Anna Peterson ’25
Searching to numb my brain after a long day of classes, I was scrolling through the slew of repetitive content on Tik Tok when I came across a video of a robotic girl with eerie glass eyes singing David Guetta’s hit song “Titanium.” At this moment, I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of whatever god-forsaken movie this was. What out-of-touch Hollywood producer decided to invest in this Ex Machina x Child’s Play reboot? However, the sheer comedy, innovation, and horror provided by Gerard Johnstone’s M3GAN soon disproved my initial reactions.
The movie begins with Gemma (Allison Williams), a talented toy designer and engineer at the Funki company, becoming the caretaker to her recently orphaned niece, Cady (Violet McGraw). Engrossed in her work, Gemma struggles with parental responsibilities and managing Cady’s unimaginable grief. As problems arise with family welfare services, Gemma gifts Cady with a prototype of her newest creation. Standing four feet tall, the blonde, robotic nightmare of my dreams appears: M3GAN (Amie Donald, Jenna Davis). The plot quickly devolves as M3GAN’s AI capabilities and bloodlust grow stronger.
Going into this film with no other information than Tik Tok gags, I expected the worst — a lazy social commentary on the advancement of technology. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised at how much more this movie offers for the viewer. Dashed in with raw acting and suspense, M3GAN produced many moments of intentional comedic relief. This element of “spoof horror,” widely regarded in earlier delineations of the “scary movie” genre (Scream, Scary Movie, Child’s Play), eased any preachiness around an anti-technology stance. In this way, M3GAN asserts that it does not take itself too seriously and acknowledges its ridiculousness as inherent.
However, for a movie past the 90-minute mark, I have some technical criticisms with the story-telling and speed of the plot. With Cady’s parents suffering an unexpected and traumatic death, Gemma seems relatively unphased. The audience does not often see her genuinely grieve over the loss of her sister and respective brother-in-law. At points, this made it difficult for me to understand the relationship and character development of Gemma and Cady as a family unit. Additionally, the beginning is painfully slow. M3GAN takes its time to establish the background before introducing anything violent (which happens off-screen). It seems that the PG-13 rating is responsible for the abundance of fluff and lack of true horror.
While the storytelling of M3GAN is nearly perfect, the design choices and costume execution also deserve recognition, as they are central to the film’s success. Costume designer Daniel Cruden dresses M3GAN in a mid-length beige dress, striped undershirt, and a stiff bowtie. While the movie is set in the current era, M3GAN simultaneously exhibits both on-trend and outdated elements. Despite appearing so life-like, her clothes distinguish her as an “other” amongst the presence of the real. In addition, M3GAN’s structural design further drives this effect. While her lips and nose are realistic, M3GAN’s eyes are large, ice-blue, and doll-like. In a way, her appearance creates an “uncanny valley” phenomenon, where the line between reality and falsehood is blurred. Thus, M3GAN’s appeal is not in her violence but in her creepiness — her ability to make the audience uncomfortable with her sheer existence.
As I left the theater, my adrenaline was pumping, but my laughter was relentless. If you’re seeking to indulge in a non-scary scary movie, M3GAN is the way to go. For what she lacks in gore, she makes up for in hilarious dance scenes and aesthetic allure.
Image Source: The New York Times