- Director: Gerard Johnstone
- Writers: Akela Cooper
- Starring: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Jenna Davis, Amie Donald, Ronny Chieng
Sometimes it’s refreshing to sit down for a movie and know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Watch any of the trailers for M3GAN and you’ll get a pretty good idea of what kind of film it is. A synthetic blend of Child’s Play and Ex Machina (yes, really), M3GAN will provide enough laughs and chills to get you through the doldrums of January releases but doesn’t deviate from that predetermined algorithm.
The film comes from contemporary horror/comedy royalty, listing James Wan and Jason Blum as producers, and directed by Gerard Johnstone with a script from Akela Cooper. Cooper’s screenplay efficiently sets up its premise early on and smartly introduces its characters, leaving plenty of time to have fun with it. After her parents are killed in a car crash, Cady (Violet McGraw) goes to live with her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams, also listed as another producer), who’s in the throes of a crisis at the toy company where she’s tasked with creating the next big thing. She’s been secretly toiling away at creating M3GAN (the Model 3 Generative Android), a kind of Siri in life-like doll form, and introduces her to Cady in an attempt to help her in her grief.
Unsurprisingly, M3GAN (played by Amie Donald and voiced by Jenna Davis) gets extremely protective of Cady and begins killing off those deemed as a threat. I was prepared for that. What I was not prepared for was the script’s overarching themes of our reliance on technology to nurture us. You likely won’t be ruminating on this aspect for long after the credits roll, but it’s a thoughtful piece whose inclusion does more for than against the film. Cady bonds so closely with M3GAN that she pushes away real people who have her best interests at heart. The film also throws in a great deal of visual and situational gags because Johnstone knows exactly what kind of tone a film should have when it’s about a murderous doll.
The kills are generally fun and inventive, but M3GAN is about as bloodless as the robot it’s named after. This isn’t a total dealbreaker, but audiences looking for a gore fest, or more creative scares, will surely leave with their stomachs intact. Too often, the film will cut away as soon as M3GAN gets loose and wreaks havoc. Nevertheless, McGraw is the standout here, giving a note-perfect performance while navigating her character’s various stages of grief and terror.
There are moments where M3GAN will sing a bizarrely placed pop song, or perform a dance, often right before going in for the kill. It’s these self-aware moments that make M3GAN stand out from the typical genre fare, and they’re sure to get some good pops from a packed house (the audience at my screening generally ate it up). Do they always stand up to scrutiny, and is the plot at large as air-tight as M3GAN’s chassis? Maybe not, but Johnstone and the creative team were clearly aiming for camp supremacy, and they deliver in a way that’s hard to pull off.
Of course, there is a way to look at M3GAN cynically, a film created in a lab to generate the most memes possible. But if you’re simply looking for a film to entertain you for 102 solid minutes, you’ll certainly get what you paid for. With multiplexes awash with screenings of Avatar: The Way of Water for the foreseeable future, M3GAN is at least a film that’s entertaining enough to draw in horror devotees and casual moviegoers alike.
M3GAN will be released in theaters nationwide on January 6.
- Unfortunately for the M3GAN hive across the internet, there will be zero Oscar potential for M3GAN.