‘M3GAN’ Is Horrifically Fun – Review
At some point, we have to stop and wonder why Hollywood is so obsessed with the premise of toys gaining consciousness for either good or mean-spirited purposes. But today will not be that day, given how Gerard Johnstone’s M3GAN is a wonderful time at the movies, filled with plenty of fun and thrills that will make you forget about the terrifying potential of a Cabbage Patch android.
Allison Williams, Violet McGraw and Amie Donald star in this cautionary tale about artificial intelligence mixed with the origin story of a synthetic killer who has an impeccable style. While the film’s plot might be predictable due to common horror tropes, its confident sense of humour is enough to remain engaged and even root for the creepy doll from time to time.
After losing her parents in a car accident, Cady (McGraw) is forced to live with her aunt Gemma (Williams), who works as a roboticist and inventor at a very popular toy company. When she notices how the loss of her parents deeply affects Cady’s behaviour, Gemma decides to comfort her by linking her with an unfinished prototype, Megan, a highly advanced robot designed to play with and protect children. The pair become inseparable, but after Megan begins taking extreme measures to deal with what she perceives as threats to Cady, things get out of control quickly. It’s up to a young girl and her irresponsible aunt to stop a dangerous android who keeps learning and updating herself constantly, becoming a bigger menace with every passing second.
The movie’s tone is its best quality due to how it relies on the ridiculousness of the premise while delivering just enough scares to avoid becoming a parody. Akela Cooper’s screenplay shines as M3GAN is not ashamed of its sense of humour, opting for doubling down on it when possible. The confidence displayed by the film when finding a balance between its silly moments and its more frightening sequences is brilliant, giving you a chance to lay back and be completely on board for the ride. It could’ve been easy for the script to miss and establish a tone so unbearably goofy that the whole thing would simply be unwatchable, making the fact that it works so well even more impressive.
Amie Donald portrays Megan physically, but the character is actually voiced by Jenna Davis, who is making her film debut after starring in plenty of television shows. Davis’ performance as the angry android is marvelous, providing the chilling calmness you’d expect from a machine with a smidge of the resentful spite a robot would feel after not having the emotional intelligence an actual person would acquire over the years. As Megan evolves throughout the film, she gains more of a personality, giving Davis more room to play around with the character. It is at this point of the story that the robot becomes so smug and over-the-top that she takes over the film and the audience as well.
As for Williams, her performance as Gemma is sympathetic enough for the character to not be discredited immediately. While it was stated that she wasn’t close to her sister, Gemma seemed unnervingly cool with losing her in the car accident. When she adopts Cady, it comes off as a weekend trip and not her having full responsibility for this child she has barely talked to. It makes sense, given how Gemma’s first instinct was to leave her niece in the care of a robot that hadn’t been tested yet, but it is a miracle she managed to remain Cady’s tutor for more than a week. Nevertheless, the character is charismatic enough, and when it matters, she shows that she truly cares about her niece.
The bond between Cady and Gemma is complicated, with the latter unable to choose between her family and her career. Going back to the premise of the film playing with our suspension of disbelief back and forth, the bad influence that comes between them is the robot who enjoys menacingly dancing in hallways. It’s hard for Cady to figure out who is actually trying to keep her safe, and that is how M3GAN approaches the beauty of horror movies. Expressing grief, depression and other unpleasant feelings through the catharsis of tales about the supernatural has always been a major component of horror cinema, and this film knows how to do that while also letting Megan be hilarious due to her lack of self-awareness.
M3GAN is a delight you can’t miss. With the right amount of frights, humour, and entertaining performances from both Donald and Davis in the titular robot, this film is the perfect palette cleanser to start the new year. Johnstone’s latest has its fun with the scary potential of highly advanced artificial intelligence in an engaging science fiction story worth the admission ticket.