What Is M3GAN and Why Is Everyone Obsessed? Everything to Know About the Murderous Robot Doll Movie

M3GAN in M3GAN directed by Gerard Johnstone.
M3GAN in M3GAN directed by Gerard Johnstone.

Universal Pictures

If Chucky and American Girl Doll had a baby, its offspring would resemble something like M3GAN — the main protagonist of Universal and Blumhouse’s latest science-fiction-based horror film of the same name.

The Gerard Johnstone-helmed picture centers around a doll that combines the murderous nature of the Child’s Play monster with the lovable companionship of the nostalgic toy, while taking on themes from horror classic Frankenstein.

“M3GAN is a marvel of artificial intelligence, a life-like doll programmed to be a child’s greatest companion and a parent’s greatest ally,” reads an official synopsis for the film. “Designed by brilliant toy-company roboticist Gemma, M3GAN can listen and watch and learn as she becomes friend and teacher, playmate and protector, for the child she is bonded to.”

Since the films’ Jan. 6 debut, M3GAN has shattered expectations with its $30 million opening weekend and been a social media phenomenon, all thanks to the disturbing doll at the picture’s core that has more than just moviegoers obsessed with the possessed.

Played by both Amie Donald and Jenna Davis, M3GAN has become the star of more than just the PG-13-rated film, having established itself as the subject of memes and viral TikToks across social media.

So why is everybody seemingly so fascinated with the doll (whose name is an acronym for Model 3 Generative Android)? Keep scrolling as we break it all down — but be forewarned, you might start giving the side eye to any Roombas or Alexas in your home.

What is M3GAN about?

(from left) Cady (Violet McGraw), M3GAN and Gemma (Allison Williams) in M3GAN, directed by Gerard Johnstone.
(from left) Cady (Violet McGraw), M3GAN and Gemma (Allison Williams) in M3GAN, directed by Gerard Johnstone.

Geoffrey Short/Universal Pictures

M3GAN follows type-A robotics engineer Gemma (played by Allison Williams) and her latest invention — a lifelike, life-size robotic doll equipped with A.I., a project that starts out with good intent before ultimately taking a turn for the worse.

Gemma, who works for a Seattle-based toy company, suddenly becomes responsible for her niece Cady (played by Violet McGraw), after Cady’s parents die in a car crash. Gemma is not naturally maternal, and gets the idea to introduce Cady to her latest creation, M3GAN, which can befriend and protect its owner — thus alleviating her parental responsibility and giving Cady a playmate.

(from left) M3GAN and Cady (Violet McGraw) in M3GAN, directed by Gerard Johnstone.
(from left) M3GAN and Cady (Violet McGraw) in M3GAN, directed by Gerard Johnstone.

Geoffrey Short/Universal Pictures

The problem? What starts as a friendship between M3GAN and Cady quickly takes on a dark turn when M3GAN becomes overly committed to protecting her owner from “emotional and physical harm.”

The trailer for the film, set to Taylor Swift‘s 2019 song “It’s Nice to Have a Friend,” shows the extreme and violent lengths M3GAN goes to in the name of keeping her human companion safe — escalating from a confrontation with her creator Gemma to an onslaught of murder and mayhem.

Is a real person playing M3GAN in the film?

Amie Donald, M3GAN, Jenna Davis
Amie Donald, M3GAN, Jenna Davis

Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic, Geoffrey Short/Universal Pictures, Alberto Rodriguez/GA/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty

That eerie vibe given off by the murderous robot isn’t all artificial: M3GAN was in fact played by real people with a little help from movie magic.

Amie Donald, 12, and Jenna Davis, 18, split the responsibilities of bringing M3GAN to life: Donald is the young actress behind the doll’s deranged dance moves and Davis provides the haunting voice. The M3GAN seen on screen is also comprised of animatronics, puppetry and VFX.

“We had six or seven different puppets that were capable of doing different things,” supervising puppeteer Adrien Morot told Variety. “We had some of the head moving, eyes moving, the moving torso, and there were a couple that were capable of a full computerized range of movements.”

But the medium shots that see M3GAN walking in full or dancing in the hallway were filmed by Donald wearing a mask, which were then edited afterward so that her lips and eyes would move in the final picture.

What is the M3GAN dance scene that’s viral on TikTok?

M3GAN - official trailer
M3GAN – official trailer

Universal Pictures

Whether you’ve seen it or not, you’ve most likely heard of M3GAN‘s dance scene, the viral TikTok moment users can’t stop talking about. The paranormal performance, filled with crazed cartwheels and contorted gestures, take place in a dimly-lit corridor at one point in the film and takes place right before she goes on a killing spree.

So what was the genesis of the movement that spawned a million memes?

Well, according to director Johnstone, the choreography was fully in the hands of Donald and her dance teacher. “I have to hand it to them, that’s all them. Those crazy moves, I don’t know where they came from, but I’m very grateful,” he said in an interview with News Hub.

Donald has a background of competitive dance and gymnastics experience, a set of skills that evidently amplified her “great” — and “weird and disturbing” — number. Furthermore, she did all of her own stunts.

Why is M3GAN‘s PG-13 rating causing concern?

M3GAN in M3GAN directed by Gerard Johnstone.
M3GAN in M3GAN directed by Gerard Johnstone.

Universal Pictures

Moviegoers have questioned the PG-13 rating M3GAN holds, due to its violent content and terror, some strong language and a suggestive reference. But during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, two of the producers behind the horror film —Jason Blum and James Wan — defended their decision in not pushing it even further to earn the R rating.

“Some of the scariest movies of all time are PG-13, so I don’t put too much stock in the bellyaching,” said Blum. “Go see the movie and then tell me about it.”

Wan, who has directed R-rated films including The ConjuringSaw and Malignant, said, “I think it’s about whatever is most suitable for the film, and even though M3GAN is a scary movie, teenagers will really dig this. They’ll really like it, and I think it will speak to them in a big way.”

“Yes, that’s right,” added Blum, the producer behind films like Get OutParanormal ActivityHappy Death Day and more. “We wanted teenagers to be able to see the movie, ultimately.”

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