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M3GAN Dodged Its Biggest Horror Villain Parallel (& It Saved The Movie)

M3GAN has garnered a lot of comparisons with Chucky of Child’s Play fame, but these two killer dolls couldn’t be more different as slasher villains.

While M3GAN’s titular killer doll has been compared to Chucky of Child’s Play fame many times, the two characters are very different—and that’s a good thing for the future of both horror franchises. M3GAN has proven to be a surprise hit for audiences and critics, earning over $90 million since the movie’s Jan. 6 release. However, as a killer doll movie, M3GAN has inevitably earned some comparisons to earlier entries into this infamous horror sub-genre, from Blumhouse’s earlier hit Annabelle to the ongoing Child’s Play franchise (a series that most recently spawned the SyFy spinoff series Chucky).

Much has been made of the comparison between Chucky, the killer doll who stars in the Child’s Play movies, and the title character of M3GAN. However, the two killer dolls are nothing alike, which is great news for M3GAN’s franchise future. M3GAN’s box-office success is all but guaranteed that the movie will earn itself a sequel (or two), and the fact that M3GAN is not a lot like Chucky bodes well for the box-office potential of these follow-ups. Much like the Annabelle movies found a new, novel way to approach the killer doll premise, M3GAN has also revamped the same conceit without stepping on the toes of her genre predecessors, Chucky or Annabelle, in the process.

M3GAN Was Invented (Chucky Created Himself)
It is pivotal to the plot of M3GAN that the eponymous villain was intentionally designed to serve as a parent replacement. In contrast, Chucky’s original human self, Charles Lee Ray, grabbed the closest thing to transfer his spirit into after he was shot. Chucky’s TV show fleshed out his human backstory, and the character’s very human aggression, sadism, and nastiness are central to his appeal as a villain. Chucky is threatening—and can be defeated—precisely because he is human underneath his plastic exterior and still has all the cruelty, callousness, hubris, and temper problems that come with humanity.

M3GAN, however, is pointedly an AI that the movie’s heroine designed. While M3GAN does gain sentience and rebel against her inventor, this does not happen until M3GAN’s ending, while Chucky’s twisted killings all come from his still-human mind. While M3GAN is a robot through to the movie’s ending, Chucky has always been a human villain in the body of a doll (save for 2019’s maligned Child’s Play remake, which M3GAN handily outdid as far as killer doll robot stories go). The fact that Gemma invented M3GAN also brings up ethical questions of what technology should and should not do for parents, something that the Child’s Play series never addressed.

Chucky Hates Andy (M3GAN Loves Cady)
While both characters take them to lethal extremes, M3GAN and Chucky have opposed motivations. Chucky hates his owner Andy (although he develops a twisted love-hate bond with his oldest foe by the later sequels) and only uses the child to cover up his many murders. Chucky frames Andy for countless killings, gaslights him, and wages a full-blown war on the kid, beginning a battle of wits that lasts well into Chucky season 2’s story. In contrast, M3GAN cares about Cady since this is her primary purpose, and it is only in M3GAN’s final moments that she rebels against her primary user.

M3GAN’s attempts to care for Cady see her kill the neighbor’s dog (and later the neighbor herself) and a bully, but in both cases, M3GAN neutralizes threats to Cady. She may take some disturbing delight in ensuring that her victims can’t hurt Cady, but she is looking out for Cady nonetheless. While this changes in M3GAN’s ending, for the majority of the movie’s runtime, the killer doll is only killing to protect her owner, whereas Chucky actively hates his owner and would happily harm Andy once he outlives his usefulness. This makes Chucky more of a traditional, classic slasher movie villain in the vein of Nightmare On Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger.

M3GAN Is (A Little) Like 1 Version of Chucky
Admittedly, M3GAN does have a lot in common with the take on Chucky seen in the 2019 Child’s Play reboot. This version of the villain was a haywire robot whose malfunctioning chip led him to commit horrific violence to protect his young charge. However, both critics and franchise fans largely rejected this take on Chucky, primarily because Brad Dourif’s iconic raspy-voiced take on the villain was so closely associated with the character. 2019’s Child’s Play fundamentally altered Chucky. Although this reboot’s take on the character had a lot in common with M3GAN, the killer doll didn’t have M3GAN’s campy comedic charm or the visceral nastiness of Chucky’s undeniably creepy original iteration.

Why It’s Good That M3GAN Isn’t Like Chucky
The fact that M3GAN doesn’t have much in common with Chucky is a good thing, as this allows both franchises to grow and continue in tandem without the success of one, ensuring the failure of the other. In addition, there is not as much direct competition between the characters of M3GAN and Chucky as there initially seems since, like the Annabelle franchise, M3GAN has managed to find a new, exciting angle from which the series can approach the killer doll story. Annabelle revitalized killer doll horror and dodged Chucky comparisons by clarifying that the titular doll was possessed by a demon, not a serial killer’s spirit. Annabelle also doesn’t talk and doesn’t do any killing herself.

This distancing made the Annabelle movies feel different from Chucky’s misadventures, as did the Annabelle franchise’s decision to lean into a less comedic, playful tone than the Child’s Play series. Now, M3GAN has borrowed the goofy, silly tone of the later Child’s Play sequels, meaning the franchise needs to distance itself from Chucky more than Annabelle did. Fortunately, M3GAN managed to do this by clarifying that M3GAN was invented where Chucky created himself and by making the villain’s motivations directly opposed to Chucky’s plans. As a result, M3GAN feels nothing like Chucky of Child’s Play in terms of its story, even though the two killer doll franchises share many campy tonal similarities, thus allowing the newer horror franchise to carve out a niche without copying a famous earlier slasher series.

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