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Do you remember the Furby toys? They were those robotic toys that looked like a mix between a gremlin and an Ewok, with the dead glassy eyes of Chucky. I was a child when they first came out, and I still remember their novelty. They had me believe we could have a conversation with an inanimate object, but I also remember how creeped out I was as a child at the prospect of having an AI interact with me. Why would I want that, unless a robot could mimic the warmth and kindness of, say, an E.T.? Maybe I was at an impressionable age when I watched Chucky; whatever the reason, the Furby toys always rubbed me up the wrong way. 

M3gan(the convenient acronym for Model 3 Generative Android)  confirms from the start that all assumptions about robot toys are correct. It’s just the way they go about their killing spree that makes the difference between the types. 

In the film’s opening scene, young Cady (Violet McGraw) is in a car with her parents. There’s an accident, and Cady is the only survivor. She becomes the responsibility of her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams), who just so happens to work for one of the biggest toy companies in the world, and is leading the development of a Furby-like toy. But Gemma wants to work on more complex toys: specifically M3gan, her brainchild, a top-secret project in the form of a 4-foot-high self-sufficient doll that can learn, adapt, and protect the child imprinted on her. 

Gemma has neither empathy or motherly love for her niece. Her only interest is her Frankensteinian obsession with her project, which just so happens to be the solution to all her woes. Pairing M3gan with Cady helps Gemma develop the toy and gives Cady the emotional support she needs to overcome her grief. 

It’s not the most responsible solution, but then only a few stories start with a hero doing the right thing. 

What is interesting is how director Gerard Johnstone and writer Akela Cooper (working off a story by James Wan) address the moral conundrums of the film. Anyone who has spent over one hour on social media knows that the internet can quickly descend into a cesspit of unambiguous horribleness, something that’s cold, chauvinistic, racist and deeply unforgiving. Find a video of someone doing anything on Twitter and you’ll see that half the comments call for that person’s death. Years ago, Meta created a state-of-the-art AI chatbot that had to be deactivated promptly when the system started spewing racial abuse and calls for violence. 

In my view, the idea of a benevolent technology is an utopia that lives in the deluded minds of repugnant tech-bro billionaires and anti-social fictitious scientists. And science fiction loves to explore the failures of technological progress. Johnstone’s film shows that technology lacks humanity and is unfit to take control of our lives – or, in the case of Cady, our emotional health. 

So it’s not a surprise that M3gan quickly takes her role of protecting Cady seriously, even if she has to kill a dog or a child — the scene involving a child is ruthless. Is showing the murder of a child a step too far? Even if it’s a young bully boy about to sexually assault the doll for his own vicious glee? Does the idea of killing a child matter to an artificial intelligence? 

The charm of the film works because Cooper’s script is tight and entertaining, even though she relies a little too heavily on unnecessary clichés — like Gemma’s boss being an Asian-American CEO (Ronny Chieng), whose sole motivation centres around having his own company make more money than others.   

It helps that M3gan’s design is a perfect combination of unsettling and compelling. M3gan’s plastic face and robotic voice contrast only too well with her natural-seeming movements (though M3gan is voiced by Jenna Davis, Amie Donald plays the physical role). The high point near the end is when M3gan starts dancing like a deranged raver before proceeding with her anticipated killing spree. 

I expected to enjoyM3ganless than I did. I loved Alex Garland’sEx-Machina, but does the world need a version of it via Child’s Play? Yes, we do. Who knew? 

Verdict: 3 out of 5
For those looking for an excellent goofy silliness that is also not as brainless as you’d expect.