When I first heard the concept of the film, I was excited by the idea. I tend to be selective of my horror films, but the idea of a life-like robot gone wrong sounded interesting. However, despite the robot having some creepy moments and some great acting, the film itself is just not that scary, the AI concepts are not new, and every scene is predictable.
M3gan is a science fiction horror directed by Gerard Johnstone from a story by Akela Cooper and James Wan. The movie features a roboticist Gemma (Alison Williams), who uses artificial intelligence to invent a robot, M3gan (Model 3 Generative Android), a lifelike doll that can be programmed to be a child’s greatest companion and a parent’s ally. After unexpectedly gaining custody of her niece Cady (Violet McGraw) due to her parent’s death in a car accident, Gemma enlists the help of the M3gan prototype even while her team, Tess (Jen Van Epps) and Cole (Brian Jordan Alvarez) work on getting the doll ready for launch at the approval of Gemma’s boss David (Ronny Chieng). But Gemma’s decision has unforeseen consequences as M3gan bonds with Cady, becoming overprotective and self-aware, leading her to attempt to get rid of anything that gets in the way of her ‘protecting’ Cady.
One of the positive features of the film is how creepy M3gan actually is. There are several scenes that add to this effect. M3gan unexpectedly sings for Cady, almost like in a Disney movie. The singing is weird, which adds to the creepy aspect. The doll has a jarring motion to her walk, which enhances that effect as well. She also has a couple of scenes where she dances or moves suddenly, which adds to the overall feeling.
As for the story, I love the fact that the self-aware robot is built by a woman. I also like that she struggles with connecting with her niece. The relationship between Gemma and Cady is by far some of my favorite scenes, in particular, how Gemma attempts to help her niece with the trauma of her parents’ deaths. I also appreciate the resolution of the movie, the ending that builds that relationship and allows for both Gemma and Cady to be strong characters.
Part of why the relationship between the two works so well is because of the acting. Allison Williams is believable as a scientist. Allison Williams gives a great performance, with subtle emotional cues and some strong scenes where you see the character growth. She also is fantastic at illustrating the conflict between Gemma and Cady and how the relationship grows. This dynamic is aided by Violet McGraw, who is incredible as Cady. She is authentic as a child struggling with the death of her parents and finds herself using M3gan as a crutch for her trauma. Jenna Davis as the voice of M3gan and Amie Donald as the physical form are both terrific. Jenna Davis does a wonderful job of projecting menace vocally. The other actors are solid, Jen Van Epps, Brian Jordan Alvarez, and Ronny Chieng, as well as Lori Dungey, who plays Gemma’s annoying neighbor.
Part of the issue for me is the lack of fear any part of the film engenders. Most of the deaths take place off-camera. While the actors are emotional and their performances show fear, the lack of on-screen deaths does not leave me chilled. The self-aware robot is creepy, but the scenes are predictable enough so that it’s hard to ever be truly afraid of the character. Even the ending goes exactly as expected. And while the idea of the robot sounds interesting, it’s very much been seen in other films. It is a mix of Chuckie or Annabelle as a robot, and a self-aware robot has been done in science fiction films many times before. It is Lawnmower Man meets Annabelle, and that was disappointing not to have a new aspect to a classic idea.
If you do like Annabelle or Chuckie, you may still enjoy the movie. It does have some wonderful acting by Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, and Jenna Davis, as well as the rest of the cast. If you don’t expect anything new, you may enjoy the creepiness of the robot and her killer actions, especially with a female robot. I also appreciated that the lead was a woman, and I felt the dynamic between aunt and niece was well explored. But for me, I didn’t enjoy the trauma of a young girl dealing with death, and I was disappointed there wasn’t anything new in the film.
Rating: 3 out of 5 robots
Official Website: M3GAN | Official Movie Site | Only In Theaters January 6
When Gemma suddenly becomes the caretaker of her orphaned 8-year-old niece, Cady, Gemma’s unsure and unprepared to be a parent. Under intense pressure at work, Gemma decides to pair her M3GAN prototype with Cady in an attempt to resolve both problems-a decision that will have unimaginable consequences.
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