In today’s world of advancing technology, artificial intelligence films are playing an increasingly important role in our entertainment. The artificial intelligence depicted in these films is characterised by the ability to simulate human-like thoughts and actions, which can sometimes be frightening and sometimes fascinating. Although artificial intelligence is often exaggerated in films, there are nevertheless many aspects that reflect our own scientific development and inspire us to think about the potential impact of this technology on our future.
Real-world artificial intelligence was unthinkable until recently, with films such as EX MACHINA, I AM MOTHER and ICH BIN DEIN MENSCH still labelled as dystopian and futuristic science fiction. The former informed us at length that such technology would have to pass the Turing Test to actually be considered an independently thinking and feeling machine. In the meantime, however, technical development has progressed so far that the existence of such a device is only a matter of time. In 2022, the chatbot LaMDA, which was originally intended to simulate human dialogue as naturally as possible under Google, allegedly claimed a lawyer of its own free will to enforce the interests of the programme in court. A trial before the Supreme Court could not be ruled out. At the end of the year, the Chat GPT programme finally proved that such communication can already appear frighteningly real. To prove this, the previous paragraph was written by that very AI.
This is what it is all about
In a tragic car accident, Cady witnesses the death of her parents. Her world comes crashing down. As if that wasn’t tragic enough, she ends up having to move in with her only surviving relative. However, her aunt Gemma doesn’t really have time for a child and is especially unprepared for how to deal with grief. For Cady, it’s hard to settle into her new home without friends. Gemma gets an idea. Professionally, she is a robotics expert and develops toys with speech and movement modules. She has already tried to develop a first independent robot with a new prototype. However, due to a faulty application, this test failed. But Gemma is sure that her concept works and so she develops M3GAN, which is to become Cady’s new point of reference in the future. But is this doll even ready for a practical test?
A new horror flick where things get twisted and spookey? Surely only James Wan can be behind that again. The producer and writer has been emotionally involved in almost every major horror flick of the 21st century, most notably the INSIDIOUS series alongside the SAW series. Most recently, however, he has attracted more attention with solo projects with MALIGNANT, THERE’S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE and MORTAL KOMBAT and is now continuing this trend with M3GAN. The idea for the film came about in casual dialogue with his colleagues Michael Clear, Judson Scott and Rob Hackett, who together marvelled at the fact that there were far too few killer doll films. The idea was to create a work that would combine the essential elements from ANNABELLE and TERMINATOR.
But what emerged was something quite different. In M3GAN we get a rather predictable and thus expectable plot as is usual for films of this theme. Both I ROBOT and EX MACHINA have clearly shown that AI has good approaches at its core and can be a significant help to us humans, but independent thinking can also create massive problems and we can quickly lose control. The film here uses this concept 1:1. But before we get to that point, director Gerard Johnstone takes his time to introduce the few crucial characters and develop their personalities. For an astonishingly long period of time, we merely observe the consequences of grief and loneliness as well as the pleasure of finding a soulmate (or in this case AI). Only quite late does the tone change, resulting in a much better structural build-up than last time in SMILE.
Creepy dolls get an update
In fact, the work even deals with a rather important social issue and criticises the increasing neglect of children in the parental home due to the constant development of wealth and digital technology. This is a problem that is becoming increasingly common and not infrequently manifests itself in the loss of morality, virtue and acceptable and polite interpersonal behaviour. While we are still battling smartphone addiction, Violet McGraw in the role of Cady has to resist being taken in by an apparent best friend and realise that trust should not be handed out to machines lightly.
The film team manages an excellent balancing act between relevant drama and goosebump-inducing thriller. Various scenes make sure that we leave the cinema feeling anxious in the face of the dystopian perspectives that are revealed to us, even if we have already seen them in many different forms elsewhere. Especially remarkable is the performance of Amie Donald, who in the character of M3GAN literally mutates into a robot herself. Her movements often look extremely inhuman, which in this context can actually be seen as praise. Equipped with a mask, a frighteningly real image of a visionary puppet is created. Moreover, the film has managed to hit a point of downright panic in me: the interaction of an unpredictable danger with an innocent, lovable and almost pitiful child.
Deficits in timing
Equipped with modern and harmonious songs by Taylor Swift, Bella Poarch and David Guetta – often in a new version – an extremely comforting feeling of security is created, even if it is clear from the beginning where the journey is going and therefore a certain distrust is naturally omnipresent. In addition, the colour scheme deserves special mention, which starts out very warm and heartfelt with intense orange tones and becomes increasingly colder, darker and thus also creepier as the film progresses, until finally only blue and black tones dominate the picture.
The only dark thing that remains in the memory is that M3GAN repeatedly shows some illogical sequences of action and any sense of time has been lost. Lengthy processes are shown extremely abbreviated and so it is easy to lose the feeling for how intensely the relationship of the characters must have developed in the meantime. In order to create effects for the audience, drastic and sometimes brutal horror scenarios are also inserted again and again, most of which shock more through creativity than through what is actually shown in the end. However, these scenarios often raise questions that are only answered succinctly and can therefore cause dissatisfaction from time to time.
With M3GAN we get a nice little treat, which actually contains more socio-critical elements than one would give it credit for. Since the film starts off with quite a few mind games and uses topics that are red-hot and that we might actually be confronted with in the near future, the work actually manages to get under your skin in some places. Even though the plot itself shows little innovation and even foreshadowing every now and then, it is mainly the atmosphere and the work with the score and the image design that make the film interesting and give us a first small horror highlight this year.