Gerald Johnstone’s M3GAN is the stylish and sadistic robot-doll horror we didn’t know we needed. We’re all still pulling ourselves together after years of pandemic-related trauma. Sitting in a crowded theater finally seems somewhat normal again. Nicole Kidman says heartbreak feels good in a place like this. M3GAN shows us what really feels good is rage.
It’s the self-awareness of this horror-comedy that makes it something truly special. This isn’t to discount our other favorite doll antagonists. We dearly love Brahms and Annabelle and Chucky—our sweet little friends who do bad things! M3GAN really hits on how we’re feeling right now, though, its balance of horror and humor offering a deliciously satisfying pressure release.
We dive in when Gemma (Allison Williams) takes custody of her orphaned niece, Cady (Violet McGraw). Gemma happens to be a toy designer specializing in robots. She struggles to relate to her niece and decides to test out her new doll, M3GAN (Amie Donald), as a companion for the girl. The doll’s tech allows her to constantly update and learn. She can talk to Cady about her problems, tend to daily needs, and interact playfully. Oh, and she’s shockingly lifelike.
What could go wrong?
M3GAN has full internet access, so she’s a walking Wikipedia—that kid who’s had too much screen time and wants to make you feel bad for not remembering how to do algebra. She corrects Gemma’s advice and parenting, ingratiating herself as a mom-figure in Cady’s life. She becomes creepily protective and learns that violence has long been the answer to so many of humanity’s problems.
Despite burgeoning, murderous proclivities, M3GAN is charismatic. Her outfits are cool. She looks at us with a judgmental stare from under perfectly penciled eyebrows and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. She’s a robot Regina George, but instead of weaponizing gossip, she grabs a machete.
We giggle excitedly.
When we see that look in her eye—the one that says she’ll defend Cady no matter what—our instinct should be fear. But she does her murder-thing in a khaki dress with a saucy striped bowtie, like a vindictive American Girl Doll come alive. M3GAN knows how to wear sunglasses, and more importantly, how to remove them dramatically. Plus, her hair is pretty.
After years stuck at home, we’re feeling something again. We laugh and clap our hands and anticipate that gory kill scene we know must be coming. Humans are capable of plenty of bad things, but what about a robot doll?
How bad can she get?
Or… how good?
M3GAN doesn’t disappoint. She kills with panache. Her varied attack-styles suggest thorough knowledge of martial arts, weapons, anatomy, and fashion. Only the chicest AI could remove someone’s ears with her bare hands, or brandish an insecticide hose like a flame-thrower, and then adjust her sunglasses. Move over, Skynet, this android’s got homicidal tendencies and the perfect smoky eye.
At an outdoor camp for kids, M3GAN spies a bully harassing Cady. She absconds from the toy table, stealthily approaching the bad kid with an insane-looking spider-squat-run. Her unique form of locomotion could certainly double as modern dance. It’s shocking. It’s graceful. It’s exciting. We’re just so pleased she’s good at what she’s doing. Competence is inspiring.
When she steals a sports car, we really come alive.
M3GAN isn’t only a robot doll, but our awful-yet-fabulous double, our perverse-but-sexy mirror image. She’s monstrous and murderous while being confident, smart, and attractive. Bursting into dance before grabbing a blade, she moves as if guided by a sultry Billie Eilish beat. Give us the number of her stylist and recipe for her moxie.
We’ll have what she’s having, please.
As much is the film is stylish and fun, it leans into the depth and nuance of the central tragedy. Cady lost her parents in a terrible car accident. Her bond with M3GAN demonstrates our intense, inherent need for connection, especially in the aftermath of trauma. We get it. How long have we all sat at home, hours on end, watching the news, angry, still in our sweatpants, dreaming of a way to fill the void, to cope with our own losses and anxieties? We understand Cady’s need to be paired, even with a toy.
It's no mistake that M3GAN’s predilection for violence comes from her reaction to Cady’s awful situation, born of a bloody car accident. Also, her programming forces her to absorb the violence embedded in everything she processes from the web. She becomes a psychic battery for all of humanity’s anger and atrocities. We hope she’ll gain enough of our positive qualities and capacity for love to balance out the rage.
In the meantime, it’s fun to watch her kill in interesting ways.
This is truly one for the fans. A horror-comedy firing on all cylinders, giving us character depth and real-world issues while executing comedic elements with perfect timing. We laugh. We cry. We wonder if we should learn to use a machete. We invest in some new accessories. M3GAN is a film that’s so entertaining and gives us exactly what we crave. We walk away thinking, God we needed that today.