I suspect that my regular readers are probably ready for a change of pace after all the superhero talk in my review of the Uncanny X-Men story arc “She Lies with Angels,” but I like talking about superheroes (it’s in my subtitle!) so we’re going to go one more before everyone gets a break from capes and tights.
Megamind came out a couple years ago, and at the time I gave it a pass because Dreamworks is like the poor man’s Pixar: character designs that are just a little off, plots that are pretty standard, way too many pop-culture references in place of actual jokes, and the inability to finish a film without a dance number. That’s not to say that some of Dreamworks’s movies haven’t been really good. I loved The Prince of Egypt, which they did years ago before they went to exclusively CG animation (also before Shrek set the standard for all the things that I loathe about their more recent films), and I thought that How to Train Your Dragon was a lot of fun (I’m secretly excited about the sequel, so don’t tell anyone).
Anyway, I picked up Megamind in the weekly movie round-up because I’ve heard lots of good word of mouth about it from my little corner of the internet. After watching it, I can say that I enjoyed it, but a lot of the really clever bits were rather esoteric.
If you haven’t seen it, the story follows Megamind, an alien from a planet that got sucked into a black hole when he was a child who arrives on Earth and uses his super intelligence to become a supervillain. His rival, Metro Man, arrived on Earth at the same time from his doomed planet that got sucked into the same black hole. Megamind and Metro Man have been fighting each other for years, and finally, by complete accident, Megamind succeeds in killing Metro Man and finds himself ruling over Metro City without opposition. He quickly becomes bored with this arrangement, feeling that his life’s kind of pointless without someone to oppose his evil schemes, so he sets about creating a new superhero to fight. He accidentally gives superpowers to Jonah Hill as himself (or a very self-effacing parody of himself) and then finds that losers with no social skills actually make terrible superheroes, forcing Megamind to save the city from his own diabolical scheme to give them a new hero.
There’s a moral about choosing what you want to be instead of letting your circumstances define you which is all very touching and good for the kids.
But if you’re like me, you want to know what all the fuss is about and why this is supposed to be a good send-up of superhero tropes. Well, it is and it isn’t. I feel like there are a lot of tips of the hat here to superheroes of ages past, but I feel conflicted about them because they’re clearly the pop-culture references that Dreamworks has to have. Megamind and Metro Man share Superman’s origin; Metro Man is basically just Superman with worse hair and Brad Pitt‘s voice; the Space Dad disguise that Megamind uses to train Jonah Hill as himself is a clear parody of Marlon Brando‘s turn as Jor-El in the original Superman movie; the relationship between Megamind and Metro Man play on the old concept that Batman and the Joker need each other to maintain meaning in their lives; Jonah Hill as himself’s complete disregard for civilian safety while he’s fighting Megamind is reminiscent of Man of Steel‘s climax (okay, that one’s accidental); Megamind’s blithe acceptance of his defeat and return to jail pokes fun at the superheroes-never-kill conundrum. The list could go on if I sat down and really thought hard about it. It’s like the writers decided that they’d hit the mandatory Dreamworks pop culture reference quota by cramming in as many subculture references as they could and passing them off as pop culture, because everyone knows who Superman is, so yeah.
The more I think about all these little nods to superhero geekdom, the more positively disposed I am towards the movie. Maybe it’s a case where I really enjoy the subculture that’s getting shamelessly alluded to, so I’m willing to give it a pass.
In the final assessment, I don’t think this is a great movie. I think it’s a lot of fun, and it has some stuff that superhero nerds will find really enjoyable, but if your interests fall outside that domain, then there’s not a whole lot to recommend the film as anything other than a standard animated family movie.
What Dreamworks movies have you guys seen? Are there any that deserve a second glance that I didn’t mention?