M3GAN (2022): Come For the Dancing Robot, Stay for the Commentary

“M3GAN” is directed by Gerard Johnstone (The New Legends of Monkey, Terry Teo) and stars Allison Williams (Get Out, Girls), Jenna Davis (Maggie, Raven’s Home), and Violet McGraw (The Haunting of Hill House, Jett). This film centers around a young girl named Cady who loses her parents, is put under the custody of her aunt, but despite finding herself under said guardianship, she does not feel the same as she once did. Not to mention, said aunt is having trouble filling the shoes of her new, unexpected role. That is where M3GAN, an advanced toy doll prototype designed to practically be a child’s best friend, comes in.

When I think about the movie “M3GAN,” it would not be surprising for me to easily jump to conclusions and suggest that this is a gender-swapped version of “Child’s Play.” In some ways, it is. Although as I have said many times on Scene Before, horror is not my strongest genre, therefore I am not entirely familiar with “Child’s Play” and am purely going off of things I have heard. This time, the Chucky doll is a girl, and the child this movie revolves around is a girl as well. The trailer emitted these vibes from the moment I first witnessed it. Sure, there is that one dance routine that M3GAN does that makes her stand out, but I was not sure how a horror movie released in January could not only make its presence known, but worth appreciating. Sure, statistically, horror has been on a roll in recent months, at least for me. But now that we are in January, we are in the time where without exaggeration, movies go to die. If you are not going back to see “Avatar: The Way of Water” or “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” for the first, second, or third time, you are probably going to be watching something that is either deemed less favorable, or something that is still pulling in people for an Oscar nod that came out during the fall.

Thankfully for “M3GAN,” this movie is a delightful surprise. Yes, the trailers make it look like January trash, but it does have some genuine charm throughout that makes it worth the watch. I was shocked and delighted to find out how layered this movie ended up being. From scene one, I ended up caring about the young Cady. I felt terrible for both Cady and her aunt, Gemma, as the two tried to get better acquainted. I have not lost my parents at a young age. I know people who have, and it must be a pain I could never fathom. Nevertheless, this movie manages to capture such a pain with excellence. As for Gemma, a lot of pressure was put on her in a split second. She does not have much experience with children, despite working at a toy company. I not only sympathized with the main character, but the supporting character who is supposed to look after said main character.

As mentioned before, regarding “M3GAN,” an obvious similarity would be “Child’s Play.” But I would also say that another film prominently featuring a technologically advanced toy, “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” would also make for a good comparison. These films have their vast differences. For example, I would not outright recommend “M3GAN” for children, but I think “M3GAN” does a good job at doing something “Ron’s Gone Wrong” tried to do, but in the case of “M3GAN,” the results were more pleasing. To be specific, this film dives into commentary about technology, the toy industry, and how these things can affect one’s social behavior. Children often form attachments to various possessions, and sometimes that can define their life around a certain age. I played a lot of video games when I was younger, so I had an attachment to my various consoles. I would go on vacations and literally take my Xbox 360 with me. This movie reminded me that children will inevitably have obsessions. Heck, every other time I am in a store like GameStop or Target, I will see a child and parent together, and every other time I would hear the child calling out for a toy or something of a similar nature and beg their parent to buy it for them. M3GAN comes off as a toy that could make such a thing happen if it were on display.

In addition to attachment, this movie does a great job at showing how technology tends to replace guardians in many cases. Technology is often used as an escape no matter what age somebody is. However, there comes a point where this movie is a reminder to monitor how often your child is in front of a screen. In M3GAN’s case, it is perhaps a bit more daunting than say my recent Xbox 360 example. Because an Xbox 360 is replaceable. Whether we are talking about more advanced consoles like the Xbox One, or whichever other Xbox 360 already in existence has yet to crap out because of the red ring of death. This movie advertises M3GAN as the one toy a child could ever want for the rest of their life. As a result, it is the one friend they could want too. M3GAN is equipped to do what other people Cady’s age can do and possibly more. Whereas the option is always there to play video games with my friends, M3GAN has the ability to take the actual social component out of anything.

To call “M3GAN” the scariest movie of all time would be a hyperbole beyond hyperboles. I should note, the movie is PG-13, but nevertheless, rather effective. However, I would say the scariest thing about “M3GAN” is something that happens in the movie, and what it made me think about upon leaving it. The most haunting thing about movies like “2001: A Space Odyssey” from 1968, “The Terminator” from 1984, or even more recent films like “Wall-E” from 2008 is that those stories are representative of realities where we could lead ourselves if we are not careful. “M3GAN” is not the scariest horror movie within the past year. The actual scares in the movie are kind of tame compared to say “Smile,” where I was shivering on a regular basis.

That said, the scariest thing about “M3GAN” is that the movie is perhaps representative of not our future, but where we are today. This movie starts off with an advertisement about a toy that is wholly reminiscent of the typical formula of almost any ad found during the daytime on Nickelodeon. If anything, M3GAN is what happens when you put Siri or Alexa inside of an American Girl doll. Heck, the doll even has singing capabilities. What if there is a point where this becomes a franchise and these dolls sell out concerts at Madison Square Garden? M3GAN is literally a smartphone with legs. It presents information in full detail when the moment seems most convenient. It is customized to cater to its primary user. And Cady is endlessly attached to it. Who is not attached to their phone these days?

To give an example of how “M3GAN” is not necessarily representative of our future, but today, let me give you a picture of my screening. This was nowhere near a full house. But the film brought in plenty of people into its small auditorium of ages varying from somewhere in the teens, possibly tweens, to that of a fully grown adult. Almost everyone had their phone out. Some had it out for a second. Some longer. There were moments where people were using their phone while losing focus on the movie. There were also moments where I saw a sea of four, five phones on at a time. In fact, since I do not carry a watch, I checked my phone, which I left in my pocket while doing so, to see the time after the trailers ended because AMC loves advertising everything under the sun. First off, if you are going to go the movies, the only screen that matters is the one the largest one in the room. Be respectful. Second, there is a scene in “M3GAN” that does not specifically target the people doing what they were doing in this theater, but the more I think about my experience, the more I connect it to Cady’s connection to M3GAN in that moment. She loves M3GAN so much that she is unwilling to give it up for even a couple hours for any other activity presented in front of her.

M3GAN is probably not going to end up in my favorite movies of the year list once we arrive at the end, but it probably is going to be one I will think about regularly because of how many connections I can make between the story and my life experiences. I went into M3GAN to see some silly robot take over the lives of a household. I definitely acquired more than that, and for such a reason, this movie was worth the watch.

In the end, “M3GAN” is honestly better than I expected going in. It is a fine mix of drama, comedy, horror, and social commentary. It does a bunch of things at once, and manages to do them well. In addition, it reaffirmed not only why I should be worrisome in regards to the future and how technology could affect it, but also how technology can affect people right now. I left this film worried, and honestly, that is what makes “M3GAN” as effective as it is. I am going to give “M3GAN” a 7/10.

“M3GAN” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed my review for “M3GAN.” Check out some of my other reviews for recent horror titles like “Halloween Ends,” “Barbarian,” and “The Mean One.” Also, stay tuned because I will be dropping my thoughts on “Missing,” which I saw before “M3GAN,” but due to being under embargo, I decided to review “M3GAN” first. Stay tuned for my thoughts coming soon! If you want to see all of this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “M3GAN?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a toy or piece of technology you found yourself attached to at some point in your life? Are you still attached today? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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