M3GAN is one of those types of movies which mixes up the scary truth in what artificial intelligence can become, especially if given a body to let it move freely. And when looking at what Akela Cooper and Jason Blum have dreamed up, I’m thinking it goes in a different direction than what Terminator and I, Robot offered. Here, the star is a life-like mechanical doll (magnificently and eerily performed by stand-in Amie Donald and vocally by Jenna Davis).
When this next generation object of affection is programmed to protect Cady (Violet McGraw), perhaps Aunt Gemma (Allison Williams) needs to be clearer in what her command line request entails. This young girl survived a car accident which claimed the life of her parents, and this woman doesn’t want to be her legal guardian. The real plot concerns her accepting responsibility after various problems at work and issues from home mount up! She’s a young hotshot at Funki, a toy company based in Seattle, and anyone who gets the reference will no doubt have to laugh.
But in order to take this film seriously, viewers will have to forget the jokes being made at pop culture fandom’s expense. There’s enough humour which I found distracting, and I’d rather enjoy this film as a stab at the rogue AI than a satire.
In regard to what drew me into this creepy doll film is that the titular character reminds me of Alita because of those large eyes! It gives the robot that otherworldliness that’s not only super effective, but also far creepier than any Annabelle movie (more on this later). With springy arms from a LEGO minifig, that’s an awesome combination.
While the story is nothing new long time fans have seen with this subgenre, what I enjoyed is how terrible things get because of the prime directive given to the doll. Had Gemma given a better definition to what protecting Cade should entail, then none of the murders would have happened! Also, I’m fairly sure she forgot to encode Isaac Asimov’s Law of Robotics into this improved version of Teddy Ruxpin; had that been in place, it would void the movie, but still–a science fiction movie can’t be called that unless some reference is made. It at least recognises one thing current robotics are trying to do, and that’s to keep humans safe by going in to dispose of dangerous substances. The fifth episode of Prophets of Science Fiction delves into this subject quite well.
Instead, all this movie does is prove just how creepy dolls can become. We forget there’s a machine under all that fake flesh. While it’s terrific to see a movie that does more than Wan’s Annabelle films–where the doll is seen moving–that’s not enough to keep me interested. It starts off exploring a tough scenario–does Gemma even want Cady around? She’s not ready to become a surrogate parent, and when her initial attempts to build a robot for the future (ala The Jetsons) get shelved, she’s stressing out. With this film, she finally comes around and we watch how that bond forms between aunt and niece, if they are to survive the machine’s rampage. It’s rare to look into this family dynamic.
And as for whether M3GAN truly did get destroyed, I’ve seen enough films to know robots will find a way to replicate itself. They will be back in classic Arnie fashion.
3½ Stars out of 5