'M3gan': Neither a compelling science fiction thriller nor an intriguing horror film
  • Release Date: 13/01/2023
  • Cast: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Ronny Chieng, Amie Donald
  • Director: Gerard Johnstone

Hollywood generally dumps its worst films of the year in theaters in January. There are a few exceptions to this and I was really hoping that M3gan would prove to be one. It is based on a story by the master of horror and macabre, James Wan and its trailer looked interesting and creepy to a certain extent. Even though the concept of demented or artificial intelligence-controlled dolls wreaking havoc has been done well a few times before, I was interested to see what the twisted mind of James Wan could add to the concept. After sitting through 1 hour and 40 agonizing minutes of M3gan, I realized that he didn’t have anything to add to the sub-genre and this film was a disservice to all the better films that came before it and helped establish this sub-genre.

The story revolves around a tech wizard, Gemma (Allison Williams), who is entrusted with the care of her niece, Cady (Violet McGraw) after the violent death of her parents in a freak accident. Gemma builds Cady an artificial intelligence doll, M3gan after salvaging parts from a failed experiment at her company that makes hi-tech dolls. M3gan strikes gold instantaneously. She not only becomes Cady’s best friend and allows Gemma the much-needed breathing space that she desperately needed but also ensures that Gemma becomes the most sort after employee in her company owing to the radical success of M3gan as the next best thing in the doll industry. As time goes on, M3gan develops a crooked consciousness and starts threatening everyone around her. What happens next is what the film is all about.

The predictability of the film was so on my face that I couldn’t tolerate its mediocrity after a while. Everything about the film has happened in some other film at some other time. The makers didn’t even take the trouble of presenting it in a manner that was fresh or atleast pretended to be fresh. Right from the setup of the characters to the introduction of M3gan to the climax of the film can be looked at as one recycled idea and its execution after another. The film is torn and confused between whether it wants to be a fun slasher film or a grounded and realistic science fiction thriller. The result is a film that feels different at different junctures and not in a good way. The buildup takes up almost 70% of the film’s runtime. The payoff after that needed to be radically different or awe-inspiring to justify such a prolonged buildup. Alas! It is not and the climax is so repetitive and boring that I felt like leaving the theater before the film could culminate as I could foresee where the climax was headed.

The thrills in the film are non-existent. The jump scares felt cheap and unnecessary. Every character that I thought would die dies and that is telling a lot about the film that calls it sci-fi horror thriller. One of my friends sitting next to me could practically predict even the closing of a laptop screen and M3gan’s subsequent appearance at the drop of the screen. The kills are generic at best. The worst thing about the kills is the fact that many of them are not justified. When an artificial intelligence kills, it is always backed by logic and mathematical calculations. M3gan kills for no reason and doesn’t even try to justify the kills. The only way that the killings could be justified was by siting code glitches. I fail to understand why even that is not used as an excuse.

There isn’t much to be said about the performances since the characters are so poorly written and realized that it is one hammy moment after another. Violet McGraw as Cady gets so annoying that after a point, I didn’t want her to be saved. Allison Williams as Gemma was the only likable actor in the entire film as she showed exemplary composure in the face of mounting torture from Cady as she goes from crazy to crazier when she is denied quality time with her murderous doll and the killing “Chucky” of a doll herself. Ronny Chieng is the copybook top executive who is out only for the money at whatever cost is everything that you expect a character of this type to be.

There is an astonishing lack of action and violence in this film that needed to have a lot more of these two elements. On the contrary, what we get is scene after scene of dialogue and boring drama that goes nowhere. There is also a lot of comedy that quickly decimates any seriousness or semblance of tension that the already lackluster screenplay had any chance of building up. Even before serious kills, the doll is made to do things that look stupid and inexplicable coming from a super-intelligent artificial intelligence doll. While the dialogues may feel quirky and smart, they are ill-placed in a film of this nature.

Every time a science fiction film comes out of Hollywood, there is a certain amount of expectation associated with it. Every time a horror film comes from the stable of James Wan there is a certain amount of expectation from it. Unfortunately, M3gan fails on both these counts. It is neither a compelling science fiction thriller nor an intriguing and eerie horror film. It is an unnecessarily elongated family drama wherein nothing happens except a doll going crazy for the last 15-20 minutes of the film. The rest of the film is nothing but a buildup to these final 15-20 minutes and even these minutes are hardly entertaining. Stay clear of this train wreck of a film this week.     

Rating: 1/5 (1 out of 5 Stars)     

The views expressed in this article are that of the reviewer and do not in any way or form reflect EastMojo’s position.

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