'M3GAN' by Gerard Johnstone Review: Don't give your children iPhones!
For a few weeks now I have been seeing a lot of discussion online over M3GAN, a film that I didn't really pay much attention to despite plenty of talks and images shared. I figured it would be a horror or slasher based on what I had seen, and those two aren't quite genres I have much interest in. Especially when it comes to possessed or evil dolls; I had some guesses that it would be similar to the Chucky films, which definitely stopped me from watching it. Though with plenty of stress today and little else to watch, I figured it wasn't a bad idea to give it a try. To my surprise I saw the Blumhouse logo upon the start of the film. Recently I mentioned how Blumhouse is the production company that likes to gamble, giving money and attention to the less experienced filmmakers even though it often results in a poor film. Though serving as a positive for the industry as one of the few that does support smaller filmmakers.
Though with that name I immediately knew what I was getting into: either a dud, or a pretty solid flick. With a relatively average runtime, and having seen the high score on Rotten Tomatoes, I felt a bit more comfortable going into it, feeling that I wouldn't waste my time, and considered the other Blumhouse films that I did enjoy. The filmmaking that typically comes with it, and the simple stories told that don't stick around for weeks after viewing, but are enough to please you in the moment. M3GAN (typing this name out over the course of this review is going to get annoying) was pretty much that. An interesting idea that wasn't exactly new, but did what was necessary to tell a story, and then leaving. Taking much of what worked well in other films and doing a similar thing; hey, I even noticed a referenced to Shrek in this with the "This is the part where you run!"
Though one of the downsides to M3GAN is that predictability. Knowing what's coming and when, and seeing a film that felt very safe to the point where it can end up being a bit boring to some.
At a glance M3GAN is just a story of a robotic little girl being created as to serve as a toy to guide the youth. A full lifesized buddy that holds the knowledge of the universe that can keep children safe, but accompany them and guide them with knowledge. A toy that can babysit the child and pretty much take on the role of a parent beyond friendship. Though I instantly made the connection to our society and how parents hand a tablet or smartphone to their children to shut them up and keep them safe; a device that follows them around and holds the key to all information at the request of its holder. We have parents today throwing these smart devices at children and making them heavily reliant on them, to the point in which it absolutely has an impact on the growth and general development as people. The questjon can be asked as to what can be done to ensure a child doesn't rely on devices and does experience a healthy upbringing, even if that means the child experiences hardships: loss, loneliness, and even pain. Each of these serving as a guidance into developing the mind and ensuring a child learns.
This is the main point from M3GAN, and it gets that point across very early on having established the creation of this robotic doll. While serving as a creation to benefit the world, it is a product quickly developed and rushed into the market, with its prototype being tested in the real world without much thought into its safety features. There are some, but M3GAN seems to be self-aware, programmed to look after the child at all costs. Naturally this results in drastic measures as the robotic doll goes through extreme lengths to supposedly defend the child from anything it considers a threat. This is where the film does take the traditional direction of a slasher and horror. Taking up violence as a means of supposed protection, being incapable of shutting down and being controlled. A pure mind of its own in efforts to pursue its goal.
With the narrative out of the way, it's really the filmmaking that makes the film engaging. It's directed and shot very well, with a quality that I haven't really seen from Blumhouse often. I assume the film was either shot on film (which I feel is less likely than the following) or shot on some very nice vintage lenses on a digital camera. This results in a filmic look in the shots and colours, somewhat grainy and smooth, mostly evident in the bokeh. In terms of photography I noticed I looked throughout the image to appreciate it. It's a very beautiful looking film despite its simplicity, and it definitely helps keep things interesting. It has a very high budget look to it, certainly on par with actual Hollywood tier blockbusters. Only making it more of a surprise to see that Blumhouse name attached. Though it is also worth noting that larger names did also have some part in the production.
Though part of this film maintaing its appeal to the widest possible demographic comes some unfortunate outcomes; a very tame pursuit of displaying violence which results in the violence feeling less serious. We see very little of the implied actions, and it makes it a bit harder to find M3GAN as threatening as we should. Naturally this is done to get the lowest rating as to open the doors to more ages and thus more money, but I think for this type of film the violence does need to be less implied and more visible to give weight to the nature of what's essentially a killer robot lacking any empathy. I'd say this is the film's main weakness, and it isn't one that really ruins the film at all. More a preference in giving us a bit more to feel due to the very easy to read series of events.
For the most part it's a pretty solid film. It surprised me even if it didn't utterly wow me. And it seems to be very successful in an era of horror fatigue and true crime preference, so perhaps others are getting a bit more from it than I am. Can I recommend checking it out? Well, if you enjoy the slasher and horror genres, sure! It has enough of everything to keep you entertained, just don't forget that it's telling you to make sure you don't just throw a smartphone or iPad at your child and that they are given a good chance to properly develop and experience the ups and downs of life. Don't let the devices do the parenting for you!