Directed by: Gerard Johnstone
Premise: A girl (Violet McGraw) who lost her parents in a car collision is taken in by her aunt (Allison Williams) who works for an electronic toy company. The girl is gifted a prototype of a lifelike doll with an artificially intelligent operating system.
What Works: M3gan is primarily the story of a girl who has suffered a terrible loss and how she copes with it. Cady, played by Violet McGraw, looks for a new source of attachment and is given access to M3gan, a human-like doll that is programmed to serve as a playmate and friend. Cady becomes fiercely attached to the doll which becomes increasingly volatile and dangerous. The filmmakers use this premise to examine grief, the way technology can substitute for authentic human relationships, and how artificially intelligent devices are modifying our lives and children’s emotional development. This aspect of the film is done very well and Violet McGraw plays the drama seriously. M3gan is also a killer doll movie and it succeeds at this as well. The filmmakers create the illusion of this electronic toy in a way that is plausible. M3gan is not just evil. This doll’s violent behavior is a result of her programming and the filmmakers smartly work through the pitfalls and limitations of artificial intelligence and the ways that the nuances of human behavior are lost on the doll’s operating system. This creates an interesting parallel between the doll’s emerging sentience and the emotional troubles of her flesh and blood companion. In addition to being thoughtful, M3gan is also a lot of fun. The movie has some good scares and an atmosphere of dread but it is also mordantly funny. The humor and the horror work together to create an edgy atmosphere.
What Doesn’t: The killer doll genre is pretty familiar and M3gan does not introduce a whole lot that is new. The film is distinguished by how well it does this kind of story but the overall plot doesn’t contain many surprises or innovations. As a killer toy movie, M3gan owes a lot to the 2019 remake of Child’s Play which reimagined Chucky the killer doll as an artificially intelligent toy. The storytelling of M3gan makes a few leaps as these kinds of science fiction premises often do. The doll transforms very quickly from a benevolent piece of tech to a killer. Given the themes of trauma and development, it would have been interesting to complicate the doll’s evolution.
Bottom Line: M3gan is a horror picture that is both really smart and very entertaining. The movie mixes drama and insight into technology and child development with an effective killer doll premise.
Episode: #937 (January 29, 2023)