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starring: allison williams, amie donald, violet mcgraw, and ronny chieng

REVIEWER: nick tonkin

A robotics engineer at a toy company builds a life-like doll that begins to take on a life of its own.

M3GAN is the new horror film from the producer dream team James Wan and Jason Blum, with a script written by Wan and Akela Cooper (Malignant) and helmed by the New Zealand born director Gerard Johnstone (Housebound, The Jaquie Brown Diaries).


Following the tragic loss of her sister and brother-in-law, Gemma (Allison Williams) takes in her young niece Cady (Violet McGraw). Gemma is a talented robotics engineer at a toy company with no time for distractions from her work, especially from her demanding boss David, (an on form Ronny Chieng) struggling with pressure from the company’s board.


Unfortunately a grieving young child, who needs attention and support is the last thing that Gemma has the capacity to handle, right when her passion project has reached a critical point in development. In a callous move of efficiency, Gemma decides to combine these two problems by introducing Cady to her work project, an android named M3GAN (an acronym whose meaning escapes me, so we’ll call it Megan).


Megan was designed to be a companion for kids, to allow parents more time for themselves - just what Gemma is looking for, especially while Cady can effectively beta test Megan before the android is introduced to the Board by David. However, after Gemma changes Megan’s prime directive to protect Cady from both physical and emotional harm, things start to get dangerous.


I’m very curious to hear what audiences make of M3GAN, as a cynical observer might prematurely write the film off as either a Chucky or Annabelle clone. However, M3GAN is wholly undeserving of such shade as it proves itself to be a compelling little examination of the toll that our reliance on technology might ultimately take on us.


In addition it also satisfyingly leans into the Goldblum trope of scientists (in this case tech geniuses) being too preoccupied with whether they could [build an unintentionally excellent murder robot], rather than whether or not they should [build the robot]. While doing these big brain things, M3GAN also finds time to develop its characters, and slow burn the creepiness that increasingly surrounds Megan as the film progresses through its first half towards its first, admittedly satisfying, dose of violence.


Speaking of violence, it has been said that the film underwent reshoots to help it achieve a relatively low age rating for a horror film in the USA of PG-13. This results in a restrained use of violence which I think ultimately works in favour of the film by requiring the script put the work in on character development in the absence of easy horror moments and gorey violence.


However, this could make the first hour of the film feel a little slow for those just watching for genre thrills. But to those of us on board through that section of the film, the second half feels all the more exciting, shocking and satisfying.


M3GAN is a smart and entertaining excursion into science fiction horror that punches above its weight thanks to screenwriter Akela Cooper and New Zealand director Gerard Johnstone.


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