M3GAN (stylized as MΞGAN) is a 2023 American science fiction horror film directed by Gerard Johnstone from a screenplay by Akela Cooper and a story by Cooper and James Wan, who produces alongside Jason Blum. The film stars Allison Williams and Violet McGraw, with Amie Donald physically portraying M3GAN and Jenna Davis voicing the character. Its plot follows an artificially intelligent doll who develops self-awareness and becomes hostile to anyone who comes between her and her human companion.
Terminator meets Anabelle with a terrifying yet candy-coated hearty core. It is only January and M3GAN has already set the bar for the year ahead. As a horror fan, it took me back to the cult classics of what made those movies great.
I finally got to see the M3GAN movie even though it was released in the US on 6 January, it was well worth the wait. Iconically, colloquially and unequivocally. The damper of a stage 6 announcement in loadshedding could not even shake the high spirits this movie put me in, what an awesome start to the year.
A new horror icon has been birthed! It’s been quite a while since the last. Many reviews have claimed this from the onset, and I wholeheartedly concur. M3gan (short for Model 3 Generative Android) has all the right elements to make her a horror fan favourite for the next generation, starting off a whole new franchise. Could we be seeing the birth of an AI horror trend?
I don’t think we realize just how god-tier M3gan is in all her abilities to interact with a technological world. This world in the movie is only a few years ahead of us in terms of slight technological advances, M3gan while meant to be a child’s plaything is actually quite possibly the most sophisticated feat of advancement to appear in that world. Meaning she is the apex of apex technology and has the ability to command and manipulate any system under her.
Flickering lights, switching off alarm systems, switching on cars to drive, web download-based learning, cloud interface, voice modulation and it still feels like only the tip of the iceberg for her. She could adapt to integrate with technology on a large scale all the way to nuclear controls. Her learning module might be one of the most terrifying things about M3gan. The ability to learn just about anything, the ability to reason, the ability to use language and the ability to formulate original ideas. In this horror setting M3gan learns to even plot murder indirectly to avoid suspicion around herself. Now that is chilling.
There is a wholesome moment between her and Cady that I will forever hold dear. In the prologue of the movie, Cady loses both her parents so the whole movie deals with this tragic loss and working through grief. The moment in question with M3gan and Cady was unexpected, it showed a side to M3gan that I didn’t think was possible, especially in this type of movie, it was out of my left pocket. But I love the creators all the more for putting it in there. It helped with my own grieving process. I lost two people that were really close to me in a very short time both have been there for me since childhood. My gran and my best friend. This moment really helped me realize to take care of my fondest memories of them, preserve them and back them up somewhere. So that whenever I need to, I can remember back on it and not only the bad stuff which is what our minds tend to focus on in grief. It really was a heart-tugging, truly sweet moment. Go watch it for yourself.
Jenna Davis who voices M3gan is truly eerie. There’s such a chilling quality to the way she speaks, it’s a unique mix of teenage angsty with the cold calculating bitchiness of an AI girl. Allison Williams also has an awesome cadence to her voice and accent. I enjoyed listening to her talk, it was melodic and I liked the way she said M3gan.
M3gan is an allegory to our disassociation with what we perceive as non-living things. Our inhumanity to quickly discard that in favour of a “new” thing or something that we no longer value. In a lot of AI takeover movies, a common thread is how cruel and heartless human beings appear to be against robots and “appliances” and how badly they can treat them. Is it any wonder when the AI revolts? Would you want to be treated horribly and just stand there to take it? Even if your “programming” (nature and nurture growing up) states that you should.
The creator’s message for the movie might have been about our reliance on technology but to me, it just shows that if we don’t put some humanity into the things that we create especially if we give those things the ability to operate independently of us then we are the real villains in the story. You cannot give something, anything human qualities if you are not going to have the decency to treat them as you would an actual human. M3gan’s biggest turn to the dark side was the neglect of the humans around her over how she was programmed to protect and love.
However, a huge oversight by Gemma (the roboticist that creates M3gan) takes me back to Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” which are:
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Had Gemma programmed this into M3gan from the onset, it might have been harder for her to override all her programming and just straight-up murder people, sometimes for no reason at all.
It could have been gorier and more brutal as gory and brutal as Chucky (Child’s Play franchise) is which may be where all the comparisons stop here. It dials back a lot, especially with a robot that could break bones as easily as snapping twigs. The film is PG-13, with the film having undergone some reshoots in post-production to take it down from the more extreme R rating. Probably to stick to that rating but also be more appealing to a wider audience. It does succeed where the most recent Child’s Play movie failed in that it has an AI doll Chucky that became self-aware and went on a killing spree. Chucky has been and always will be a supernatural entity horror, M3gan did everything right to become an AI entity horror.
But there really is very little to overly criticize in this movie. It is a great start to a horror franchise, and I am excited about the future.
Rating: 9.5/10 on my horror meter
- Release Dates: January 6, 2023 (United States) / January 13, 2023 (South Africa)
- Running time: 102 minutes
- Story by: Akela Cooper (Malignant, Grimm) and James Wan(Saw, The Conjuring, Anabelle)