There is a new killer doll in town and her name is M3GAN. M3GAN is an acronym for Model 3 Generative Android. Screenwriter Akela Cooper dreamt up this satirical story about an AI robot, that looks like a perfectly coiffed mini version of Amanda Seyfried from Mean Girls. This humanoid is more technologically advanced than Chucky from Child’s Play or Annabelle who both were the focus of successful horror franchises.
M3GAN is the creation of brilliant roboticist, Gemma, played by Allison Williams from Get Out and Girls. The story unfolds as we meet her nine year-old niece Cady (Violet McGraw) who is traveling in the backseat of a car on the way to a ski trip with her parents. Cady is obsessed with the new Purrpetural Petz toy that her aunt developed for Funki toy corporation. This obnoxious Furby type robot talks and farts on demand, while expelling little poop pellets after it is fed with an iPad.
Cady’s parents get so preoccupied with how much screen time she is wasting playing with her fake pet, that they forget to pay attention to the road. She is instantly orphaned after their car gets involved in an accident and slams into a snow plow. Gemma is granted custody of Cady with the new responsibilty of raising a child. We are immediately given the impression that Gemma is living a single solitary life when she enters her home with her niece by her side. They are greeted by an Elsie robot at the door that gives Gemma an update that she has unread Tinder messages to retrieve. Gemma wants to help her niece feel better. But initially all she can do is instruct her not to play with some collectible toys that she has on a shelf.
Gemma decides to create a M3GAN prototype as a companion to help Cady deal with the grief and tragic loss of her parents. Gemma stages an impromptu demonstration of Cady interacting with M3GAN for Funki CEO David Lin (Ronny Chieng). The artificial being is paired with the child and given the imperative that she must protect Cady from physical and emotional harm. David decides to make more M3GAN dolls after he witnesses her cheering up Cady by drawing a perfect self portrait. He feels the company has made a slam dunk when he declares. “We’re gonna kick Hasbro’s dick!”
Gemma states that her initial goal in making M3GAN was to prevent her niece from being lonely. The biggest selling point is “with M3GAN around she will take care of the little things so you can spend time on the things that matter.” M3GAN is the perfect companion who does everything from read bedtime stories to monitor the child as a surrogate parent 24/7. She reminds Cady to flush the toilet, wash her hands and to use a coaster with a science lesson.
Her coding has designed her to be a best friend, who will sometimes serenade Cady with an impromptu acapella version of Titanium by Sia or play Toy Soldiers on the piano. The problem arises when M3GAN begins to override her internal commands. Director Gerard Johnstone balances humor with a mixture of camp to create a cautionary tale about the perils of using technology to raise children.
The physical performance of child actor Amie Donald as M3GAN, coupled with the voice of TikTok famous actress Jenna Davis, enhance the creepiness factor of the life like doll. There have been other cinematic allegories about tech that can go haywire. Stanley Kubrick tried to warn us when HAL 9000 staged a mutiny in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ash portrayed by Iam Holm went beserk in Ridley Scott’s Alien, which is why Ripley didn’t trust cyborg Bishop in James Cameron’s Aliens.
Ex Machina by Alex Garland took a closer look at the relationship between man and machine with a beautiful self aware robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander) who is pondering the totality of her existence with Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) and Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). After Yang focuses on the similar concepts of consciousness existing in synthetic human beings outside of certain parameters.
M3GAN is making a killing at the box office. The film has a $12 million dollar budget and already grossed over $30 million dollars during the opening weekend. The organic marketing campaign included a creepy doll Twitter feud with Chucky, who sent a warning tweet to M3GAN saying, “everybody’s tryna be me.” Plus the #MeganDanceChallenge with the killer robot gyrating in a death dance racked up 1.3 billion TikTok views.
M3GAN has some laughs paired with the spookiness of a Blumhouse/Atomic Monster production. This enables it to not feel like a traditional horror film as the body count rises. The film is PG-13 so the scares exist, but the bloodiness is a bit diminished. Gemma made a promise that M3GAN would never run out of ways to keep a child preoccupied or run out of patience. “She is more than just a toy. She is part of the family.” She concluded while finalizing her Funki Toy company pitch. Some of the kills are foreshadowed so we immediately see the clues. It just takes some time for Gemma and her team to come to the realization that her S.T.E.M education helped to generate an indestructible 4 foot tall Frankenstein like Terminator.
M3GAN is now playing in theaters.
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