The question of whether the existence of a superhero necessarily leads to the existence of a supervillain is not exactly new to the super-people genre. However, it may never have been dealt with in quite as fun and amusing a way as it is within the DreamWorks’ animated comedy Megamind.
Directed by Tom McGrath (Madagascar), Megamind is a satiric take on the superhero genre, focusing—as has been done occasionally but certainly not with regularity—on the villain, in this case, the titular Megamind (voiced by Will Ferrell). Opening with a spin on the Superman legend, this feature starts off with Megamind leaving his about-to-be-destroyed home planet as a baby, right around the same time that another alien child is leaving his planet for the same reasons. Unfortunately for our villain, this other child—who grows up to be known as the superhero Metro Man (Brad Pitt)—bumps poor Megamind into a prison while taking for himself a posh, comfortable upbringing, all of which leads Megamind to a life of supervillainy.
The film really turns everything about the genre on its head early on when Megamind actually succeeds in defeating Metro Man and is left with that ultimate question about what to do next. The screenplay by Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons is not only highly amusing, but intelligent as well. Both Megamind and Metro Man recognize their yin-yang-ness, that one cannot happily exist without the other to play off of. Of course, with Metro Man gone, Megamind, after growing bored with life, opts to create a new superhero so that he will again have a purpose.
Things don’t go hugely well with that villainous plot though and rather than choosing a worthy human to become his enemy, he ends up saddled with Hal Stewart (Jonah Hill), a camera man for the local news who has been smitten by reporter Roxanne Richie (Tina Fey) for ages. Richie is the Lois Lane of the tale, the oft kidnapped by Megamind, oft rescued by Metro Man, damsel in distress who still manages to file a report no matter the catastrophe befalling her.
The film succeeds for a number of reasons, from the excellent voice performances given by the cast to the outstanding animation, but much of its triumphs truly lie within the script. Satire is not easy to pull off, particularly when said satire is aimed at an audience of all ages, but Megamind makes it look incredibly easy even if life for the lead character is always stupendously difficult.
Will Ferrell’s sometimes over the top comedic buffoonery is a perfect fit within the film, especially as he is paired with the more understated David Cross who voices Megamind’s henchman, Minion. In fact, just about everything in the film comes together and meshes perfectly. From beginning to end, Megamind not only manages to be the perfect satire, but still to engage in the exact sort of superhero action sequences that one would want from a film in the traditional version of the genre as well.
Perhaps the perfect example of the film’s managing to both be straight and humorous is Megamind’s lair and his nefarious inventions. His hideout is Bond villain-esque (as he is well aware when he goes so far to spin in his chair while petting one of his creations Ernst Stavro Blofeld-style) and yet most of the torture devices within it—like a wheel with a bunch of spiked shoes—are clearly a joke.
It is hard to find fault with Megamind and its brand of super-hero and –villain insanity. Even the film’s Blu-ray presentation is exceptionally good. From the smallest crease in Megamind’s latest cape to dangling spiders to the tassels on Metro Man’s super-suit, the level of detail is tremendous. The colors are incredibly rich and vibrant, popping off the screen in a HD presentation that is sure to impress any fan of CG animation. The film sports a 7.1 channel TrueHD soundtrack which equals the visual presentation. So many films with big action sequences have a tendency to make those portions exceptionally loud while the dialogue ends up muddy and indistinct, but there are no such problems here. You will find yourself fully immersed in every battle that takes place, smack in the middle of every musical montage, and yet hear at perfect volume and clarity every line of dialogue.
The Blu-ray also comes with a very good set of bonus features and a DVD. The younger set will certainly most appreciate a new Megamind short which retains all the wit and charm of the main feature. Also appealing to that group will be a video comic book and a comic creator. The latter of these two takes scenes from the film and allows one to include comic book-style sound effects bubbles over the action in a scene. There are also two different extra tracks to accompany the main feature, one of these simply offers background information and basic insights into the film while the other is a full on picture-in-picture track with McGrath, producers Lara Breay and Denise Nolan Cascino, and Schoolcraft and Simons. This is available also as an audio track alone, but as a picture-in-picture track you get some behind the scenes segments as well as looks at various levels of storyboards and animation (this does cause you to lose some of the commentary though). There are also pieces on the cast, Megamind’s gadgets, and one on his lair. Finally, there is a look at how animators sometimes need to perform live action scenes in order for them to correctly construct expressions and look as well as a piece on how to draw Megamind, a deleted scene, and a short animated rap.
Megamind is the perfect example of how to take a classic genre and brilliantly spin it into something new and incredibly enjoyable. With a smart script, great visuals, and excellent performances it is the exact sort of film that one will want to sit down with the whole family and watch.