From its opening scene (an advertisement for a ridiculously over the top Furby for Gen Z), M3GAN sets the tone for what its audience should expect during the runtime: an over-the-top mix of weird and creepy that you can’t help but laugh at. Luckily, the writers of M3GAN are clearly in on the joke — and the film delights itself in being irreverent and campy, which seems like a requirement with its ridiculous premise.
Akela Cooper and James Wan united to make M3GAN one of the most unhinged horror flicks to secure a PG-13 rating. The film’s premise is simple: Gemma (Allison Wiliams) is a robotics engineer that is juggling her job at a toy company and caring for her niece Cady (Violet McGraw) after an accident kills both of Cady’s parents. Naturally, Gemma brings her work home — allowing Cady to bond with the life-like doll prototype she’s been working on: M3GAN (Model 3 Generative Android), voiced by Jenna Davis.
Cooper and Wan manage to take the simple premise and elevate it with the script, while the cast expertly add nuance and depth to the writing with their performances. M3GAN is almost as smart and witty as the all-knowing and powerful doll that is the film’s namesake; it is always poking fun at horror tropes and how absurd its premise is, but it also manages to weave together an interestingly thought-provoking commentary on things like humanity’s growing attraction to electronic devices, toxic work culture, and the limits and dangers that come with artificial intelligence being integrated into our daily lives.
There are plenty of moments in M3GAN that are just outright hilarious, from a moment where M3GAN sings Sia’s ‘Bulletproof’ to ease Cady’s tensions to the moment she does the viral dance before going on a murder spree. M3GAN also manages to mix these moments of comedy into its thrills and suspenseful moments, too. Often, the cast manages to deliver these moments without words — from a scoff Cady gives Gemma while eating a slice of toast to the exasperated look Gemma makes when Cady stubbornly won’t use a coaster, for example. These moments take no time up in the film’s runtime and manage to build the characters’ personalities succinctly.
While most of M3GAN is an enjoyable ride, there are some aspects of the film that are less than perfect. Things go from absurd to just outright unbelievable as the film reaches its climax, and there’s lots of plot holes left open at the film’s conclusion, likely to setup a sequel. Still, though, there are other moments from even early on in the film that are so far-fetched that it makes one suspend their disbelief and laugh at M3GAN instead of with her. The most notable instance of this is when M3GAN first meets Cady and draws her a picture. Using just two pens and her digital eyes, M3GAN creates a lifelike drawing of Cady — with invisible ink that only reveals itself when water hits it. I’m not sure what is more absurd: the level of detail and colors in the drawing or the gag being that M3GAN ‘failed’ by knocking over the water, only to intentionally do it to reveal the drawing. The film could have easily let M3GAN show off her skills as an AI ‘artist’ (eugh), by having her draw on a digital platform or by limiting the level of detail she was able to do with the pens. It was just a bit too far out of the realm of reality — and I’m saying that as a person who didn’t really have a problem with M3GAN going god mode and controlling the electric grid towards the end of the film.
All in all, M3GAN is a rollercoaster of a film that focuses more on taking the audience for a fun ride than setting up jump scares or being entirely logical. The film’s aggressive social media marketing campaign adds another layer to the film’s intelligence in understanding its target audience; the film’s mix of camp and comedy with chills and thrills draws in the LGBT+ community, and the film using social media and viral campaigns to get places like gay Twitter abuzz seems to have worked; the film is doing well at the box office (and when I saw the film, the majority of the moviegoers were openly gay couples. Here for our queen, M3GAN!)