Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 42 minutes, Director – Gerard Johnstone
A robot (Jenna Davis/ Amie Donald) designed to be a friend to and protect a child (Violet McGraw) begins to show murderous tendencies towards anyone who comes close to harming her.
Going into M3gan knowing very little apart from the general concept I must admit to having been taken by surprise from the opening five seconds. After the studio logos we jump straight into a deeply accurate advert for a kids toy. However, one with a darkly comic edge as the laughs roll out to an intentionally irritatingly upbeat song about a dead pet being replaced by a new forever friend in the form of a new toy. The toy is created by Funki and can be linked with an app which can interact with the Purrpetual Pet.
However, while Funki leads the market their toy is being replicated by rival companies, at cheaper prices. Engineer Gemma (Allison Williams) is tasked with coming up with a cheaper version of the toy which can be released as soon as possible, however her time has been largely spent putting thousands of dollars into a life-like robot which can learn and develop to communicate with a child as if it were a real person. While initially dismissed by her frustrated boss (Ronny Chieng) the project is put forward for a major launch when M3gan (voiced by Jenna Davis and physically performed by Amie Donald) is shown to be the new best friend of Gemma’s niece Cady (Violet McGraw). “Imagine what M3gan can do for thousands of kids all around the world, even the ones who don’t have dead parents” Chieng’s David enthusiastically says in a promotional video.
When we first meet M3gan (standing for Moden 3 Generative Android) director Gerard Johnstone seems to understand that there’s something inherently creepy about robots. The way in which her mouth can’t make proper shapes and so simply moves unrhythmically up and down when she speaks is the first indication of this. Nonetheless she forms a bond with Cady, her primary user, and almost begins to play the role of guardian for her instead of Gemma, who takes her in when Cady’s parents pass away after a car crash at the start of the film. It also means that she herself isn’t overly monitoring M3gan, only properly noticing how much time is spent with the robot when things need to be altered during development.
One alteration that’s missed is perhaps just how much the robot is willing to protect her primary user. Over time in various slightly distant and clear stages we see her anger rise as murderous intentions are displayed towards anyone who may threaten to harm, or even shout at, Cady. As this happens we see M3gan go from eerie and creepy to a more standard horror villain, although certainly still an entertaining one. It follows the more conventional lines of the film of a robot-gone-wrong story which occasionally come in to slightly disturb the flow of certain moments. While this does form the majority of the piece, and works rather well as a whole, there is the occasional feeling of familiarity which settles in during particular scenes, especially as M3gan’s lack of control increases.
Yet, there’s still enough present throughout the film which works well enough and provides plenty of entertainment factor. There may not be as much humour as the opening stages may suggest but there are still a handful of chuckles scattered throughout. It helps to keep things moving and generally make for a more engaging and enjoyable film. Without it there would certainly be a still watchable and engaging piece of work, however it’s the humour which shows the film knows how to have fun with its ideas and concept, understanding to some extent that we’ve at least seen the broad outlines done in some places before. But, as a whole here there’s plenty to like and enjoy to make for a likable android horror for the time the film is on. One which will, and already seems to have, undoubtedly found its audience.
While it might show some conventional leanings as the titular robot loses some of its creepiness there’s still plenty within M3gan to gain a positive response, both from the restrained horror and the occasional comedy.