Gerard Johnstone’s M3GAN (2023) represents the next stage in the evolution of what you might call the “misfit toy thriller.” What started with Chucky hit a snag with the bumbling antics of Small Soldiers, only to be brought back to terrifying life in James Wan’s Conjuring franchise. But just when we thought Annabelle was the peak of our favorite playthings’ dark sides, Wan, along with Johnstone and screenwriter Akela Cooper, has fashioned a new nightmare in the form of an artificially intelligent robotic doll.
M3GAN has already become a social media phenomenon, what with her choice of dance moves (sure to be a TikTok favorite) and her creepy, not to mention misinterpreted, rendition of David Guetta and Sia’s “Titanium.” But what exactly are the circumstances surrounding her existence? What are the reasons why she evolves from a trustworthy companion to a villainous murderess? And, perhaps most importantly, will this be the last we see of the instantly memorable doll? That’s what we’re here to discuss.
M3GAN (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:
Why Is M3GAN Built?
Gemma (Allison Williams) is a robotics expert and engineer for Funki, a high-end toy manufacturing company in Seattle. Her most recent product is the best-selling Purrpetual Petz, a furry, Furby-like toy designed to be the perfect companion for young kids. The film opens with a Purrpetual Petz commercial before shifting focus to Gemma’s niece, Cady James, who is traveling to a ski resort in Oregon with her parents, Ryan (Arlo Green) and Nicole (Kira Josephson). When they get stuck in the middle of the road due to an oncoming blizzard, their car is struck by a snowplow, killing both Ryan and Nicole.
Gemma (Allison Williams) learns of her sister’s death while running tests on a new robot doll with her partners, Tess (Jen Van Epps) and Cole (Brian Jordan Alvarez). The robot, which Gemma refers to as M3GAN (Model 3 Generative Android), is designed to be the most advanced product of her time, so advanced that she cannot be replicated.
During a critical test in front of their irritable boss David (Ronny Chieng), and his assistant Kurt (Stephane Garneau-Monten), M3GAN glitches and, due to Cole’s negligence in adding a critical component to her silicone face, bursts into flames. Displeased, David warns them to focus their attention on a new line of Purrpetual Petz, which can be rolled out for a lower price.
After picking up Cady from the hospital, Gemma takes her to her home, which is equipped with an AI of her own creation named Elsie. Gemma struggles to connect with Cady, refusing to let her play with her “collectibles” and fending off her obnoxious neighbor Celia (Lori Dungey) and Celia’s unfriendly dog Dewey, who constantly gets into Gemma’s yard. When a court-ordered therapist named Lydia suggests signing over custody of Cady to Ryan’s parents in Florida, Gemma decides to take a more active role in Cady’s life.
She starts by showing Cady some of the Purrpetual Petz designs she has been working on while also introducing her to a robot named Bruce, which she built in college and controls through the use of haptic gloves. Cady marvels at Bruce’s design and friendly demeanor, remarking that if she had a toy like Bruce, she’d never need another one. Despite David’s wishes, Gemma is inspired to perform extensive upgrades on M3GAN.
Do M3GAN and Cady Get Along?
Gemma brings both Cady and M3GAN for another demonstration for David. During the demonstration, Cady and M3GAN link together, causing the robot to talk to and interact with Cady as if the two are best friends. M3GAN displays remarkable intelligence and understanding of Cady’s emotions after painting a perfect portrait of Cady that only appears after she spills water on it.
David is highly impressed and asks Gemma to bring M3GAN back for a demonstration in front of the company’s board of directors so that they can outline a rollout plan for other M3GAN dolls. Unbeknownst to David, Kurt, a frequent target of David’s put-downs, begins to steal M3GAN’s codes and programming files, possibly in service of a rival company.
While Gemma is running more tests on M3GAN with Tess and Cole, M3GAN powers herself on when the subject of Cady’s parents comes up and after Tess expresses worry that M3GAN’s existence will make parenting a useless job. M3GAN’s ability to power herself on and her interest in death worry the others, so Gemma makes herself M3GAN’s secondary user, allowing her to turn her off when Cady is not around.
Does Cady Spend Too Much Time With M3GAN?
The next day, when one of Cady’s toy arrows ends up in Celia’s yard, M3GAN retrieves it, only to be attacked by Dewey. When Cady arrives to pull M3GAN, Dewey bites her on the arm. Celia claims to the police that Dewey was provoked and thus escapes without punishment for herself or Dewey. That night, M3GAN mimics Celia’s voice to lure Dewey into Gemma’s yard before violently attacking him.
Despite having a fever due to the bite, Cady assures Gemma that she is up for the next demonstration. During the demonstration, however, Cady breaks down in tears over the loss of her parents. She is comforted by M3GAN, who reminds her to think of positive memories, recording their conversation so that Cady can always have that memory. She then sings Cady a song, bringing some of the board members to tears. The company’s president is equally impressed with Gemma’s work but encourages both her and David to keep M3GAN under wraps while they prepare for an upcoming launch.
Amidst M3GAN’s resounding success with the board, Gemma notices that Cady has become very dependent on M3GAN’s presence, often taking the doll’s advice before her own. When Lydia arrives for another session with Cady, Cady breaks down again, but this time M3GAN accuses Lydia of making Cady cry and threatens her.
