M3GAN Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
It’s Chucky meets A.I. as a murderous new doll is released onto the silver screen. Solid story, but clumsy comedy.
Genre: Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller
Director: Gerard Johnstone
Cast: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Amie Donald, Jenna Davis, Ronnie Chieng, Brian Jordan Alvarez, Jen Van Epps, Stephane Garneau-Monten & Lori Dungey.
Run Time: 102 min.
US Release: 06 January 2023
UK Release: 13 January 2023
German Release: 12 January 2023
January, after Christmas season, is historically the month in which Hollywood dumps its trash into cinemas. In Europe, January is also the month in which award-contending pictures, which were released late the year prior in the US, are being brought out onto the big screen. M3GAN is surprisingly neither of them! The first trailer for this sci-fi horror did not impress me whatsoever, especially knowing that it would obtain a PG-13 in the States. After having seen it this Thursday in theatres, I need to confess that it is entertaining! So mute you Siris or Alexas, and let's dive into my review!
Cady loses both parents in an accident, leaving Gemma, her aunt, as the only legal guardian of the 8-year-old girl. However, Gemma is unprepared to be a mother and under immense pressure at work. Spontaneously, she decides to link her M3GAN prototype with Cady, to solve both problems in one move - a decision that creates unimaginable consequences.
The screenplay, written by Akela Cooper in cooperation with James Wan, is in reality a well-developed family drama at heart. Right after the opening sequence, audiences witness a young girl not only lose both her parents in a car crash but also be physically harmed in that accident. The exploration of mortality becomes the basis for the plot, as well as a recurring subject throughout the runtime. Paired with a message about the importance of social contacts, made for a very interesting theatre experience, as I did not expect this movie to delve so deep.
Further valid points it raises, are the dangers of emotional attachment to electronic objects, especially at a young age, as it can hinder maturity by creating a detachment from reality. All of these thought-provoking themes are embedded in an entertaining sci-fi premise, with horror elements that blend components of Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence, with the Child’s Play franchise, making it work for the largest part!
It is also very funny at times. That said, the humour is hit-or-miss; some jokes work well, others did not elicit laughter, yet worse is the involuntary comedy, specifically during two cringe-worthy musical segments. I also believe that a little more violence would have benefited the final plot. As it stands, it isn’t really a horror, neither is it a comedy.
The dialogue is smart, contributing to the build-up of the creepie atmosphere, for instance when the learning computer starts questioning her own existence plus mortality. The heart-to-to heart conversations between aunt and niece, are tender moments with intriguing topics, such as the meaning of life.
The main characters are surprisingly relatably written. Allison Howell, who plays Gemma, Cady's aunt and caretaker, gives a convincing performance as the robotics engineer, working for a toy company, fascinated with collectables. She gives a profound performance of this intelligent woman, who does not know how to cope with social interactions, specifically close family ties. Gemma is an absolute perfectionist, who can’t admit when something is not under her control. She shuts herself emotionally off, searching for answers in her mechanics.
Violet McGraw, as Cady, does not impress to say the truth. She starts with a solid performance, giving unresponsive facial expressions, due to the trauma her character experienced. However, along the second act, she starts to pull faces that do not suit the emotions she is experiencing. At times she overacted to such an extent, that it became awkward. I was also not a big fan of how the character was written. Yes, one feels sympathy for her, yet she is so overly demanding, it borders on ungratefulness, which makes the character unlikeable.
M3GAN herself is a fascinating character. She is created hastily, out of impulse by Gemma, to impress her company and serve as an emotional, parenting figure for her niece, as she can’t handle the responsibility. Out of that situation, the A.I. takes in behavioural moments between her two contacts, assimilating information, from which she evolves.
Camera-wise, this genre-blender is pretty solid. Shot compositions plus framing are appealing, though the picture might lack esthetics, as colour grading and light feel pretty sanitised. Shadows, on the other hand, are used effectively for jumpscares. The editing makes good use of smash- and jump cuts, which gives the overall film a smooth pacing. Nevertheless, the set of montages that follow once M3GAN is introduced, feel a little bit redundant, speeding up the narrative to where it is necessary.
Overall, the visual effects look really good, considering the limited budget of twelve-million dollars. Morot FX Studio developed an animatronic puppet for dialogue scenes, as well as for close-ups. Further two animatronic puppets were built, one of them for possible stunt usage. Amie Donald portrayed the physical movement of the android, using a silicon-based facial mask, which was later replaced through CGI.
The sound effects make use of hydraulic sounds, electric zings, plus mechanical noises, to give the whole premise more realism. The soundtrack contains a variety of electronic and pop songs, as well as making use of two musical segments.
Verdict: Gerard Johnstone’s newest flick is a surprisingly entertaining genre mix, containing a sci-fi plot about artificial intelligence, interlaced with components of a family drama, and light shocking moments of horror. The subject matter is more thought-provoking than one might expect, as it raises the question about the usage time of electronics, especially for children that are growing up, who might lose grip of reality due to the lack of social contacts. Further motifs are of philosophical and psychological nature. Nonetheless, it also contains some critical flaws! First, the comedic aspects are poorly developed. Then there is the issue of child-actress Violet McGraw, who gave a very lukewarm performance, specifically as the story progressed. The villainous android puppet, on the other hand, is highly amusing. The cinematography is good, containing amazing effects. M3GAN is perfect popcorn cinema, deserving a 7.0 out of 10.
Have you seen this new Blumhouse feature yet? If not, give it a try! Let me know what you thought in the comments. Thank you very much for reading