This Pint-Sized Terminator Packs a Punch
Chris Kavan - wrote on 03/18/23
As I writer this review, AI has suddenly become a big topic of discussion thanks to the like of ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion reworking how we view everything from art to homework to search engines. And it also brings up what the future might hold for AI and with its angle, M3GAN is about the perfect film to reflect on.
AI run amok is a common theme across media and more often than not the stories told essentially boil down to AI becoming self-aware and then doing bad things to humanity. M3GAN is not different but where it gets good is presenting the AI in a most wholesome fore: like an American Girl doll crossed with The Terminator. You wouldn't ever think such an invention would ever be bad because it looks like a young girl - but make no mistake, under that cute exterior lies a cold-blooded killing machine - a guard dog crossed with Alexa that is most helpful but also unhinged.
Our story follows young Cady (Violet McGraw) who survives a car accident that claims the lives of her parents. She is sent to live with her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams), a tech genius who works at a toy company. Up until that point she has programmed some Furby-like pets but her boss, David (Ronny Chieng) is up in arms because a rival company has essentially copied their idea - but made it cheaper. Gemma has a new idea up her sleeve and finds that Cady makes for the perfect person to try it out - thus, we get M3GAN (Model 3 Generation Android) an AI-driven companion that can learn and hold actual conversations, play with and protect. Voiced by Jenna Davis and played by the talented, young Amie Donald (who also did that viral dance that got everyone's attention), this is character every bit as memorable as Chucky or The Terminator before it.
While at first M3GAN seems to be a great influence in bringing Cady out of her shell and dealing with the death of her parents, it soon becomes apparent that this is an unhealthy attachment and moreso when M3GAN takes her protection job VERY seriously and bodies begin piling up. From mean dogs to mean bullies to even Gemma herself - no one is safe in the end.
As I said, M3GAN is brought to life through actors but also a talented team of puppeteers. The extra features goes into more depth at just how involved the team in making things work smoothly. Add in Donald's more intricate moves and Davis' voice and it just creates a great and creepy addition to the rogues gallery of robotic insanity that has graced the big screen. And it's not just the scary parts that work - the film does a good job of just bringing stress to life - especially when dealing with work and family - and shows how demanding everyday life can be, but also is good on showing how reliance on technology can be a boon and a crutch.
Technology is at the forefront here as well - and M3GAN really doesn't feel that far off of where we are right now. Often AI films tend to look to the far future - but this is about a much closer reality and it makes is all the more tense when you think about just how close we are to something exactly like this being able to happen. Granted, I also think people would act a lot smarter than they do here - but given the corporate greed and rampant disregard for public safety in order to make money, perhaps not.
To wrap things up, I'm not going to say M3GAN is on my top tier for scary horror but I will say that it certainly makes a good point about a lot of things and the scary part of this film is how believable it all feels it could be.