Movie Review: M3GAN
Review by: Laurel Wang
Directed by: Gerard Johnstone
Few movies can say their pursuit scenes come with choreography. But for M3GAN, it’s a claim to fame. The horror-comedy craftily bridges the gap between the genres, delivering a fresh, tongue-in-cheek take on the doll horror movie.
Gemma (Allison Williams), a toy robotics engineer, settles soundly into the role of a career-consumed inventor. In secret, Gemma works to develop a lifelike, AI doll she names M3GAN. Although Gemma shines professionally, she sucks paternally in caring for her newly-orphaned niece, Cady (Violet McGraw). At eight years old, Cady, a slack-jawed screen queen, is unresponsive to her aunt’s awful attempts at parenting.
Ronny Chieng offers a comic caricature of David, Gemma’s boss and tyrannical tech-bro stretched so far it circles back to depressing. When David discovers Gemma’s secret project, he orders her to shut it down. Instead, Gemma brings testing back home, where she pairs Cady with M3GAN and the two become fast friends. Instructed to protect Cady from all harm, M3GAN’s unflinching allegiance to her command soon turns into a violent, yet expected extreme.
The human characters are, ironically, given the least fleshed-out roles. It’s clear the star of the film is the titular M3GAN, and for good reason. Portrayed by Amie Donald and chirpily voiced by Jenna Davis, M3GAN is the highlight of the movie. Arriving as the newest neatly-packaged iteration of the mean girl, M3GAN’s glare is cold, and her revenge supercomputer-calculated. The true chill of the film lies not in the predictable horror plot but in M3GAN’s technological capabilities. She knows far too much about the world than a girl or doll should, and the adults that created her are powerless to stop her from accessing it.
From the first time M3GAN powers on, we already know how this movie will end. We’ve seen the man vs tech storyline a million times before, just this time in a creepy doll/robot combination. Like its plot, M3GAN makes no effort to subvert easy themes.
Still, for all of its heavy-handed messaging, M3GAN doesn’t take itself too seriously. M3GAN herself bursts into seemingly spontaneous song, knocking loose a breath of levity with the absurdity of comforting a child with a verse from Sia’s Titanium. In Cady’s world of the 15-second viral audio, it seems laughable that the musical heart of the movie comes from a motivational song from 2011. But clocking in at only four feet tall and with features more anime than uncanny valley, M3GAN gleefully leans into the theatricality of the genre. In one viral scene clipped in the trailer, M3GAN pauses a violent rampage to launch into a Dance-Moms-esque routine, flipping an aerial before she grabs a paper-cutter machete on her way to slay.
Although not subversive, M3GAN is a clever and satisfying watch with a healthy dose of absurdism. If only all our AI overlords could be so camp.