M3GAN: Some Impressions

For the first time in seemingly eons–and probably against my better judgment–I went to the theatre, and for the sole purpose of seeing the film M3GAN, which, to me, is a cross between the 2019 Child’s Play reboot and Frankenstein, with robotics and artificial intelligence. And, much like my post on Child’s Play, there is some social commentary.

Spoilers ahead

I won’t talk too much about the storyline or the plot of the movie, but I want to comment on some scenes. Gemma, who works for a toy company, is working on the prototype for M3GAN (Model 3 Generative Android) while working on a toy her boss, David, told her to work on. David sees the android under construction in Gemma’s workshop at the company headquarters; Gemma and her team demonstrate what the android can do, but it malfunctions, resulting in David telling Gemma to put it on the shelf and work on the project he assigned her.

Meanwhile, Gemma’s sister and her husband die in a car crash, and Gemma is stuck taking care of their daughter, Cady. After seeing Cady interact with Bruce, Gemma’s previous robotics project, Gemma is inspired to finish M3GAN. She introduces M3GAN and Cady, and Cady is immediately taken with the android. Gemma and her team show M3GAN–this time interacting with Cady–and David, though skeptical at first, is so impressed he wants Gemma to show M3GAN to investors and other higher-ups. All the while, Cady continues to interact with M3GAN, who demonstrates more and more human qualities, while essentially acting as a substitute parent as well as friend for Cady.

But it isn’t long before M3GAN shows her dark side. You see, Gemma has a next-door neighbour, Celia, who she isn’t too fond of, who has a dog, Dewey, who keeps crawling through a hole in the fence between their yards and getting into Gemma’s yard. Well, one night, after he injures Cady, Dewey disappears, and a cop shows up on Gemma’s front stoop asking her about Dewey’s whereabouts. Later, when Cady attends an alternative school–bringing M3GAN with her–she is bullied by a boy named Brandon (whose mother is clearly in denial about what he’s really like), and M3GAN arrives on the scene to save Cady and dispose of Brandon–though a motorized vehicle makes it look like he died by accident. It is after Brandon’s death that Gemma realizes there is something wrong with M3GAN, and takes her back to her workshop to try and fix her–especially seeing as M3GAN’s launch is that night, as per David. But M3GAN goes haywire, and goes on a killing spree before returning to Gemma’s home and fighting with Gemma and Cady, and, Gemma realizes she has to destroy her own creation.

The first thought that entered my head as I watched this film was the question of what would have happened if Gemma had listened to David and put M3GAN aside. Now I’m wondering if Gemma had given herself and her team enough time to work out all the kinks in M3GAN before allowing David and the investors to put her on the market–as well as if there’s any such thing as ‘more human than human.’ Also, I wonder if it’s possible for manmade mechanical objects to deliberately take on lives of their own. I’m no scientist or robotics expert, but these questions enter my head whenever I take in stories like M3GAN. From where I’m sitting now, M3GAN is yet another cautionary tale about over-dependence on technology, and–much like the Child’s Play reboot–a commentary on how technology and artificial intelligence are double-edged swords.

All of that said, M3GAN was an enjoyable film, and worth every nickel I spent to see it–and in the theatre.


Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn: Some Insights

I saw the movie Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn the first day it hit theatres in Vancouver. I know this movie sounds like just another comic-book superhero flick, but this one has elements I would like to comment on–possible spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen it.

The movie focuses on Harley Quinn, her breakup with The Joker, and the aftermath; from where I sat, the women who would form The Birds of Prey were merely props in Harley’s story, an afterthought, while Harley did most of the work, especially against Black Mask. I read in one magazine interview with star Margot Robbie (who portrays Harley Quinn) that she wanted to create a girl gang in this movie. Granted, in the comics, Harley only occasionally worked with the Birds of Prey; in the movie, the four women work together only once, and–again–Harley does most of the work. Renee Montoya and Black Canary, individually, work well alone, and Rebecca Bertinelli/The Huntress makes the occasional appearance on her own before all of the title characters are trapped together, and even helps Harley in a chase scene. But there’s no mention of the Birds of Prey until near the end of the film.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie but have read the Birds of Prey comic books, there is a change: Jurnee Smollett-Bell portrays Black Canary. In the comics, Black Canary is a white blond, but in this movie, she’s, well, black. So the creators of Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn changed the race of at least one of the characters, and perhaps that’s a good thing–and it’s appropriate that Black Canary is that character, and her new race is black.

It’s nice to see the ladies of the superhero comics (besides Wonder Woman) are getting a fair shake at the box office–and as heroes of their own stories. I enjoyed Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, though, as a storyteller myself, I would at least tweak some things about the storyline. (But, then again, there are things I’d change and tweak about every story I read and see.)

The Child’s Play Reboot and Social Commentary

On July 1, I saw the reboot of the horror movie Child’s Play, inspired by a review I read in a Vancouver free daily newspaper.

I haven’t seen the original movie, but, from what I’ve heard and read, the doll Chucky came into being by way of a serial killer using voodoo to transfer his soul into a nearby doll. In the reboot, the dolls–one of whom become Chucky–are run by way of artificial intelligence; thus the reboot offers social commentary on how artificial intelligence is a double-edged sword, and, if humans aren’t careful, something like Terminator can become a reality.

