Just when you were beginning to think you couldn’t handle another superhero movie, Dreamworks Animation comes along with a clever, quirky superhero spoof that hits its target spot on. In a deft play on the genre, Megamind answers the question: what would happen if a supervillain actually won? And what happens after that?
Using the Superman origin as a template, Megamind opens with two babies being launched in rockets from two different parts of the galaxy. One lands in a mansion; the other in a prison. One is a superpowered child who flies his mom around the house; the other a spindly blue kid with a large brain, who constructs a deadly Big Wheel out of licence plates and stuff lying around the prison shop. One is the star at school; the other is always picked last for everything. And so it goes – until the two reach adulthood and their epic battles are listed in a series of newspaper front pages.
Then, the unthinkable happens – Megamind [voiced by will Ferrell], using ace TV news reporter Roxanne Ritchie [Tina Fey] as bait, lures Metro Man [Brad Pitt] into a deathtrap that [gasp!] actually works! For a time, Megamind and his Minion [an intelligent fish in a water-filled bowl, with a robotic body – voiced by David Cross] enjoy terrorizing Metro City [which Megamind pronounces as if it rhymes with atrocity]. Then boredom sets in…
Grasping at straws, Megamind salvages DNA from Metro Man’s cape [kept as a souvenir of his victory] and uses it to create a new hero – from Roxanne’s overweight, dim bulb cameraman, Hall [Jonah Hill] – whom he trains to take Metro Man’s place. There’s just one hitch in his plan – Hal, now going by Titan, decides to use his power for personal gain. Oops!
From its opening moments, Megamind pokes fun at superhero tropes – from Megamind’s voiceover [‘I was eight days old and still living at home. How sad is that?’], to training Hal in the guise of a wise, father figure that spoofs Marlon Brando’s turn as Jor-El in Superman: The Motion Picture]. Writers Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons get the details right – like the alliterative names from Superman’s history [Roxanne Ritchie for Lois Lane; Megamind for Lex Luthor – though he’s really more like Brainiac; even giving the archetypal superhero the alliterative name Metro Man], or the idea that a superhero as invincible as Metro Man must have a weakness. Megamind even takes on a secret identity [taking the place of a bookish librarian] – first purely as camouflage, then as a way to spend time with Roxanne [like some versions of Lex Luthor, he has a soft spot for a female reporter].
Most of the humor arises from the situations – though there are a few out-and-out gags [which should be seen] – and most of them are perhaps a bit too sophisticated for younger kids. There’s enough slapstick to keep the younger ones from falling asleep [can you say ‘invisible car?’, but Megamind is really best enjoyed by adults.
Director Tom McGrath does a lovely job with the storytelling aspects of the film – though I have to wonder how much improvisation he had to deal with. With a cast that includes Ferrell, Fey, Cross and Hill, I expect he had a lot of good off-the-cuff material to fold into the finished film.
As for the 3-D, you know it’s clicking when the audience is ooohing and awing at the Dreamworks logo. Yes, it’s sharp and clear and very, very effective – and there are many scenes that make excellent use of it.
Megamind is one of those lovely films that spoofs a genre while being an effective story within that genre. It’s almost a shame that it’s so good. If it does the box office it deserves, there will likely be a sequel – and that could be a very bad thing, indeed.
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Photo courtesy of Dreamworks Animation.