The AI dud is as lifeless as its titular character.

A film about the dangers of artificial intelligence and its mysterious potential couldn’t have come at a more poignant time, mere weeks after the recent surge of AI design apps and social media’s obsession with being a part of the trend. Unfortunately, M3GAN adds nothing thoughtful or new to the conversation and somehow makes a movie about a sinister AI doll as lifeless as its titular character.

In M3GAN (directed by Gerard Johnstone), robotics specialist/toy developer/mad scientist Gemma (Allison Williams) has created the ultimate playmate, an AI robot that utilizes its observation technology to learn about its environment and the child it’s been connected with, in this case, her niece Cady (Violet McGraw). As you can imagine, this doesn’t go well.

This plot has been used in at least half a dozen better movies. However, much like M3gan’s ridiculous dance (now replicated all over Tik Tok), the most interesting parts of this film were shown in the trailer, leaving lots of filler and no thriller. That’s the thing about Blumhouse pictures…they repackage old tropes and ideas and manufacture them for the Gen Z audience in lesser versions. It’s a shame because the concept could and should have been utilized to greater strength, but the movie can’t deliver its viral trailer hype.

There’s not much to be said about the film technically. Actors do what’s asked of them on the page, but there isn’t a lot to work with. M3gan herself is a well-designed animatronic mixed with an actor in a mask and some CGI touch-ups, and while her uncanny valley stare and unusual body movements are unsettling, they’re never used to their full potential. The film allows for no build-up of tension, any attempts at scares are predictable, and kill scenes are uninteresting and the clear victims of a forced PG-13 rating.

The only thing scary about M3GAN is the concept of AI in our daily lives, the inevitability of it’s seeping into being a necessity, and the fact that most people simply don’t understand it. (All themes which the film briefly mentions but refuses to explore.) If anything good can come of this movie, perhaps M3gan will inspire a bit of wariness or caution moving forward in developing similar technology. She’s already gained iconic status among Gen Z social media users. As bad as this movie is, the character is certain to be a popular Halloween costume and is primed and ready to be used in memes and gifs. She isn’t going anywhere, and neither is AI.

Ultimately the movie takes itself too seriously to be any fun and not seriously enough to be scary. It offers nothing new in perspective when it comes to the invasiveness of technology, particularly in the lives of young children. It’s popular because the internet told us it’s popular, and that might be the scariest thing about it.

M3GAN is now showing in movie theaters.

Ricky J Duarte

[He/him/his] Ricky is a writer, actor, and singer. He's also the host of Rick or Treat Horrorcast, a biweekly horror movie podcast. He lives in a super haunted apartment in New York City above a giant, spooky cemetery with his evil cat, Renfield, and the ghosts of reasons he moved to New York in the first place. www.RickOrTreat.com

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