M3gan – movie review

When the most advanced “toy” in history goes rogue, lives are at stake in Gerard Johnstone’s engaging horror sci-fi thriller M3gan.

Nine-year-old Cady (Violet McGraw) is on a trip to the snow with her parents when she is in a car accident that leaves her bloodied and claims their lives. That leaves her in the hands of her mum’s sister, Gemma (Allison Williams), a workaholic robotics games engineer and developer for a leading toy manufacturer. She doesn’t know the first thing about parenting and struggles to connect with Cady. Gemma is also under pressure from her boss, David (Ronny Chieng), to combat a rival company’s cheaper copycat offering. That is after having gone behind David’s back to work on an expensive pet project at company expense that failed. But when Cady sees what her aunt is capable of, her interest is piqued.

That prompts Gemma to go back to the drawing board with her plan to develop a toy that uses AI in such a way that it will shake up the industry. Leading a team of three, she creates M3gan (Amie Donald and the voice of Jenna Davis), a life size, super intelligent doll that bonds with her primary carer and gains more and more knowledge over time. M3gan and Cady quickly become inseparable and M3gan is highly protective of Cady. That causes friction in the relationship between Cady and Gemma. As her “brainpower” grows, M3gan’s problem-solving ability turns decidedly dark and twisted, with catastrophic consequences.

I liked the narrative arc developed by writer Akela Cooper (Malignant) from a story by her and James Wan. The idea is well set-up before the venomous sting appears and the helter-skelter journey begins. M3gan’s “see it all, know it all” eyes have a marked impact. While exploiting the dangers of AI are nothing new on film, I loved the twist here – being the movie’s child focus. Humour also plays a significant role, giving M3gan another important and entertaining layer.

Allison Williams does a fine job as a highly competent career profession out of her depth. The deliberately exaggerated persona given to her superior David is another matter. I didn’t care at all for Ronny Chieng’s over-the-top characterisation. Mind you, his caricature wasn’t alone in troubling me. Stephane Garneau-Monten’s work up of David’s incompetent offsider Kurt also did little for me.

Notwithstanding these shortcomings, I thought M3gan offered plenty to keep me engaged, including the transition to chaos. Overall, the story is well told by Johnstone and his team.

Alex First

Other reviews you might enjoy: