When I first saw the trailer for this film, I thought it was going to be a generic killer doll film the likes which we have seen before. Surprisingly, this film sets the precedence for the year of 2023 and embraces a very niche genre in horror comedy. The film looks ridiculous and campy and it embraces this setting spectacularly well, but it also isn’t afraid to have deeper commentary on the dangers of technology, the responsibility of parenthood, and the capitalist’s society in the toy market. All of this blends together for the biggest surprise of the year and a film that I have not stopped thinking about since I saw it.
When Cady’s parents are tragically killed in a car crash, she goes to live with her aunt Gemma who works in designing toy robots for kids. Gemma’s latest project is M3GAN, a lifelike doll figure that pairs with its user, adapts to their needs and desires, and sets out to protect their child at all costs. As the responsibilities of taking care of Cady weigh heavy on Gemma, and M3GAN starts to fulfill a lot of essential needs, the programming starts to take a turn for the worse.
As I said before, this film embraces horror comedy at every turn and undoubtedly knows the absurdity of its premise and titular character. The film has a lot of fun in just going along for the ride, leading to some wildly entertaining and comedic moments that are designed to be that way. When it wants to be funny, the film is funny, and it isn’t truly trying to be scary or horrific in terms of the killer doll motif but rather just have fun with what they have at their disposal. This could have been something more far reaching and ambitious had the film been given an R rating and allowed to relish in more wacky kills, but nonetheless it sets a great precedence for the genre in that sometimes you don’t need to be a full blown out thriller.
What really sold this movie for me was the thoughtful and intricate discussion it has on the effects of technology, particularly on little children. In a culture where kids are given iPads and tablets at younger ages and start to be educated, discipled, and brought up on digital media, there is a harsh reality that this film wisely explores. Cady is dealing with the aftermath of her parent’s death and instead of having the space to process those emotions with her aunt Gemma, Gemma instead gives her an electronic toy to distract herself with. That decision leads to dangerous consequences as you see that M3GAN really isn’t a positive influence on Cady. She lashes out, has tantrums, talks back to her caregiver, and forms an unhealthy attachment. This brilliant exploration of the negative consequences is the true horror of the film as it reminds kids, parents, and those of all ages the dangers that lurk behind technology.
However, the film never tries to force this commentary and exploration down the audiences throat. Rather, it s a gradual integration into the narrative that culminates in leaning more horror comedy and downright absurdity for the better rather than on a deeper theological discussion. M3GAN is one of those rare films that smartly balances its different genres, themes, and messages effectively to deliver something memorable. Though not at all to the levels of Get Out, there is ingeniousness to the craft and blend this film pulls off that makes it stand out.
The film does suffer in terms of its predictability. You know who M3GAN’s targets are, and what is going to happen to them before the narrative reaches those conclusions for itself. It isn’t an entirely surprising or deep film from a thriller and mystery standpoint leading to moments where tension and stakes aren’t truly felt. By the time the film reaches its conclusion, you can see every narrative beat coming from a mile away. I do not think it hurts the film’s smart blend and commentary, but rather something that’s easily noticeable as you’re watching it.
The film’s cautionary tales on the dangers of technology blended with embracing the campiness of its narrative makes for a solid start to 2023. A lot of people were thinking of skipping this film, but truly I was impressed with what they brought and I’m excited to see where they can go next. Particularly the PG-13 rating does hold it back from being something truly revolutionary, but nonetheless this could be a solid start for what’s to come. Definitely check this one out if you can!
B+ (Campy yet Ingenious)