“M3GAN”: TikTok Dance Turned Box Office Success


M3GAN is a fun-filled romp causing horror fans to flock to theaters. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Months before its January release, “M3GAN” took TikTok by storm as millions of users went wild trying to recreate the comically quirky and viral dance that was shown in the film’s preview. I must applaud the film’s marketing team for their success in generating the massive hype surrounding “M3GAN.” Because of TikTok, the highly-anticipated film quickly became the top-selling movie of 2023, raking in a staggering $104 million only two weeks after its release. In “M3GAN,” director Gerard Johnstone takes advantage of the world’s fascination with artificial intelligence and how technological advancements could positively and negatively shape the future. In this case, the Model III Generative Android, or M3GAN for short, is a creepy lifelike doll that uses artificial intelligence to “protect its owner from physical and mental harm.” In the latest rendition of the toy-gone-crazy storyline, Johnstone creatively explores the benefits and dangers of relying extensively on technology while seamlessly incorporating perfectly-timed comedic relief. 

Gemma, played by the brilliant Allison Williams, is a robotics engineer married to her career at a major toy development company. When her sister and brother-in-law tragically die in a car accident, Gemma takes custody of their only daughter, Cady, who miraculously survived. We last saw Williams in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” where she played the wickedly deceitful girlfriend to Daniel Kaluuya. Though very different characters, Williams eats her role up as Gemma just as well. Not the best with kids, Gemma tries her best to make her house a home for Cady, but she often gets consumed in her work, leaving Cady unattended for hours. Things change when she develops the M3GAN doll and brings it home to keep Cady company. Gemma thinks M3GAN will be the perfect solution as she can continue working while her robot creation serves as Cady’s companion and second caretaker. However, when Cady becomes too attached to this creepy female version of Chucky, things take a dark turn for everybody involved.

 I have always believed that humor and horror are closely linked, and Johnstone reinforces my belief with his satire-filled scenes. Johnstone is well-aware that the evil robot/killer toy premise is nothing new, but he encourages viewers to have fun with it. One cannot help but laugh out loud when M3GAN begins galloping through the woods on all fours, or when she breaks out into dance right before chasing someone down the hall with a knife.

 It is this perfect mixture of comedy and horror that delights the audience and critics alike. Johnstone’s directing demonstrates his knowledge of both horror and comedic elements in film — scenes that would otherwise be terrifying are diffused by his ability to create comedic relief. For example, there was something about hearing M3GAN’s creepy robotic voice sing a lullaby to Cady that sent each audience member into a fit of laughter. What makes this better is that this happens three times in the film, and each time is funnier than the last. Yet my favorite moment in the script occurs when Gemma orders M3GAN to power off to which she replies in a menacing monotone voice, “Are you sure?” Giggles echo through the theater and a few seconds pass before M3GAN continues, “Download still in progress.” Small moments like these capture the writers’ brilliance and are enhanced by Jenna Davis’s delivery of those lines. Like many horror movies, the film’s sense of logic seems to dwindle with every passing moment, but the audience accepts it because we know the film is not taking itself too seriously. If you watch this movie, please do yourself a favor and see it in theaters. The comedic scenes become even funnier when you are sharing laughs and gasps with those around you. 

Though the movie is hilarious and lighthearted on the surface, there is much to unpack about attachment, over-reliance on technology and negligence. Digging beneath the surface, Johnstone implores viewers to think critically about how technology affects individuals, especially children. Though seemingly unimportant to the plot in the beginning, the car crash becomes significant to Cady’s behavior, Gemma’s development as a caretaker and M3GAN’s hostile relationship with Cady. Gemma initially describes M3GAN as a “perfect toy that would protect a kid from ever feeling lonely or sad.” At first, this worked. When Cady meets M3GAN, her spirits are uplifted, and she is distracted from her parents’ passing. The problem is, when M3GAN constantly swarms Cady with attention and artificial friendship, she can no longer feel the emotions needed, such as sadness and anger, to process her pain. Gemma’s reliance on M3GAN to be Cady’s caretaker and essentially do the parenting for her ultimately results in her downfall. The lesson is that a piece of technology can never truly make up for real human connection. 

Johnstone has a win on his hands as M3GAN quickly becomes 2023’s pop culture icon, right next to Wednesday Addams. Who knew another movie about an evil doll was the cultural reset we needed? I highly recommend “M3GAN” to any horror fanatic looking for a laugh or a scare — or to anyone looking for next year’s halloween costume. If you want to see what the hype is about, make like M3GAN and dance your way to the theater. 

4.5/5 stars