M3GAN stars Allison Williams and Violet McGraw. It is produced by James Wan and Jason Blum and directed by Gerard Johnstone.
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Killer dolls aren’t a new thing in Hollywood. By this time, we have seen numerous killer dolls that have graced the big screen. From Chucky to Annabelle, each has become a staple part of pop culture, making them true horror icons alongside Michael Myers, Ghostface, Freddy Kreuger and Jason Vorhees.
Enter producers James Wan and Jason Blum, the brains behind franchises like The Conjuring and Halloween, where a new breed of horror is about to be unleashed – well, so to speak.
M3GAN (short for Model 3 Generative Android) delivers a familiar premise. Cady recently lost her family in a car accident and is forced to live with her aunt Gemma. Working for an international Hasbro-like toy brand, Gemma invents M3GAN. This robotic doll harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to become this life-like companion for Cady, who she soon bonds with. Gemma realises that M3GAN is growing too close to Cady, and after witnessing mysterious accidents and deaths, she soon suspects that M3GAN is behind them. The situation gets even more complicated as M3GAN will be revealed to the public in a few days, billed as the ultimate toy for kids.
It may seem ridiculous, but the difference is that M3GAN is aware of it and injects that in a clever and witty way, which is sometimes the source of the film’s humour. This is shown in the early parts of the movie, mocking those toy commercials you see on TV, hinting that this is one of those films that should not be taken seriously – once you get into that mindset, the film kind of works. The filmmakers could have easily gone to the usual supernatural route, but focusing on the misuse of technology and its consequences makes it more unique – though it does bear a resemblance to the plot of the Child’s Play remake.
Its tongue-in-cheek references can sometimes make you cringe this feels intentional such as the random songs M3GAN sings that will make you remember those dolls that churn out tunes at a push of a button. M3GAN’s behaviour can range from cliche to unpredictable, where she can instantly introduce her malevolent side. A perfect example of this is a scene in the film featured prominently in the trailers (and became a viral meme) when she started dancing in a corridor before killing everyone – a personal favourite scene of mine, I might add.
Writer Akela Cooper echoes the same vibes as her previous effort, Malignant, and delivers a take on the killer doll genre that feels familiar yet fresh. Director Gerald Johnstone’s efforts are commendable, though it lacks a visual flair that would make you remember the film. This is in pale comparison to producer James Wan’s film, which often has a highlight scene that will make you talk about it even after you leave the cinema.
The film misses the opportunity on why this doll exists, falling into more generic storytelling just to use it as a leeway to create horror and tension. The usual jumpscares are there, but as the film primarily borders on the predictable side, you’d probably already be expecting the surprises even before they happen. That said, M3GAN delivers a great social commentary on how parents and children nowadays rely a bit much on technology.
As much as M3GAN is the film’s titular character, the human characters also make it work. Violet McGraw’s portrayal of Cady strikes an emotional chord with viewers, convincingly delivering a nuanced performance of someone going through a tragic time. Allison Williams’ Gemma somehow misses the mark playing Cady’s aunt, and her character arc isn’t as convincing as the other supporting characters. A surprisingly funny and memorable performance goes to Ronny Chieng, who plays Gemma’s boss David. His over-the-top portrayal of a corporate boss is perfect and is given most of the film’s hilarious lines and entirely takes advantage of the actor’s comedic roots.
The campy tone of M3GAN is what makes it work, and its finale ends on a rather satisfying note and admittedly made me smile while watching it. Given M3GAN’s PG-13 rating, I would’ve preferred more blood. Even so, it’s a decent effort and tribute to all killer doll films that came before it, and while it won’t win awards, it’s still a worthy watch.
Victor is a seasoned journalist based in Dubai, UAE, since 2007, with years of experience in the field. He has a passion for all things pop culture and considers himself a huge Marvel fan. He can often be found playing video games or catching the latest releases at the cinema. Victor’s interests extend beyond movies, as he also enjoys writing about technology.