Spoilers ahead

The movie comments on other aspects of society, however. Going into the theatre, I wondered why Chucky absorbed only the worst of human behaviour, when even actual children absorb the good and the bad. My mental question was answered practically at the beginning of the movie: In the Kaslan factory in, of all places, Vietnam (most factories for American corporations, in the real world, are in India, China, the Philippines, and various parts of Latin America), a supervisor verbally abuses, then fires, one of the workers, who then disables every function (including the ones that stop the doll he’s working on from becoming violent) in the AI tube going into the doll, and inserts it–all while displaying great relish in his actions–in a subtle comment on what happens when you treat the people who work for you like crap. Now, I understand that, in the real world, not all workers whose bosses abuse them develop sociopathic tendencies, but certain people, given enough reason, will turn on the world around them in their own ways and wreak havoc. And the Vietnamese worker in the Child’s Play reboot wreaks havoc–and how–via the last doll he worked on before he was turned out on his ear. This scene also comments, I believe, on First World corporations exploiting Third World labour.

Chucky is part of a line of toys called ‘Buddi’ dolls, whose tagline–given to them by the Kaslan Corporation–is ‘a friend to the end.’ Never mind the fact that, at some point, kids stop being kids and thus outgrow toys, and people, even children, can drift apart over time, for various reasons. Andy is a preadolescent in this movie, and initially doesn’t want a Buddi doll, but his mom, Karen, gets him one anyway, on impulse, possibly thinking the only consequence of doing so will be the doll collecting dust from never being used. Little did she know…

Karen and Andy are apparently new in town, and Andy clearly has trouble making friends–which changes after Karen gets him Chucky, as he befriends two of his neighbours, who get Chucky to curse (which, according to my memory, is the worst thing they do). But things go off the rails when Andy and his new human friends guffaw at a TV showing of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, during which Chucky tries to kill the friends after seeing a scene from the movie; when Andy chastises him, he claims he was trying to make Andy happy.

And it doesn’t stop there. Andy hates his mother’s boyfriend, Shane–who is, to a degree, abusive (and who is also cheating on his wife with Karen)–and Chucky sees this as a licence to kill him. But Chucky doesn’t want Andy to have any friends beyond him, either–case in point Karen and Andy’s neighbour Doreen (whose son, Mike, is a cop), who Chucky eventually kills upon seeing camera footage of her, Mike, and Andy having dinner and hearing Doreen tell Andy he’s her new best friend after Andy shows her how to use a phone to order a car to take her to bingo night. As well, Chucky tries to turn everyone against Andy–by, in one instance, showing video footage of Shane’s decapitated head in Andy’s bedroom. Friend to the end, or possessive?

What I took away from the Child’s Play reboot–besides recognizing technology is a double-edged sword (as if I didn’t know that already)–are the possible social consequences of buying products from seemingly domestic businesses but which were actually manufactured in downtrodden foreign nations; the possible consequences of impulse shopping; and that some relationships can become toxic, especially if boundaries and ground rules aren’t established. The film also hammered home for me that pieces of popular culture–such as this movie–can, even unintentionally, serve as social commentary, disguised as entertainment.

Alien Abductions and Near-Death Experiences

OK, so stories about alien abductions and near-death experiences aren’t as popular now as they once were, but they are, by no means, a dead issue, either, thus they are still part of the popular-cultural landscape. And I’m commenting on these stories as part of popular culture because, as there is no tangible evidence to suggest any of them are true–and one of the people who told one of these stories admitted the story wasn’t true–they are merely part of popular culture

Others have commented on this, and I will add my own voice to the chorus: Stories about alien abductions and near-death experiences sound awfully similar to each other. From what I’ve heard of either kind of story, the people who tell them merely parrot those who came before them, and/or are ripping off books, magazine articles, movies, TV shows, etc. The people who tell these stories are either: a) poorly educated, if at all; b) lonely, highly suggestible, and/or need to get out more; or c) shysters, especially if they’re making a shit-ton of money off of books, movies, etc.–unless they’re children, in which case they’re just being exploited.

Which brings me to the one person I mentioned in the first paragraph, who admitted his near-death-experience story was made up. This individual, a boy named Alex Malarkey, was in a car collision, which put him in a coma for several months; Alex is now a paraplegic because of the collision. Alex’s story of having gone to heaven has apparently made quite a bit of money, from book and movie deals, none of which has gone to Alex himself. Oh, I think I should mention, for those of you not in the know, that ‘malarkey,’ when not used as a family name (surname), is another synonym for ‘bullshit.’ And has anyone noticed that no one who has claimed to have had a near-death experience has ever claimed to have gone to hell? At least none that I’ve heard.

You know, I can play this game. I’ve never been abducted by aliens, or had a near-death experience (unless you count my mother’s having nearly miscarried me), but I could claim one or the other, or both, write a book, possibly make a movie deal, and with that pay off all of my debt and live high on the hog for the rest of my natural life–even if it came to light that I was never abducted by aliens or had a near-death experience, as there is a subset of credulous people who will deny the truth about my claims. All I have to do is parrot what everyone else is saying. The only thing stopping me is what I see every time I look in the mirror; principles matter more to me than money.

Unless and until cold, hard evidence–as opposed to post hoc rationalizations, arguments from: ignorance, incredulity, authority, popularity, or other logical fallacies–presents itself, I hold the position that anyone who writes and sells books, or makes movies, or otherwise makes money off of the alien-abduction or near-death-experience stories is either suggestible themselves or, unless children, con artists making money off of other people’s suggestibility.