I am being only slightly facetious when I say that Gerard Johnstone’s M3GAN may be the greatest film of all time. You might be moved by such a claim to ask, “How do you know?” or “What other films have you seen to corroborate this statement?” These are both great questions. Shut up.
There is nothing novel about my adoration for Johnstone’s cinematic marvel, especially now that it’s been out for almost a month—its release being the most momentous January 6th in recent memory. Even if you haven’t seen M3GAN, odds are you’ve seen its titular android floating around on Twitter or Instagram looking like Bride of Chucky’s Tiffany Valentine if she’d shopped the Zara winter collection. M3GAN has already accumulated a sort of cultural life force, so I’ll not go on too long, for fear of redundancy. (More pertinently, the Herald editors, second in my life only to God, have asked that I keep this piece under 400 words, and what am I if not dutiful.) However, I will give you five reasons why I think you should see M3GAN if you haven’t already, and see it again if you have. (Spoilers ahead, but you knew that already, you intuitive dog, you.)
REASON THE FIRST: ALLISON WILLIAMS
Yale alum Allison Williams gives hope to white actors everywhere who are worried that playing the racist character once means they’ll have to do it every time afterward. In M3GAN, Williams plays Gemma, a roboticist who kids these days might call a “girlboss,” a “woman in STEM,” or “lacking in emotional competency.” When her niece, Cady, is suddenly orphaned, Gemma is tasked with raising her, and it’s a lot of fun to watch Gemma speak to a bereaved nine-year-old the way one might speak to a thirty-five-year-old coworker and then be surprised when it doesn’t work. That’s where M3GAN comes in, an AI-powered robot who serves as Cady’s main support system and confidante until pivoting to homicide. In all seriousness, though, Williams gives a pretty strong and nuanced performance in a film that might not immediately lend itself to as much, and boy does she know how to stare into the distance with a look of ambiguous perturbation.
REASON THE SECOND: A MASTERCLASS IN BANTER
If you come away from this piece knowing only one thing about M3GAN, let it be this: that robot has some fucking mouth. As her bank of environmental knowledge grows, so does her capacity to read Gemma like a book, cover to cover, and in Gemma’s own home, no less, all while contributing nary a penny to that electricity bill she’s surely running up. In one particularly memorable back-and-forth, Gemma orders M3GAN to turn off, to which the smartass piece of plastic responds: “Now hold on a second. I thought we were having a conversation.” Later, when Gemma asks M3GAN if she’s hurt anyone (by this point she’s murdered a dog and sent a young boy tumbling into traffic after ripping his ear off), M3GAN replies, “I hope to God not. Because then we’d both have big problems.” I could say I’d have the sense to never let anyone speak to me like that, let alone a glorified Bratz doll, but I won’t.
REASON THE THIRD: TINY COATS
I’ve never owned an American Girl doll, which constituted something of a minor tragedy in my life until that void was filled by watching Gemma and Cady dress M3GAN in a number of tiny blouses and overcoats, despite the fact that she doesn’t sweat, sleep, or do anything at all that would necessitate a change of clothes. I really do mean what I said about the Zara winter collection; just look at this cute ass coat. Not to mention her immediately iconic pussybow that brings out the blue in her eyes. Move over, Vivienne Westwood; there’s a new fashion icon in town!
REASON THE FOURTH: TOLERABLE AI COMMENTARY
One of my least favorite things is talking to white men who will definitely go on to make more money than me, so naturally, I dread most discussions about artificial intelligence and its implications. M3GAN, however, couches its AI commentary not merely in wry humor and bloodshed, but also in the context of childhood and childcare. It poses the rather reasonable question of what might happen when that which consoles us at our most vulnerable is not another human, but technology. Lydia, a child therapist whose accent changes origin in every scene she’s in, puts it more concisely: “If a toy is impossible to let go of, how is a child supposed to grow?” (By the end of the movie, such a question is obsolete in the case of Cady, who will inevitably grow up scarred and never know normalcy a day in her life, but it’s still food for thought!)
REASON THE FIFTH: QUADRUPEDALISM
After M3GAN tears a young boy’s ear off in the middle of a forest, she says to him: “This is the part where you run.” And he does. And M3GAN does too, except on all fours, rapidly, seamlessly, the Blumhouse take on the horse girl archetype. Watching this scene, I thought to myself in the North Haven Cinemark that which I always think upon witnessing something supremely unnerving: “Wow, this is supremely unnerving.” But I soothed myself with the explanation that I suppose it makes sense for robots to have increased dexterity of movement. You’ve gotta build the thing anyhow; go big or go home, right? Then I learned that all of M3GAN’s movements were produced not by CGI, but by New Zealand child actress Amie Donald, who I’ve not met and might never meet but will always fear, on account of knowing that, if she wanted to, she could kill me on all fours. The film’s viral dance scene is cute, funny, and impressive; watching Donald barrel across the forest floor like one of those German Shepherds with short spine syndrome is just downright horrifying.
I could go on, and on; I could devote a new Abrahamic religion to M3GAN if I wanted to. But for the sake of the brevity I’ve already failed to establish, I won’t. I’ll end with this: I am not, on average, a person who looks forward to things or harbors much positive emotion at all. But M3GAN 2.0 is slated for release in January 2025, and to say I’m counting down the days would be an understatement.