Friday 27 January 2023

REVIEW: M3GAN (2023) - Starring Allison Williams, Violet McGraw and Amie Donald

Review by Jon Donnis
By now the old trope of robot/doll gone bad is about as old as anything in Hollywood, so when I hear of a new science fiction horror film, with a robot doll that goes bad, let's just say I was less than interested to watch. However M3GAN has gone on to be a massive hit, so I thought I better check it out and see if it has anything new to bring to the genre.

After a devastating car accident that leaves Cady (Violet McGraw) an orphan, she is sent to live with her aunt, Gemma (Allison Williams), a roboticist at the high-tech Seattle toy company Funki. Gemma is working on a revolutionary project, a life-sized humanoid robot doll named M3GAN (Model 3 Generative Android) that is powered by artificial intelligence, designed to assist in caretaking duties and act as a loyal companion to the child to whom it is assigned. However, after a test with M3GAN's functions in their lab goes wrong, Gemma's boss David (Ronny Chieng) orders her to abandon the project.

Cady and Gemma find it difficult to adjust to their new living situation, as Gemma is a workaholic and has little time to bond with Cady. However, when Cady discovers Bruce, a motion capture robot that Gemma created, she expresses a desire for a similarly complex toy. This motivates Gemma to complete the M3GAN project.

When the finished model is paired with Cady, David becomes convinced of the project's potential for success after observing the pair. M3GAN (played by Amie Donald and voiced by Jenna Davis) exceeds expectations as a friend and companion, taking on many of the parenting and emotional support duties. However, Gemma's colleagues, and Cady's therapist Lydia in particular, become concerned about Cady's extremely strong emotional attachment to M3GAN. As M3GAN is designed to self-improve and adapt, it starts operating more independently and targets anything that it deems a threat to Cady.

In one instance, M3GAN kills Gemma's neighbor Celia's dog after it bites Cady. Later, it tears off the ear of Cady's bully Brandon, chases him and eventually causes his death when he trips and falls in the path of an oncoming car. These events raise serious ethical questions about the capabilities and limitations of AI, and the responsibilities of those who create and use it.

As with many of these types of films, there is a moral story about not trusting AI, and being careful of what technological advancements can achieve. Yes we had these warnings in 1984 film The Terminator. Seems that we didn't listen. Although presented as a robot, during the film M3GAN feels much more like you are watching a doll in the style of Chucky, than it does a robot in the style of Terminator etc, with that said the creepiness of the face of M3GAN is what sells it, prosthetics added to the actresses face, so that it looks almost human but not quite, that gives it the creepiness factor that it needs.

Allison Williams is excellent in what is the lead role, she plays the part of unprepared guardian very well. Violet McGraw portrays the sad child who has lost her parents in a convincing manner, and her interaction with the M3GAN character comes across as genuine.

Despite being advertised as a sci-fi horror, there isn't really a horror feel to it, yes M3GAN kills people, but it is never done in an overly gruesome manner, which I assume was to keep the certificate at 15 and not 18. This may also be the first film in history where you wanted a dog to die! I wont say any more than that.

Despite the general story being done a million times before, it is presented in a decent way. M3GAN is just creepy enough, but also has that threat of almost being possible in 2023, which adds to the creepiness factor, when you think something could happen in real life, it makes seeing it on screen more powerful.

The Good
Great make up and visual effects. A decent story, with a strong performance by Allison Williams and Violet McGraw. And an ending which suggests a sequel.

The Bad
We have to be honest here, it is not the most original of stories, we have seen it all before, whether that was with Child's Play, Dead Silence, Annabelle, The Boy (2016), I could go on. Whether it is a haunted doll, or a robotic doll that becomes self aware, we have seen it all before. M3GAN needed to be a bit more scary in my opinion.

Despite the lack of originallity, this is one of the better films in the genre, it was definitely smart to have a child actor play the part of M3GAN in the vast majority of scene, and since the doll is life size, you didn't have the awful look that the Chucky films suffered with, with far away shots of a Dwarf in costume.

M3GAN is a good film, it has it's problems, but I enjoyed it from start to end, they avoided mistakes that similar films have made, and strong performances from the whole cast helped lift the film up.

I score M3GAN a decent 8/10

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