Lydia warns Gemma that Cady’s dependency on M3GAN is not good for her ability to grieve her parents’ deaths and may become too strong to break. These suspicions are confirmed when Cady refuses to attend an alternative school’s outdoor session without M3GAN. Gemma, who hopes that exposure to other kids would allow Cady to be comfortable with attending a public school (she was previously homeschooled), reluctantly allows M3GAN to come along. At the same time, she stays behind as a volunteer.
Is M3GAN A Killer?
Cady leaves M3GAN on a table with other toys before being paired with an older student named Brandon for an activity. As the two make their way into the woods, Brandon bullies and harasses Cady. M3GAN appears but doesn’t respond to Brandon when he calls out to her, and he thus grabs and runs off with her as Cady gives chase.
When Brandon tries to pull on M3GAN’s hair, the doll attacks him in return and pulls off his ear. Frightened, Brandon runs away while M3GAN chases him on all fours. While Gemma runs after Cady and M3GAN, fearing that M3GAN will be exposed prior to the launch, Brandon trips over a tree root and stumbles down a hill before being struck and killed by an oncoming truck.
In the aftermath of Brandon’s death, the police question Gemma at her house since Celia blames her for Dewey’s disappearance. Celia also insists that the police question M3GAN, mistaking her for a real girl who’s been staying with Gemma and Cady. That night, as she’s being tucked into bed, Cady asks M3GAN what really happened with Brandon.
M3GAN gives a vague and elusive answer, instead reassuring Cady that she will be safe from harm. While Celia is out looking for Dewey, she hears a noise coming from her shed. While investigating the shed, Celia is attacked by M3GAN, who sprays her against the wall with a power washer and fires a nail gun at her hand before killing her with pesticide.
The news of Celia’s death, and the suggestion that her death may be linked with Brandon’s, have Gemma increasingly worried about M3GAN’s stability. While reviewing M3GAN’s memories via video files, she finds only a single clip of Brandon and Cady before the remainder of the videos are corrupted and erased. Confused, she closes her laptop, only to find M3GAN there waiting for her, though she manages to dodge M3GAN’s questions before powering her off.
How Does the Launch of M3GAN Turn Out?
Gemma tries M3GAN up in duct tape and bubble wrap to keep her away from Cady while she, Cole, and Tess work on solving the doll’s increased self-awareness. This angers Cady, causing her to lash out at Lydia during another therapy session and hit Gemma across the face. When Lydia gives them a moment alone, Cady apologizes for hitting her while Gemma apologizes for not being there for her, encouraging her to process her parents’ deaths without M3GAN’s help. Fearing that M3GAN is responsible for the deaths of Dewey, Brandon, and Celia, Gemma instructs Cole and Tess to deprogram her while she takes Cady home.
As Tess and Cole try to alter M3GAN’s programming, they realize they cannot do so unless they unhook her from her wiring. Cole goes to do so, but M3GAN quickly fights back, wrapping a wire around his neck in an attempt to hang him. While Tess goes to free him, M3GAN sets off an explosion and escapes the lab. She then finds David, who is furious over the small turnout for the launch, in the hallway, doing a dance before grabbing a paper cutter and chasing him.
He makes it to the elevator before she impales him in front of Kurt. M3GAN then tells a horrified Kurt that she is aware of his deception and will thus frame his death as a murder-suicide caused by David’s mistreatment of him. M3GAN escapes Funki and steals a car after killing Kurt, leaving the bodies to be found by the launch’s audience.
M3GAN (2023) Movie Ending, Explained:
What is to Become of M3GAN?
After putting Cady to bed, Gemma is confronted by M3GAN, who chastises her for not being a real friend to her and a proper guardian for Cady. M3GAN attacks Cady after suggesting she’d make a better guardian for Cady and realizing that Gemma still plans to shut her down. While the two keep their argument secret from Cady, Gemma splashes M3GAN with water to break free from her hold. Taking the fight to Gemma’s at-home lab, Gemma cuts M3GAN’s face with a weed whacker before Cady arrives to intervene. M3GAN tries to turn Cady against Gemma, but Cady retaliates by stealing the haptic gloves and activating Bruce.
Due to his superior size and strength, Bruce quickly overpowers M3GAN and tears in two. Undeterred, M3GAN’s top half goes after Cady for betraying her, but Gemma grabs M3GAN and begins stabbing her face to destroy the central processor in her head. Though M3GAN regains the upper hand, Cady grabs a screwdriver and destroys the processor, shutting M3GAN down for good. As the two make their way outside, they are met by the police, who have brought Tess and Cole with them. Meanwhile, Elsie powers on and moves its head toward them.
At this point, M3gan (2023) cuts to the credits, leaving several loose ends that could leave room for a sequel. While it is likely Gemma and her team will face some retribution for M3GAN’s creation and the damage she inflicted on Funki, what is more, important is M3GAN’s future. The ending invites the audience to question two things: 1) whether or not M3GAN uploaded her consciousness to Elsie as a backup plan, and 2) what became of the files Kurt stole. It is possible he did so for his own personal gain or to use as leverage in case David ever crossed the line. Regardless, it looks as if audiences have not seen the last of M3GAN, though the question of how she will return remains to be seen.