What happens when a woman who is ill equipped to take care of a child gives an AI Robot all her responsibilities with one vague goal: to “protect [her] from harm, both physical and emotional”? You get Gerard Johnstone’s 2023 hit horror film ‘M3GAN’. Released only a few weeks ago, ‘M3GAN’ has already grossed over US$124 million against a US$12 million budget and a sequel has already been greenlit for a 2025 release.
‘M3GAN’ follows Gemma, played by ‘Get Out’s’ (dir. Jordan Peele 2017) Allison Williams, a roboticist from a popular kid’s toy company who finds her life turned upside down when she inherits her niece Cady, played by Violet McGraw, after her parents are tragically killed in a car accident. Gemma can barely take care of her houseplants, let alone a child. Stuck with these newfound responsibilities that she can’t handle and inspired by her niece’s appreciation of a robot she built back in college; Gemma does the one thing she’s good at: building robots.
Meet M3GAN (Model 3 Generative Android), a toy that any kid would love. M3GAN, depicted by both a puppeteered animatronic and New Zealand actress Amie Donald (who wore a lifelike M3GAN mask which was enhanced with CGI) is given one clear instruction from her master: to protect Cady from any harm that may come her way. To you, that instruction may seem easy enough to understand, but to M3GAN she must learn herself what this means. Anyone knows if you let Artificial Intelligence run rampant you won’t get the desired results, and Gemma’s desperation to prove her invention a success whilst simultaneously ensuring her niece gets the care that she deserves blinds her from putting proper protocols in place for M3GAN to follow. As Cady’s bond with M3GAN deepens to an unhealthy level, M3GAN begins to act independently of Gemma and after overhearing a conversation about death, she unlocks a darker side to life and uses her newfound knowledge to protect Cady. Any ounce of stress or fear that M3GAN detects in Cady is taken care of immediately, even if it means killing the person that causes it.
“With M3GAN around, she’ll take care of the little things, so you can spend more time doing the things that matter” states Gemma as she slumps herself down on the sofa whilst M3GAN is in the other room parenting her child. ‘M3GAN’ is the perfect social commentary on the age of screens depicting a heightened and dangerous reality of raising kids with technology as well as the dangers that AI poses to society. ‘M3GAN’ is brought to us by Blumhouse, the company that brought to us other notable horror pictures like The Black Phone and Halloween (2018), but M3GAN is a change of tone from Blumhouse’s other pictures, instead incorporating a level of comedy to what is supposed to be a serious story. Be it M3GAN running around on all fours to chase after a boy who bullies Cady, or doing a laughable TikTok-style dance to distract a man from the fact that she’s about to chase after him with a machete or my personal favourite moment of the film: singing David Guetta’s Titanium as a lullaby for Cady which whilst somewhat cute, also houses a clever double-meaning that M3GAN is made of titanium and nothing will destroy her and her bond with Cady.
Speaking of that TikTok dance, it was completely choreographed by M3GAN’s human depicter Amie Donald who has a few credits to her name but primarily is a very talented dancer who represented New Zealand at the Dance World Cup in 2019. Amie performed most, if not all, of M3GAN’s stunts herself including that all four chase through the forest, jerky, robotic movements, and a dramatic cobra rise that you wouldn’t expect an 11-year-old to be able to perform. Amie Donald deserves a lot of praise for this role, bringing M3GAN to life. Williams and McGraw provide very convincing performances of Auntie and Niece, but it’s Donald who shines in this film. The 2023 horror season has just begun and M3GAN was the perfect film to kick off the slate of incredible horror movies that are coming our way this year.
By Daniel Viglietti
Header Image via Rolling Stone
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