“M3GAN,” the newest robotic horror to break into theaters near you, has swept the nation and garnered unusually high ratings from critics and casual filmgoers alike. While older audiences might be more critical of the campy, social media-fueled campaign, teenagers, an audience often ignored by marketing, have shown high interest in the film, choosing to remix the main character’s dance over songs like Beyonce’s “Alien Superstar” and Lady Gaga’s “Bloody Mary.”
The movie opens with an ad for a talking, robotic, Furby-like animal, then transitions into the toy being operated by Cady (played by actress Violet McGraw), a young girl controlling it from an iPad in the backseat of her parent’s car. While the parents complain in the front about their daughter’s screen time, a truck rams full speed into the windshield, killing them both and transferring custody of the daughter into her aunt’s hands. In her grief-ridden state, Cady quickly finds her aunt’s house to be void of children’s toys but filled with robots and modern tech. She stumbles upon Gemma’s human-like doll prototype, M3GAN who’s nearly identical to a human girl, save the internal wiring. At first, the doll helps Cady overcome her grief, but as the movie progresses, it becomes apparent that M3GAN is capable of using lethal force to keep Cady safe.
The film draws inspiration from its doll horror predecessors, “Child’s Play” and “Annabelle,” but adds a refreshing dose of pop culture. Allison Williams, mostly recognized as Marnie from the HBO hit “Girls,” plays Gemma, the main character’s aunt. Williams infuses relatability into her performance. She acts as the sole voice of reason in the film — someone tethered to reality, but flawed and overly reliant on technology, like the vast majority of Americans are. Gemma serves as a placeholder for the modern American and helps to exacerbate the horror of the situation by framing it as one that could happen to you.
At times, the Orwellian anti-robot sentiment seems contrite and overemphasized. In many scenes, the technology is both far too advanced to be realistic and beyond the scope of what humans would endorse. The theme here is not supposed to be subtle. Even if it occasionally spoon-feeds the viewer, it’s not by accident. “M3GAN” is meant to be loud and unrealistic, a vast contrast to the new wave of subtle cinema.
“Bodies Bodies Bodies”, an A24 film from 2022 similarly uses internet slang to critique the rise of internet culture in daily life. “M3GAN” is a product of the digital age criticizing the digital age. The juxtaposition is comical and fresh. “M3GAN” also adds a taste of class consciousness into its runtime, with the bosses choosing to exploit profit from the robot even after being warned of its defects. This comes along at the same time as other (more nuanced) critiques of the wealthy in movie theaters. “Triangle of Sadness,” “The Menu,” and “Glass Onion” are three films leading the pack in capitalist discourse in film.
“M3GAN” will not be on the next Sight and Sound list and it likely will not be nominated for any awards this season, but that doesn’t detract from its value. It’s not meant to be a timeless classic. The movie was made to garner a laugh and immerse the viewer in a good time. The viral videos of “M3GAN” swaying to Taylor Swift are (yes) a marketing tactic, but one that reaches out to Gen Z, in a way that hasn’t been done effectively since the release of “Minions” last summer.
This is a wonderful take on unique movie of this type. Insightful to say the least
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