It should perhaps at this point be pointed out that M3gan is not directed by the legendary James Wan, that job goes to director Gerard Johnstone (The New Legends Of Monkey), but Wan’s handiwork is very evident on the film as at times it feels like you are watching an AI version of Annabelle as the main villain of the piece.
Plotwise the film explores what happens when gifted robotics engineer, Gemma (Allison Williams – Get Out), is left with the guardianship of her niece Cady (Violet McGraw – The Haunting of House Hill) after the death of her sister and brother-in-law in a tragic car accident.
The career-orientated Gemma is out of her depth being a sudden mother and decides that perhaps the best thing she can do is introduce Cady to the AI companion for children that she has been working on at the toy manufacturer she works for. That AI has been affectionately called M3gan (Amie Donald – Sweet Tooth and voiced by Jenna Davis – Maggie).
Initially the experiment seems to work, so well in fact that Gemma’s boss David (Ronny Chieng – Crazy Rich Asians) changes his mind about the AIs and decides that he wants to put them into mass production. It is only then though that Gemma and her team begin to have some concerns over the relationship between M3gan and Cady as it seems to be bringing out traces of violence and anger in both of them.
There are several things about M3gan as a film that works. The mixture of comedy and horror throughout the film seems to work well. Most of Ronny Chieng’s lines throughout the film garnish a laugh from the audience although at times people also seem to laugh when M3gan herself threatens somebody that may suggest that perhaps either the screenplay or Johnstone’s direction needed to make her a little scarier as it felt like the dangers of AI technology was kind of lost when the audience were openly laughing at a doll on a murder spree.
The performances of Allison Williams and Violet McGraw were also out of this world as the script delved into what it is like not only for a child to lose their parents but what can happen when a child is suddenly left in the care of somebody that has no parental instincts. The fact that Akela Cooper’s (Malignant) screenplay looks at that relationship from both points of view is well thought out and works brilliantly. From one point of view, you have a young girl who arrives at a home with no toys and an Aunt who has no interest in her and from the other point of view you see a woman who is completely lost doing her best not to drown.
Those roles are brought to life amazingly well by Williams and McGraw. Williams is believable in her role and plays out the whole lost-at-sea storyline brilliantly well while McGraw shows that she is a gifted young actress who delivers in some of the film’s more intense scenes.
While the screenplay does a remarkable job at times it also has its weak moments as well. There are times during the film when the actions of characters make little or no sense – for example when at the toy company why does M3gan kill the people she kills but leave alive those who can potentially spoil her plans – while the whole storyline around Cole (Brian Jordan Alvarez – Will & Grace) ends up going nowhere so seems like a pointless plot device.
Another big plus for the film though is that while the whole AI horror thing is not new – thanks to films like the remake of Child’s Play and even Christmas Bloody Christmas – the film does explore the dangers of a relationship between an AI and a human. So the scenes in the film when M3gan is taken away from Cady are heart-breaking to watch and it seems they are more of a lesson about an AI’s impact on society and humanity than any of the scenes involving M3gan’s murders. However, while there is a valuable lesson learnt from watching M3gan, I am just not convinced it was delivered the way the filmmaker’s intended for it to be.
M3gan is an okay film. It is a fun film to watch and will draw in its audience, but thanks to some holes in the screenplay it is not the masterpiece that many expected it to be. If you are thinking it will go into the territory of Annabelle or The Boy it doesn’t – instead it often takes a more humorous view of things which some people may love but others may find is not their cup of tea. Still it is well worth a look if you have loved some of the quirky horror that James Wan has produced over the last few years.
M3gan is currently screening in Phuket and is rated ‘15’.
David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at www.facebook.com/subcultureentertainmentaus