It’s always difficult to center your movie around a main antagonist that is dwarfed by even the smallest of your characters. The size differential alone means that the viewer has to suspend some element of disbelief; for instance, in Child’s Play, even Andy should be able to pick up Chucky and boot him some distance away without succumbing to harm. In Blumhouse’s M3GAN, screenwriters Akela Cooper and James Wan sidestep this particular obstacle by presenting a much more cybernetic version of the killer doll; it also helps that the Model 3 Generative Android (M3GAN for short) is more imposing 4 feet tall and tips over the edge of the uncanny valley.
The film follows M3GAN’s creator Gemma (Allison Williams), who has recently had to become guardian to her niece Cady (Violet McGraw) after her sister and brother-in-law die in a snowy car accident. She’s been working on the M3GAN prototype for some time, and the family turmoil gives her just enough inspiration to perfect the operating system that has been preventing M3GAN from getting off the ground. And once M3GAN (Amie Donald) begins to pair with Cady, she seems like the perfect role model to help Cady get over the loss of her parents – until it becomes clear there’s too much of an attachment.
The most prominent element of M3GAN‘s storyline is the use of advanced AI technology and its dangers; it’s not a particularly new idea, and in fact was a big part of 2019 Child’s Play reboot as well. However, Wan and Cooper avoid the usual problematic elements of focusing too much on making sweeping implications about the use of technology in our everyday lives and instead hone in on the film’s individual character lifestyles. Director Gerard Johnstone spends a good deal of time documenting Gemma and Cady’s interactions (or lack thereof) and how M3GAN is able to insert herself into the dynamic.
The comparison to childhood imprinting and artificial intelligence’s machine learning is a particularly interesting motif here; the film often draws parallels between M3GAN’s constant absorption of real-life situations with Cady’s worldview, ultimately coming to the conclusion that using M3GAN – or technology – as a barrier to grief may at first seem helpful but just masks necessary processing of those emotions. While M3GAN is pretty explicit about its themes, it’s still a powerful metaphor thanks to the dynamic relationship between Williams and McGraw.
Some might find Johnstone’s direction a bit slow, though. When compared to kill counts in related films like the aforementioned Child’s Play, Puppet Master, or Dolls, M3GAN comes up a bit short. Even the unrated cut is fairly tame, adding seconds of gore to what was already a PG-13 thriller. Honestly, though, it doesn’t feel like the murders are required for audience enjoyment; the film is suspenseful enough to stand without needing a high number of bodies.
M3GAN is a surprisingly successful movie should the audience invest in its characters. It has a style and humor unique to this film despite obviously relying on specific tropes of the killer doll genre. If viewers can look past the slower pacing and tech-talk, they should find M3GAN a standout prototype in a sea of copycat toys.
In a surprising move, Universal has released M3GAN on the Blu-ray format only without a 4K UHD option. This has unfortunately become something of the norm for new releases, where companies initially release the inferior format and then turn around a year later and bring out the shiny better offering. While that’s definitely an annoyance, fans of M3GAN will find that this Blu-ray is still a very good home video offering. The transfer looks sleek and features great detail in HD, with good black level management and no standout encoding issues; this comes in with an average bitrate around 28 MB/s, which is not too bad.
This release offers both the unrated and theatrical cut with branching; for the most part, there’s not much difference between the two offerings except a few additional curse words and seconds of additional gore. Still, that may be worth watching the unrated version if you haven’t seen M3GAN before.
Both the unrated and theatrical cut get a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which sounds expansive and lush; while the film doesn’t make particular use of the surround speakers, ambiance and some suspenseful sound effects do make their way to the satellite speakers, with the dialogue mostly up front. Overall, the audio track features no noticeable problems and sounds quite robust. English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included. This release also includes Spanish and French audio tracks and subtitles, respectively.
Extras include a couple of short making-of featurettes. The first is related to the production and story influence of the film, the second is related to the various design elements at play with the M3GAN doll, and the third is about Amie Donald as the actor behind the M3GAN mask. All told, these last about 14 minutes.
Also included in this release is a DVD disc and a digital code to retrieve the film on Movies Anywhere.
- A New Vision of Horror (1080p, 5:51)
- Bring Life to M3GAN (1080p, 5:22)
- Getting Hacked (1080p, 3:45)
M3GAN is a highly enjoyable horror film from the Blumhouse monolith, and this Blu-ray is an acceptable offering for those who want to own the film on home video instead of digitally. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if this gets a UHD release sometime in the near future, tempering the recommendation slightly.