Coming from Jason Blum‘s production with James Wan serving as co-producer and co-writer, M3GAN turns out to be a killer combination you don’t know you need. With Malignant‘s writer, Akela Cooper, penning the script and then Gerard Johnstone (director of brilliant NZ horror-comedy, Housebound – it’s hard not to imagine Leigh Whannell‘s connection here) directing, it’s almost safe to expect a campy terror with enough deadpan hilarity on the menu. The truth is, this hybrid horror delivers just that… and more mayhem ahead.
Not Another Child’s Play
At the beginning, everything about it doesn’t seem all unprecedented. The plot is imbued with overly familiar tropes making viewers confident to guess where all this madness leading up to. The titular character, Model 3 Generative Android (or, in short, M3GAN – portrayed by Amie Donald and voiced by Jenna Davies), might have a Frankensteinian origin; but, that wouldn’t be her only trait for long. All it takes for her is a clichéd rogue AI trope to unleash the beast inside and turn the robotic toy into a diabolical troublemaker. Undoubtedly, there’s a shade of Child’s Play or Gremlins in the build-up; yet, however derivative it is, M3GAN knows how to stand out on its own.
Unlike Chucky, for instance, nothing sinister possesses M3GAN or be responsible for letting her running rampant. She has a mind of her own (albeit artificial). She’s a prototype child-sized android designed by Gemma (Allison Williams) to be the toy to end all toys. An android model like M3GAN is able to be a toy, best friend, caretaker, guardian, tutor, and more. When she pairs with a kid — in this case, Gemma’s recently orphaned niece, Cady (Violet McGraw), she’ll gradually learn about the kid and the emotional state. But, everyone isn’t ready for what comes next.
Here’s the first lesson: grief isn’t something to be taken for granted. Now, here’s the second one: letting a one-dimensional android (with limitless potential) to look after a grieving child is a dire mistake from the start.
From the babydoll killer’s perspective, it seems that she might not have any ill intention. She’s only doing her duty based on whatever she has learned to do (and she learns a lot in a short time). Morality means nothing in her lexicon; let alone other human’s life, except for the one she’s paired with. Yet, she’s everything we fear of – because she’s a fierce killer that can be just about anything. Most importantly, she reminds us of what we are now – technology-dependent creatures.
One Titanium Away
M3GAN immediately reminds us to what Wan does to Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde trope in Malignant or Whannell does to Invisible Man in his remake of the same title. This cheeky little horror also crafts a high-concept terror by rehashing familiar tropes. What it takes are little modernisations and layers of relevant social commentary that aren’t too pretentious to digest. For all of those traits, it’s hard not to view it like another episode of Black Mirror. But, here’s where this film differs: it embraces the campiness dearly.
There are moments where Cooper‘s writing and Johnstone‘s direction synchronize profoundly into killer combos that feel out-of-place, but slides fittingly into this narrative universe. You might have seen M3GAN dances awkwardly on the trailer. But, you might not be ready to see how super-satisfying the scale of its impact is. And, that would not be the only time she’ll take you by surprise. You’re only one Titanium away from it for a starter.
Now, while comedy isn’t what M3GAN intended to be, it just feels unseemly correct. The humor is well-placed, well-intended, and well-timed — in lieu of the R-rated violence that could’ve made this nasty terror a bit more delightful. Derivative as it might be, but the cheeky yet bone-chilling M3GAN couldn’t be more iconic as she has become now.