"...those not expecting too much originality may have a reasonably good time"

A Great Gimmick and it is Very Nearly Good

(020923) M3gan is a crowd pleasing sci-f/i horror flick with many comedic elements which efficiently fuses together some of the best (and a few of the worst) plot elements of Child’s Play, Robocop, The Bad Seed, and also the obscure Hammer film, Frankenstein Created Woman. The name stands for Model 3 Generative Android.

The movie has been an unexpected hit. It only cost 12 million dollars and at this point it has already grossed more than 150 million which makes it the biggest grossing film of 2023 (yes, I know it is still early.) It is kind of a shame because although the film does provide some fun moments, it is nowhere as thoughtful or original as many of the Oscar films (such as Tar, Women Talking and Triangle of Sadness) that have already tanked at the box office.

M3gan herself (voiced by 15-year-old future star Jenna Davis) is an extremely impressive fictional creation. She is like an exaggerated Barbie doll combining all this society’s ideals of female beauty with the ruthlessness of a serial killer. Oh, and she also has an extremely sinister dance. (almost as memorable as the one on Wednesday ). Furthermore, if viewers go on the Facebook page for the movie and leave a comment, they will start getting disturbing and quasi threatening texts in the robot’s voice. It is one of the most ingenious publicity gimmicks since the heyday of B-movie schlock-master William Castle.

It was made by the New Zealand born director who also made Jaquie Brown Diaries and Housebound (I never heard of them either). It was written by the better known James Wan who is also responsible for the popular
Conjuring series, which is the highest grossing ever horror film franchise, as well as the Insidious and Aquaman films.

Allison Williams (Get Out) is fine portraying Gemma, a serious, over worked robot designer. Her sister and brother in law are unexpectedly killed in a tragic car accident, but their daughter, Cady (Violet McGraw) survives. Gemma is well intentioned, but she has poor parenting skills, so she fast tracks a project she is working on, and creates a robot companion to serve as both her neglected niece’s BFF and as her surrogate parent.

The robot M3gan becomes attached to Cady almost immediately and seems to become a perfect companion. But some problems develop. M3gan above all is programmed to protect Cady, but she takes it way too far. When a neighbor’s dog poses acts threatening towards Cady, the animal is found dead, and soon the human bodies begin to pile up. M3gan is the biggest reason that Cady gets over the grief over her parent’s death, so it is somewhat understandable that her maker is reluctant to turn her off even when she begins something is amiss with her programming. Also M3gan is a protype, and Gemma’s employers want to mass produce the doll and Gemma’s job is on the line if she does not succeed. They have flooded the media with M3gan commercials which are reminiscent to the satirical ones in Robocop.

Both the fembot in M3gan and the female creature in Frankenstein Created Woman (played by Susan Denberg) seem at first to be ideal artificial female creations, but both later develop troublesome personalities and eventually turn against their creators. Like the original Frankenstein (which is an influence on most artificial being films) M3gan suggests that there should be limits to technology and just because something can be done scientifically does not mean it should. But this has all been said many times in better films and novels. But more interestingly, the film also suggests (unlike Ray Bradbury's "I Sing the Body Electric" which became a great Twilight Zone episode) that an artificial being can never be a substitute for a real family relation, and overly depending on a substitute parent can actually drive apart real family members. Early on in the film a female social worker even warns M3gan’s creator about this.

M3gan was originally planned as an R film, but it was apparently neutered in order to receive a PG 13 rating. Perhaps this was done to allow younger teens in to see the film which is probably a big part of the target audience (If I was 13 this might be the film I most want to see). But while it is often successful, for my taste there is a little too much comedy and cuteness in it. It is rarely genuinely scary, and if there were a bit more gore and horror elements to balance out the comedy, this film could have been as good as Return of the Living Dead (1985). It falls just a little short-but it is far better than either the somewhat similar, Frankenhooker (1990) or Eve of Destruction (1991).

The film would be better if the third Act were not so strictly by the numbers, but those not expecting too much originality may have a reasonably good time. The actual character of M3gan though is a worthwhile horror protagonist. It is shocking to see murderous acts committed by an unthreatening looking creature resembling a 14 year old girl (in this way it is reminiscent of The Bad Seed), and some viewers might want to get in on the ground floor of a new horror franchise before it gets stale. I would much rather see another M3gan film than another Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream or Friday the 13th.

Directed by:    Gerard Johnstone
Written by:    Screenplay by Akeia Cooper and James Wan
Starring:    Allison Williams, Jenna Davis, Violet McGraw
Released:    01/06/23 (USA)
Length:    102 minutes
Rating:    Rated PG13 for terror, strong horror violence,
 suggestive comment and some gory content
Available On:    At press time playing at local theatres

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org and www.chicagopoetry.org. His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

M3GAN © 2023 Universal Pictures
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2023 Alternate Reality, Inc.


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