What makes a hero? DreamWorks latest animated feature Megamind, scripted by Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons, and borrowing heavily from the Golden and Silver Age of comic books (most notably a certain Man of Steel), asks that question. The answer they deliver is highly entertaining.
Metro Man (Brad Pitt) is the beloved hero of Metro City. Shot into space as a baby to escape a dying world he arrived on Earth with good looks, great hair, and abilities far outreaching those of the average man. He’s a hero with the powers of Superman and the ego of Booster Gold. But he’s not who this film is about.
There was another shuttle, another dying world, and another orphaned alien child who took his first steps on the planet we call home. He wasn’t as good looking (being blue and all), and lacked the cool powers that made others swoon for Metro Man. Always painted as the bad boy, the trouble maker, this child would grow up to accept and cherish the role by becoming Metro City’s greatest menace: the super-villain Megamind (Will Ferrell).
After a brief introduction to the early lives of our two characters we’re thrown into the latest plot of Megamind (Will Ferrell) to ruin the opening of the Metro Man Museum by kidnapping of intrepid female reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey), and laying a trap for the city’s hero.
Then the unexpected happens – the villain wins! Megamind’s plan succeeds in killing Metro City’s champion leaving him and his friend Minion (David Cross) in complete control.
Megamind quickly tires of new freedom and absolute power over the city. With no hero what is the purpose of being a villain? What follows is a hero’s journey as Megamind is forced to create a new place for himself in the world. Also complicating things is his new found friendship with Roxy, while disguised as the museum’s curator (Ben Stiller), and his responsibility in the creation of Metro City’s new threat.
The film’s second-half deals mainly with Megamind’s friendship with Roxy and his disastrous attempts to transform her nerdy camera man into the city’s new hero Titan (Jonah Hill). If Megamind is a perfect example of a Silver Age villain (not too threatening and still playing by an unspoken set of rules), Titan represents today’s sociopathic villain drunk on his own power and obsessions. When the world is threatened who will stop the new threat?
What makes Megamind work so well is it understands the secret of Superman and uses it to its full advantage – Superman is dull. Metro Man has an important role in the film (and there’s a great sequence playing on the idea of how much he can get done in an instant with super-speed), but Megamind’s character, not the God-like buffoon, is the interesting one.
There are several small touches that add to the film’s charm, many inspired by comics including Minion’s ridiculous robotic gorilla body, Megamind’s penchant for mispronouncing words such as school and always referring to Metro City as Metrocity (rhymes with atrocity), Metro Man’s secret lair, and Megamind’s various inventions and traps. However, it’s where the film turns the classic take on its ear, such as Megamind’s relationship with Roxy that provides some of the film’s best moments.
My only real complaint with the film is the size of the role it gives Jonah Hill’s annoying Jimmy Olsen-style character. He’s supposed to be annoying, and his role helps move the Megamind/Roxy subplot forward, but he did get a little on my nerves and he’s not nearly as entertaining as the rest of the film.
It likely won’t be the best animated feature you see this year, but you’re in for an enjoyable ride. Those with a love for comics, especially Silver Age tales, may get more out of the film than others, but either way Megamind should provide plenty of humor, action, good tunes (the soundtrack includes AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, and Elvis), and fun for the entire family.
A final note: The film’s 3D isn’t spectacular (I’d compare it to this Spring’s Despicable Me), but it does enhance a few scenes. You certainly don’t need to see Megamind in 3D, but if you can (without spending more money at the box office) it would be worth it.