M3GAN is a disappointingly robotic movie

Alex Edwards, Online Managing Editor

Finally, after long last, M3GAN is here. After a viral marketing campaign throughout the final months of 2022, the science fiction horror film has arrived. Released on Jan. 6, the movie has received an overwhelmingly positive reaction including an astonishingly high 94% Rotten Tomatoes critic score. With all the positive buzz surrounding the film, I was curious if it would live up to the hype or if it would fall flat on its face harder than a domino.

M3GAN, written by horror veteran James Wan as well as Akela Cooper, is a story about Cady (played by Violet McGraw), a young girl who recently lost her parents and is placed with her aunt Gemma (played by Allison Williams) who is a tech developer working for a toy company. When Gemma is having trouble connecting with Cady, she puts her skills to use and builds a lifelike robot for Cady to bond with instead. This robot is known as M3GAN.

M3GAN, of course, follows her orders to protect Cady a little bit too aggressively to the point of murder and must be stopped. The general plot was nothing too special and is similar to 2019’s reboot of the Child’s Play franchise, but it can be a good basis for a fun story if used as a springboard for more creative and unique elements. Unfortunately, M3GAN does not do this.

On top of the played-out story, the characters in the film are okay at best. The best character (other than M3GAN herself) is probably Cady. This is the only character who has any somewhat effective emotional moments, though these are few and far between. Violet McGraw who portrays the character was shockingly the most competent actor in the film and she’s fairly convincing in the role for what she was given. This brings us to the other main character Gemma, who is much worse than Cady. Throughout the story, Gemma consistently makes selfish and wrong decisions, which I understand is partially the point, but the character isn’t really given anything likable to latch on to either to counteract her purposely negative qualities. Allison Williams who plays the character was also not great here, which further hurts this already shallow character. There are other side characters as well but none stand out as particularly entertaining and aren’t worth mentioning specifically.

The weak characters also hurt the film when it comes to how scary it is. Having no one to really connect to makes you not care when the characters are in danger. There were only a couple of moments throughout the whole runtime with any kind of tension that worked for me. The inherently goofy nature of the premise also sometimes hurts the scary moments it goes for. It’s not always easy to tell what is meant to be funny and what is meant to be scary.

Stylistically the movie is also very bland. The camera work is extremely by the books with no personality or flair to it. Every now and then there’s a quick crash zoom but that’s about the most style the movie ever has visually. For a movie with such an, again, goofy premise, I wish they were more creative when shooting and editing the movie. Instead, it ends up looking more lifeless than an old folks home.

Despite all the complaints I’ve had so far I don’t hate this movie, largely thanks to the character of M3GAN herself. M3GAN is a very fun villain to watch, especially early on in the movie. This is when the film plays the most into the absurdity for laughs and seems to take itself a little bit less seriously, an aspect of it I wish continued for the entire runtime. When the movie is doing this, it’s surprisingly very funny and entertaining. Unfortunately, as M3GAN continues it grows more serious, and feels less and less self-aware, especially in the third act which is extremely predictable and not very fun to watch, making me question how many of the funny moments from earlier on were actually meant to be funny.

Overall, despite some super funny moments throughout, M3GAN is a merely formulaic movie that could have been so much more. If the movie were on streaming, I’d recommend it to watch with friends, but if you’re looking for a fun trip to the theater I would look elsewhere.