Director: Gerard Johnstone
Starring: Alison Williams, Violet McGraw, Amie Donald, Ronnie Chieng, Brian Jordan Alvarez, Jen Van Epps, Stephane Garneau-Monten, voice of Jenna Davis
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Runtime: 102 mins. Reviewed in Jan 2023
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Violence, sustained threat and coarse language

M3gan is a prototype robotic doll, designed to be a companion for a little girl who has lost her parents. The doll begins to take on a life of its own. The film blends psychology and menace.

If Mary Shelley was living today, she would be eager to see M3gan. It is the latest version of the archetypal novel, Frankenstein. But, here it is, in the age of artificial intelligence, and progress in robotics. So, the basic story is not new, rather, centuries-old. And the world of AI and robotics has been the world of many dramas and thrillers in recent years.

M3gan (Model 3 Generative Android) has been promoted as a horror story, coming from Jason Blum and his Blumhouse productions, which specialises in horror thrillers.

But, it is somewhat misleading to type M3gan as a horror film. Rather, in the vein of several of the films of 2022, the film is more of menace and fear rather than blood and gore.

In fact, production notes indicate that a decision was made during production to get in an American PG 13 rating, toning down the violence, aiming for a wider audience. And this works. There is much more going on than any excursions into horror moments – although, there are a couple of deaths during the film and, as expected, quite a build-up in the last 15 minutes to menace, violence and destruction.

In fact, most of the film works as a psychological drama. Cady is a young girl whose parents are killed in a car smash. Her mother’s sister, Gemma, takes on responsibilities for her care. But, Gemma is a career woman with few parenting skills. In fact in her chosen career she is something of a genius, creating robots, with an especial aim of creating a robot doll who can be a companion to a child. She is always gathering and adjusting information to better relate to the child with empathy and understanding.

Rather neglecting the grieving Cady, Gemma spends her time perfecting her prototype robot, called M3gan, working with her team to impress the go-getting boss (Ronnie Chieng, popular as a comedian in Australia). M3gan is constructed to be a companion to Cady – but, in the psychological issues of the film, becomes a substitute mother-figure, understanding, ever-present, and protective. And we know that the protection will be assertive, and eventually violent.

When the prototype is approved by the company and a promotion video screened, and preparation for a spectacular launch underway, matters come to a head. And, by that time, the audience is prepared for M3gan to assert herself.

The scientist creating this 21st-century little girl robot Frankenstein monster is played by Alison Williams – a sympathetic figure but the audience wishes she could be more motherly. Violet McGraw is convincing as the young Cady. M3gan has two performers – Amie Donald acting but with the voice of Jenna Davis, just the right blend of sympathy and menace.

The film works well because of the psychological dimensions throughout, the tantalising sequences as Cady and M3gan become more interdependent, the atmosphere of menace culminating in the PG 13 violent confrontations.


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