If you have been on any social media platform in the last month, you have almost definitely heard of M3GAN, 2023’s first cinematic sensation. M3GAN is the latest offering from Blumhouse Productions, the studio that previously produced horror sensations The Purge and Get Out. While M3GAN’s marketing strategy angled the film towards something of a meme, the film is a rather prescient cautionary tale about the rapid developments of technology and artificial intelligence, or AI.
The film’s protagonist, Gemma (played by Girls’ Allison Williams), is a roboticist at the toy company Funki. After her niece Cady’s parents are killed in a car accident, Gemma becomes her primary caregiver, though she struggles to balance her demanding job with tending to Cady and her grief. Gemma and Cady finally seem to bond when Cady finds a friend in one of Gemma’s interactive robots, prompting Gemma to finish creating a similar toy. This toy is an AI-powered animatronic doll named M3GAN. It can act as an incredibly human-like friend and even parental figure to any child they are “paired” with by providing guidance, emotional support, and fun educational facts. Cady quickly bonds with M3GAN, and the invention boosts Gemma’s career as Funki prepares to launch the doll with much anticipation. All is well until the bodies start piling up.
At surface level, M3GAN can be best described as cheesy fun, reminiscent of the slasher slumber-party favorites of the 1980s. Voiced by former Vine star Jenna Davis, the titular doll is a delight to watch, with sassy one-liners and spontaneous musical moments that drew chuckles from the audience. Violet McGraw, who plays Cady, shows off a skill set far beyond her years as she navigates a wide emotional spectrum, from struggling to cope with the loss of her parents to excitedly finding a friend in M3GAN. Allison Williams, in her second foray into the horror genre after 2017’s Get Out, does an excellent job at playing the “straight man” to M3GAN’s spunk and Cady’s emotional swings—as well as guiding viewers along Gemma’s arc from pride in her latest creation to growing suspicion.
M3GAN may seem like nothing more than mindless entertainment at first glance, but when considered in light of rapidly advancing technology, the movie reveals a troubling message about the consequences of these “upgrades.” M3GAN reveals the dangers of AI, considered by many to be the next frontier in tech. While the doll starts out as a harmless companion to a girl in need, Gemma has programmed her to continuously adapt to her surroundings and expand her capacities; she eventually becomes too powerful, killing any humans she perceives as a threat to Cady. The film raises the question of how far we can—or should—advance technology before our inventions become capable of wreaking havoc upon our world. M3GAN also cautions the audience about how our digital world is increasingly consuming us. In the first scene of the movie, before their fatal accident, Cady’s parents are arguing about Cady’s screen time, as her eyes have been glued to a tablet for the entirety of the drive. Later in the film, when Gemma takes Cady to tour an alternative school, Cady refuses to get out of the car unless M3GAN can come with her. Playing with M3GAN evolves quickly into an obsession for Cady, and she becomes scarily agitated when the doll is taken from her.
M3GAN urges us to re-examine our day-to-day relationship with technology because otherwise, it will—if it hasn’t already—become a serious impediment to our interpersonal relationships and ability to conduct ourselves in society. It may seem difficult to believe that a January movie release (usually a month where studios put out their forgettable, schlocky offerings) could be rife with such pressing social commentary, but just like with M3GAN herself, appearances can be deceiving. While M3GAN may not be your pick for next year’s Best Picture Oscar, it may very well convince you to throw out your Alexa.
Grace Copps is a freshman in the College studying Government.