M3GAN Serves Equal Absurdity and Entertainment

Gustavo Damian Danemann Soto, Editor-In-Chief

   M3GAN, a life-like doll turned killer robot in the recently released movie of the same name, has quickly become pop culture’s latest obsession. Working within the same sandbox as the likes of Child’s Play and Annabelle, the film excels at being a meme-able and engaging horror-comedy. Although M3GAN is second-rate at best in most respects, its constant commitment to giving the most memorable theater experience possible bleeds through every scene, creating the kind of bizarre project that studios rarely nail or invest in.

   According to Universal Pictures, the Blumhouse production tells the story of Gemma, a robotics engineer at a toy company who suddenly becomes guardian of her orphaned 8-year-old niece Cady while working on M3GAN, an artificial intelligence doll programmed to accompany a child. According to the studio’s website, “Under intense pressure at work, Gemma decides to pair her M3GAN prototype with Cady in an attempt to resolve both problems — a decision that will have unimaginable consequences” (universalpictures.com).

   The off-kilter, odd design of the aforementioned doll creates a tone of equal alarm and nervousness around M3GAN’s presence, making space for both laughs and scares. The pace of the film naturally sells M3GAN’s descent into psychopath territory, first presenting her as a technological work in progress and slowly showcasing how literally she takes her instructions to protect Cady from any form of harm.

   Through viral trailers and key marketing strategies, M3GAN has become the first box office hit of 2023. On its opening weekend, the movie made over $30 million domestically on a budget of only $12 million dollars, slaughtering initial expectations of a $17 to $20 million three-day haul, according to Variety. Mere days after the film’s first trailer was released, a mountain of memes and videos highlighting the android’s dance moves spread across the internet. This was followed by the appearance of a troupe of M3GAN-dressed dancers during a Los Angeles Chargers football game days before the film’s release, further growing the interest in the PG-13 film (variety.com).

   On paper, however, the story struggles to overcome genre tropes and shoddy writing. Essentially every character has no depth beyond story-related trauma and their occupations, with the clumsy dialogue only further proving their superficiality. There is clear commentary at hand about the invisible chokehold that technology has over all of us, and yet it never taps this beyond the surface. Regardless, its intentions mostly lie in the entertainment department, where it most definitely excels.

   “After watching the trailers and seeing the promotional material, I thought M3GAN would be hilariously bad, but it somehow worked,” said Junior Angela Hammett, who saw the film in theaters opening weekend with a friend. Though Hammett doesn’t deem the film the least bit scary, she understands how the approach taken stems from the filmmakers’ message about modern society’s overreliance on technology. She added, “The film is ridiculous, in a good way.”

   M3GAN exceeds in its horror-comedy efforts by completely syncing with its audience’s wavelength; from its hilariously self-aware opening scene to its deranged second half, never does Director Gerard Johnstone take the story too seriously to bask in its insanity.