Horrifying, hilarious and charming, “M3GAN” shows audiences that A.I. is on the rise and it’s coming for our Tiktok dances.
While the consensus for producers around this time is, “Why try? Oscar season isn’t till November,” “M3GAN” strives to bring quality entertainment to moviegoers. Directed by Gerard Johnstone and written by Akela Cooper, “M3GAN” takes a different approach to horror that audiences haven’t seen since 2019’s “Vivarium."
At first glance, yes, this is just another creepy doll movie that takes inspiration from the multitude of other films like it. But as the story develops, it becomes more of a psychological horror rivaling the likes of “Hereditary” and “The Lighthouse.”
The film centers around Gemma and her eight-year-old orphaned niece, Cady. After the loss of Cady’s parents, the young and overworked Gemma becomes her new caretaker. Being completely oblivious to how to parent, Gemma designs M3GAN, a lifelike doll she programs to be Cady’s friend, teacher, playmate and protector. This will, of course, lead to unforeseen consequences for both Cady and her aunt Gemma.
The concept of this movie stems from the fear of superior artificial intelligence - a fear that materializes into reality as the years go by. Audiences may be constantly reminded of the 2018 game “Detroit: Become Human” upon seeing M3GAN. Not only because she resembles a pivotal character within the game, but because she represents many themes surrounding artificial intelligence.
The theme of feeling lost in a connected world is a deep topic to explore. The effects of grief and dealing with trauma are skillfully addressed throughout the characters’ arcs and the story’s metaphors.
As a character, M3GAN is essentially a smartphone personified as a little girl. Cady’s obsession with M3GAN parallels real-life dependence on technology as a form of escapism. Becoming engulfed in high-tech is a common side-effect of trauma and the film displays this unbelievably well.
But don’t let these complex themes lead you to believe this movie is some boring think-piece. There is an abundance of comedy sprinkled within this movie, though perhaps too much. Like adding more than enough sugar to your lemonade, it ruins the overall taste.
Tonally this movie suffers from the same issues critics had with Jordan Peele’s “Us.” During the more serious moments, some scenes take the comedic route to break up the tension. With this style of writing becoming more and more of a popular phenomenon, it’s probably time Hollywood learns to let tense scenes breathe.
“M3GAN” is a prime example of a movie originally meant to be rated R, but toned down for larger audiences. While these changes usually make the movie a shell of its once-great concept, it didn’t have that much of an effect here. Of course, a rated R director’s cut would be awesome, but it wouldn’t drastically change the landscape of the movie.
Using a combination of puppetry, animatronics, visual effects and a human actor, M3GAN is an absolute marvel to look at. Her sound design makes her seem creepily endearing. While most people never let a child near that thing, you can see why an overworked, stressed-out, inexperienced caretaker would.
Overall, this movie is a diamond in an upcoming pile of coal. This month will be hard for moviegoers, but “M3GAN” gave us a delicious dessert before we dig into a burnt, tasteless dinner. So let’s sit back and savor the flavor.