I have to admit it; I think I let my expectations for this one get a little out of control. As out of control as Megamind’s ambitions of world domination? Well maybe not quite that bad, but still, despite plans of doing my best to maintain a level head going in, I was pretty swept up in the hype surrounding this big budget computer animated feature. So did it live up to such stratospheric expectations you ask? Surprisingly, yes it did and I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that the film does a fantastic job of referencing the little nuances that comic book heroes (or most pertinently, villains) have to endure to keep the hero, well, heroic.
Kinda like another tale we’re all familiar with, this film opens with a world in eminent danger of being sucked into a black hole and some loving parents placing their infant child into an escape pod. With his pet/ protector (a fish named Minion), young Megamind (Will Ferrell) finds himself hurdling toward a small blue planet at the edge of the Milky Way only his exodus isn’t the only one taking place.
Apparently another planet, one with very human-like inhabitants, had very similar ambitions for the survival of their species and sent a pod of their own.
In true born loser fashion, this second pod enjoys a smooth trip to Earth and lands on the property of a rich loving couple while Megamind’s route traverses endless asteroid belts before finally landing within the gated walls of a prison. With very different upbringings, a rivalry is born between the two alien refugees only unlike the do-gooding Metro Man (Brad Pitt), Megamind has no real powers save for a massive brain. Since Metro Man has the “city’s good guy” role pretty well filled, Megamind has little choice but to take up villainy.
Despite a pretty good heart, Megamind finds himself repeating tried and true schemes like kidnapping news reporter, Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey) only to end up in a custom-painted cellblock in Metro City’s prison.
Things take an incredible twist when the villain actually gets the upper hand and the reality of the hero/villain symbiotic relationship is finally made clear to Megamind.
There’s a few central questions behind Megamind, that actually serve as the catalyst for the entire prose, many of which fans of comic books will really take to heart. Sure on the surface what we’re looking at is essentially a spoof at the Superman/ Lex Luthor relationship (with a little Lois Lane thrown in for good measure) only unlike the famous DC tale, DreamWorks slaps a few welcomed twisted to the equation. Not the least of these is what if the bad guy didn’t want to be evil so much as it was forced upon him from the onset. Another really explores the idea that the relationship between the hero and the villain is one that demands the presence of the other to work.
The latter has been explored in films like 1999’s Mystery Men but the point is really driven home here in MegaMind.
The comedy feels a little bit strained at times but the cast here just plays so well off one another that laughter’s inevitable regardless of the viewer’s mood going in. Will Farrell dazzles with his trademark blend of casual dryness and additional props are due to David Cross as Minion and Jonah Hill as Titan.
Pacing is quit spot on, and actually succeeds over Pixar’s superhero attempt “The Incredibles”- which did bog down in spots. Megamind is consistently lively, enthusiastic and visually rich.
Hans Zimmer is responsible for the scoring here and does his usual charming work even if the softer tones are often lost to the wailing guitars of Guns n Roses and AC/DC (even the late Michael Jackson isn’t overlooked on this explosively charged soundtrack).
About the biggest complaint I’ve located surrounding this film is that the whole genre has been covered by Pixar’s Incredibles and Universal’s Despicable Me and this is a valid concern, although a legitimate argument can be made that compared directly against Pixar’s 2004 entry, these latter two pieces serve as reminders to the ever-advancing computer generated film industry. From a visual standpoint, the small details are just outstanding. Perfection of facial systems, textures and lighting simulations are evident in nearly every frame here.
In all I have to confess that DreamWorks’ collective grasp on the medium of computer generated feature filmmaking is subtly becoming masterful, if undeniably commercial. While biggest rival Pixar is often limited by what can be accomplished within the confines of a G rating, DW seems increasingly proficient at packing as much into their PG pictures as possible. There is no confusing the fact that this is an adult-oriented comedy that children will enjoy too (not the other way around).
Considering the past two DreamWorks releases were How to Train Your Dragon and MegaMind, it’s clear that Disney/ Pixar has their proverbial hands full. Megamind may not be quite as butter-smooth, adventurous, or as grand-scoped as How to Train Your Dragon but it does harken back to the type of pacing and comedic brilliance viewers have come to expect from films like Kung-Fu Panda. Megamind offers a whole lot of fun, some solid visuals, and an interesting spin on the "Man of Steel" legacy.
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