M3GAN ★★½

It says something that my favorite aspect by a fair margin is the musical Easter eggs, none of which are called out specifically. The idea of a producer or director trusting some small part of an audience felt so foreign I felt almost buzzed with delight.

Alas, if only the same could be said for the narrative, which is an awfully simplistic take on Asimov’s three rules stories, but from the perspective of somebody who should probably know better. Even the planting of loaded phrases like Allison Williams’ Gemma instructing M3gan to “keep Cady safe” (at all costs) doesn’t pay off[1] so much as positioning things to happen in the tropiest way possible.

There are very good moments, but none of them last long, and the subsequent cuts in any given action make you wonder what is going on that a director can go from an excellent high-impact medium shot to something substantially worse than a default wide-angle master. Reshoots can often create this effect, and there were reshoots on this movie to get it down to a PG-13 (in the theater), but I’m not certain this is where the problem is.

[1] Fixing it wouldn’t require a script neurosurgeon. The issue is that M3gan is kind of awesome, and the audience will be with her (even to the point of animal cruelty) if it is shown to be in the service of a little girl. But there is a requirement for conventionality that screws up all of the dark potential of a killer robot being a “fixer” for a pre-teen (extremely angry) child who doesn’t know what she wants. Instead, it’s about a grown-up girl (Williams) who is taught, I don’t know, to adult and connect and…*insert barfing noises here*.

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