectacularly backfired and landed her in hot water with boss David (Ronny Chiang, Crazy Rich Asians).
Struggling to balance work from home while looking after Cady, Gemma has a bright idea that drives her to finish the M3gan prototype in her garage and test its AI learning and bonding capabilities on Cady. This is win-win, right! Gemma can work and redeem herself professionally while M3gan takes care of the babysitting. Except for a gigantic problem, in her hubris Gemma has overlooked Asimov’s law of robotics, a spectacular blunder and it does not take long for M3gan to figure out the logical solution to resolving all threats and conflict is to extinguish life.
Another massive misstep in Gemma’s experiment is having M3gan’s first bond be with that of a child who’s just experienced a massive trauma and is yet to process that trauma healthily. The outcome is inevitable. M3gan’s AI develops psychopathic tendencies in record time. There is also some not-so-subtle commentary warning of the problems with raising tech dependent children and the effect it has on their behaviour when tech is removed.
Despite the chaos unfolding around M3gan everywhere she goes, Funki’s board is enamoured with the technological leap and can only see dollar signs. Aiming to launch the $10k toy in a surprise live stream. If only M3gan could sit still and cease murdering everyone around it.
Utilising full puppetry (at least it seems that any CG is seamless), M3gan’s presence on screen is genuinely creepy. Most main and supporting performances are on point, except perhaps Ronny Chiang’s David, a bit of a sore thumb, who is either painfully over the top in his narcissism or genius with the comedic timing.
M3gan is a good time, worth the price of admission, just perhaps marketed a little incorrectly. An excellent first slice of what collaboration between Blumhouse and Atomic Monster pictures can bring to the screen. Catch it in cinemas now, a solid 7/10 PurPetual thrills!