Akela Cooper’s M3GAN has had a grip on most of us for months now. Most of us have been waiting to see what Cooper would do next after blowing our minds with 2021’s Malignant. We know she’s not a writer to shrink herself or play by some antiquated rulebook. We know she’s the Queen of Camp and mayhem, so of course, when she writes, most of us are leaning in. This is why when we saw M3GAN was the next project, it was only the briefest of pauses before we all made plans to open our wallets and see what Cooper would do with an AI murder doll. From the trailer showing her dancing up to one of her kills, to the social media presence that included beefing with Chucky (the most beloved killer doll of our lifetime), it was clear Megan was coming for us; and we better get ready.
Gemma (Allison Williams) is a brilliant robotic engineer enjoying her single life. So, when a terrible accident leaves her as the guardian of her niece, Cady (Violet McGraw), she has difficulty rearranging her priorities to make work second. She comes up with the idea of pairing Cady with her newest prototype to kill two birds with one stone. However, Megan ends up killing much more than Gemma could have ever predicted.
Her Hands Are Rated E For Everyone
Many people were in their feelings about the movie not being rated R. I know we all like blood and guts on the big screen, but Megan (played by Amie Donald and voiced by Jenna Davis) is not that girl. She’s clever, playful, and not the evil, soulless dolls we’re used to. She genuinely cares for Cady because she was designed to do just that. Most of the kills are justifiable as these people and pets caused Cady harm. The less forgivable ones had the misfortune of being in her way when she broke out to return to her charge. If you saw Malignant, you know no one breaks a killer out with more flair than Cooper. While it’s not the batshit Gabriel reveal that leads to a very ACAB stance as we watch him take out a police station backward and upside down, it’s still iconic. It will be on most shortlists for memorable sequences this year. I also am obsessed with Megan’s movements when she does decide to kill. It is the stuff of unsettling art that will give some of these kids nightmares and have them coming back for more. An Akela Cooper script at PG-13 is still an Akela Cooper script, and we are welcome.
M3GAN not going full R-rating also makes sense because of some of the themes that come up. Yeah, anyone that has dabbled in sci-fi knows that the “because we can doesn’t mean we should” conversation is almost always present. However, M3GAN comes at it in a different way that scratches that Black Mirror and Outer Limits itch. When she and Gemma finally battle, she lets Gemma know that this is her fault. She turned her loose and told her to keep learning and improving but gave her no context or guidance. Which sounds like familiarly shitty parenting if you’re paying attention. While we’re not beaten over the head with it, as a kid raised by TV and who is watching kids raised by computers, I caught that. Throughout the film, Gemma has people kindly calling her out for building a toy to raise her niece for her. Megan also brings this up as she still tries to protect Cady while trying to kill Gemma.
We All Have Some Megans
Another thing I love about this film is that it shows how reliant we are on our devices. Of course, Gemma would build a device to raise a kid she’s in charge of. She’s always on her phone, iPad, or computer, and all her devices are connected to the cloud. Gemma doesn’t even flip light switches because she can just tell her version of Alexa to do it for her. This is why when Megan takes over, she takes completely over. Gemma expected this toy to play nicely with all the others but didn’t expect it to use them to lead a rebellion. Because we’re of a generation where none of us have to do anything manually unless we’re poor, it hits home in a very cool way. It made me think of another PG-13 movie, The Net, that cautioned about what happens when we lose ourselves in technology,
Because Cady lost both parents at the top of the movie, her codependence on Megan makes sense. She’s a child that doesn’t have the vocabulary to express her grief, and her aunt is not the kind of woman who wants to raise a kid. So, while building an AI prototype to do the heavy lifting makes sense on paper, it also leads to Cady’s therapist calling it out the attachment theory elephant in the room. M3GAN spins all of these threads as effortlessly as she twirls down the hallway to end a man in that clip we’ve all seen. While this movie doesn’t leave us as gagged as Cooper’s previous film, this one is smarter while checking most of the same boxes. So while haters are going to hate, M3GAN is refreshing, fun, and throwing us quite a bit to chew on without talking down to us. This is why she’s one of my new favorite toys, and I hope we get to see more of her.