Film Reviews

M3GAN (2023)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

It’s the first week of 2023 and we’re kicking off what should be another great year for the medium with a horror movie about a creepy as hell killer technologically advanced AI toy in the form of a child sized doll, and it’s not a Buddi Good Guy doll. Imagine that cross over for a second.

Blumhouses latest theatrical release, M3GAN (directed by Gerard Johnstone) is exactly what you’d expect from the production company that’s partnered with Universal Pictures to maintain theatrical relevancy by latching onto mainstream horror moviegoing with a firm grip.

M3GAN or Model 3 Generative Android was an abandoned project invented by Funki Toys (not to be confused with Funko) Roboticist Gemma (Played by Allison Williams) and forced into developmental hell. But when this clueless toy engineer is given sudden custody of her orphan niece (Played by Violet McGraw), it ends up being the spark she needed to once and for all finish the greatest invention since the automobile. So Gemma uses the opportunity to rework and finish the toy just enough to show some real promise. She then pairs the very first M3GAN with her little niece, doubling as a trial run and a free technological babysitter.

M3GAN is redesigned to be the best babysitter imaginable and the greatest companion a kid could ever dream of. When paired with this AI doll you gain more than just a friend. It can listen to you until the end of time, it can promote good habits, It awkwardly sits in your room when you sleep, it has a growing informational library located in its memory box, you name it, this AI can do it. M3GAN becomes more than just a toy, it becomes a member of your family. 

But from the deepest reaches of AI Developmental Hell, what’s surely a realm of infinite unknowns, rises a monster of human creation.

Turns out the parental controls for this M3GAN were foolishly not programmed thanks to an illogical time crunch and so in no time, M3GAN essentially becomes the toy equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster. The doll goes rogue, becomes hilariously unhinged, violent, kills anyone or anything that tries to come between it and its paired child and does so with uncanny goofiness.

Out of nowhere M3GAN just rattles off a mini lifelessly eyed musical number, even one in the middle of the night in a dark room. It’ll crouch down on all fours and hunt you down in the forest like some wild animal. It’ll do a little TikTok worthy dance number towards you as if it’s some ritualistic act just before killing you in cold blood. M3GAN can drive, play the piano, basically there’s nothing this toy doll can’t do and do in the most absurd fashion.

There’s definitely an uncanny creepiness to M3GAN but it’s never terrifying. The horror quality of the movie is lacking, even for a Blumhouse production but the movie more than makes up for that with its campy fun. This aspect has been praised more so than anything else and it’s true, I laughed more at this horror movie than I should have. Much of the movie’s wacky antics feels unintentional but it seems like there was meant to be some satirical attention drawn to the absurdity of it all.

BH films come with either a lighter PG-13 safety net or a brutal rated R stamp of horror approval. Unlike M3GAN the doll, this horror movie comes strictly programmed with a restrictive PG-13 Rating.

I think its parental guidance rating causes the movie to feel like it’s walking a line never fully able to cross over it and into horror movie territory like whatever deranged corner of the genre a movie like Malignant crawled out of. Just imagine for a moment what a rated R M3GAN would look like and it sounds like this version does actually exist.

Though surprisingly, underneath this slightly absurd movie are some deeper thematic concerns that give the movie bizarrely capable robotic legs. Stuff like the toy industry, kids screen time, parental controls, trauma caused by the loss of parenthood and the lack of its experience. Some of these themes are taken much more seriously than others, but it creates a nice blend all together. The PG in PG-13 really seems to be nudging any parents that watch the movie to step up their own parental guidance.

Despite its admittedly deeper meanings that intrigue me, I personally won’t be placing M3GAN very high in my rankings of Universal x BH films but it actually has plenty going for it. 

The production value, a staple for all BH films, provides a strong cinematic foundation. When I step into one of these movies I know it’s going to look the part and this movie delivers. 

These are BH standards. But so should the horror aspect and it’s just overshadowed every step of the way by sheer absurdity.

But the movie has people talking and they luckily released this movie at an opportune time with an understandable rating. Its only competition at the box office is Avatar: The Way of Water, a cinematic event that is still going strong but M3GAN will still be able to snatch up those box office crumbs and lure all walks of life into its showings.

They did promise that the M3GAN doll would change the world and make some serious cash, and the same can be said about movie M3Gan. It’s made over 40 million dollars at the box office. So a sequel is already in the works and that hurts a little considering plenty of other worthy horror movies haven’t been so lucky.

It’s January. Movie theaters are only playing the previous month’s releases, stuff you’ve already seen. It’s the first of the year so you probably don’t have anything else going on. M3GAN wants to be your friend. M3GAN wants to kill your enemies. M3GAN wants to be a part of your family.

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