‘M3GAN’ Is Frankenstein For The AI Age

It’s been over 200 years since Mary Shelly published Frankenstein and created the realm of the sciene fiction and the Mad Scientiest trope. But I wouldn’t really call Victor Frankenstein a mad scientist. In his grief over the death of his mother, Victor wonders if it would be possible to bring people back from the dead. Medical doctors play God every day but they do so by a code of ethics.

In the past 200 years, what some thought was science fiction is now a reality. We can actually do what Frankenstein wanted to a degree. A heart, kidney, liver, lung can be taken from someone who’s dead and put in another body for them to live longer. We can even change people’s eyes. We can fixed spines curved by scoliosis. We can put artificial hips in people. And we use electricity to help revive people.

M3GAN is yet another variation on the Frankenstein story but this time it looks at artificial intelligence. While it’s not the first movie to look at robots/cyborgs revolting, it does retell the story better than other movies. HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey had nothing by a red glowing dot but there was more emotion than many other living characters. The need for self-preservation affects even things that are mechanical.

The movie starts with a fake commercial for robotic toys PurPetual Petz that looks like highly advanced Furbies and just as creepy. The commercial reminds me of the ones in the original RoboCop that look both too absurd to be real but too also too much like real commercials to think they’re fake. The Petz can be used by apps on a tablet which also parodies the overabundance of smartphone technology.

Young Cady (Violet McGraw) has a Petz she seems half-interested in that her aunt, Gemma (Alison Williams), gave her. She’s sitting in the backseat as her parents are driving toward a ski resort but as the wintry weather picks up heavily, they are hit head on by a snowplow. Cady’s parents die and Gemma is named guardian as she has to go from Seattle into Oregon to get Cady.

Gemma is a robotcist for Funki, who has made the Petz, but her supervisor, David (Ronny Chieng) is upset that a competitor company made a similar toy for a cheaper price. She’s been covertly using the company’s resources and labs to make M3GAN (Model 3 Generative Android). David is on her case about developing a new prototype. And Cady is grief stricken and there is tension as neither she nor Gemma seem to be getting along. But one day, Cady shows interest in Bruce, a motion capture robot she designed years earlier and becomes more motivated to complete the M3GAN prototype.

Gemma pairs Cady and M3GAN and they have an instant bond, but almost too quickly, M3GAN becomes a parental substitute so Gemma can continue to work. Gemma’s colleagues and the social worker begin to wonder if Cady is becoming to emotionally attached to M3GAN. During a presentation with the board of directors of Funki, it becomes even more obvious that M3GAN is developing emotions for Cady as Cady is seeing M3GAN more as a person than an andriod. Yet, the board and David are sold on the notion that it will be a success.

However, there’s problems brewing as a neighbor, Celia (Lori Dungey), and her dog are seen as a threat by M3GAN. And M3GAN’s understanding of protecting Cady’s safety and making sure she’s not harm has the potential to turn violent. Also, M3GAN’s artificial intelligence and sensory devices make her a huge threat to anyone who will mistreat her.

You’ve seen this story before and you probably know where it’s headed. James Wan co-wrote the script and is a producer. Jason Blum is also a producer and this may be typical of his Blumhouse Productions, the performances by Amie Donald as the body of M3GAN and Jenna Davis as the voice make her an very creepy character. There’s just something about regular-looking dolls that make them creepier. My great-granddaughter said she thought Gremlins was very funny and another friend of mine whose daughter is the same age says she loves Killer Klowns From Outer Space.

The body language of Donald and the Davis doing her calm threatening voice similar to that of HAL 9000 is more terrifying than a demonic doll like Chucky. Oddly, M3GAN is just a product of the the system we live in. Remember back in 2016 when the Microsoft Corporation invented an AI chatbot named Tay who began using the same types of inflammatory, racist, and bigoted posts on Twitter than humans had posted. AI is no different than young children. When exposed to a toxic environment, it’ll react accordingly if it has no feeling of morals.

Williams and McGraw are great in their roles and Chieng is basically doing the same role he did in Crazy Rich Asians. The movie’s comments about the dangers of capitlism have been around since Westworld. I found it fascinating that Cady is mildly interested in the PurPetual Petz doll she has that she operates through an app but finds more excitement in Bruce which means she has to be more active to operate.

Blumhouse hasn’t shied away from using social commentary in the movies. There’s a commentary on child rearing as Cady asks Gemma about “screen time” to which Gemma doesn’t care. It reminds me of the comment George Carlin said that kids somethings just need to sit outside and dig a hold in the dirt with a stick.

The ending leaves the door open for a sequel and one is already set for the early part of 2025. I hope this doesn’t turn into the same franchise that Child’s Play went down as well as others. There’s some smarts and creativity to the story.

What do you think? Please comment.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

One thought on “‘M3GAN’ Is Frankenstein For The AI Age

  1. M3GAN is a new breed of AI villainy for the cinema. It’s been a long road since HAL, Colossus and the Gunslinger of Westworld have opened the door for this most specific SF genre. Because of our continuing issues with AI in this generation, it’s good that the AI villainy genre can still give us the best messages. Even though it’s nice to still have friendly AIs for our SF as well. Thank you, Zane, for your review.

    Liked by 1 person

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