Peter Laws suggests caution for a film he really enjoyed
Other Connected films/ TV series: None, though it’s been a huge success, so there are talks of a franchise. It comes from the highly successful Blumhouse Studios - the biggest producers of horror-thrillers today.
Running Time: 102mins
Genre: Science Fiction, Horror-Thriller
Overview:A grieving child finds friendship and healing in a life-like robot doll, but her A.I. companion soon develops a deadly mind of her own.
What I liked: M3GAN is bonkers, true but it’s a thrilling, witty, sci-fi horror that takes gleeful pot shots at parent’s reliance on tech. It centres around Cady, an eight-year-old girl who loses her parents in a tragic snow plough accident. She’s sent to live with her workaholic aunt Gemma who struggles with the sudden thrust into parenting. Until Gemma realises her job might have the answer…
See, she’s a brilliant roboticist, working for a Google-style tech company. Normally she’s creating cutesy animatronic pets for the toy market, but her secret development project is a shockingly life-like Android called M3GAN. Could this little robot girl become the friend Cady desperately needs?
Yes, at first. M3GAN takes Cady’s mind off her grief, with fun games and educational chats, and the two develop a strong emotional bond. Gemma’s boss spies all this and sees dollar signs. Surely, they’ve found the world’s most revolutionary toy. Until M3GAN starts killing anyone who dares hurt Cady. After all, M3GAN has been ‘paired’ with her and nothing can separate that bond.
Any adult who has ever shushed their kid with a phone or tablet will squirm while watching this. Yet it thankfully it avoids being just a preachy parable against screen time. In the early scenes M3GAN reminds us of how tablets, devices and yes, artificial intelligence, really can enrich our lives. For example, adults are notorious for checking their phones while talking to children – parents especially. M3GAN on the other hand, never breaks eye contact with Cady when they talk. Cady feels seen, listened to, and loved by a robot with more emotional intelligence that anybody else, early on.
Yet things go seriously wrong, which is when the film winds up doing what many horror films do. They offer surprisingly conservative warnings. This time…against the idea of co-parenting with machines. Those devices might just kill us.
What I Didn’t Like:This film feels messy at times, with a few unconvincing plot twists. Plus, the first half is stronger than the last.
Thoughts for Parents: I’d say this is fine for older teens, but you should expect scenes of extended tension, violence, and threat. M3GAN enjoys despatching people with household electricals: as if strimmers and pressure washers are her low-fi comrades. I thought that was a clever touch. Some viewers might find images of her running on all fours, too nightmarish - though that’ll be a thrill for others.
The iconic design work on her is superb, by the way. Like a Victorian doll with a 2023 attitude. I’d be shocked if we don’t see a M3GAN 2.0 in cinemas. Still though, for a horror film it’s not overly brutal or gory. Indeed, horror fans have even complained at the lack of blood. A rumoured ‘adults-only’ cut is in the works. It promises to be ‘way gorier.’
M3GAN is at her scariest however, when she’s just standing in the shadows, watching. Monitoring Cady’s life, in the same way our own digital assistants monitor ours. She can even turn the usual standby prompt into something quite chilling – ‘Are you suuuure?’ M3GAN says, as Gemma tells her to power down.
If you’re a parent who has ever used technology (which is, ahem, all of you), you might want to give M3GAN a look. I enjoyed it…but obviously skip it if you can’t handle scares.