Megamind (2010)

Review by Boniface

Until the successes of Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon, it was generally taken for granted that Dreamworks films were second-rate imitations of Pixar flicks, which were unanimously held to be superior in every way. Unfortunately with Megamind (2010,PG) we see a reversion to the B-grade quality of Dreamworks earlier films. Not to say that Megamind was terrible; it was fun to watch, but definitely not on par with Kung Fu Panda or How to Train Your Dragon.

The film is directed by Tom McGrath, who appears in many other Dreamworks films as a writer and even an actor (for example, he did voices in Madagascar, Shrek, and Monsters vs. Aliens).

Megamind
turns the standard superhero plot on its head by positing a very interesting question: What would become of the super-villain if he actually succeeded in destroying his superhero nemesis? This is precisely what happens in this film when title character Megamind (voiced by Will Ferrell) inadvertently succeeds in killing off his long-time rival Metro Man. The rest of the film is a sketch of how a super-villain might react and conduct himself if he actually succeeded in gaining control of the city. The results are humorous and surprising as the evil Megamind ends up himself becoming the good protagonist, quite in spite of himself.

Looking at the negatives first, the film has a few plot holes. For example, Megamind steals the identity of a book clerk, assuming his shape and likeness, and we never find out what happens to the man whose form he stole! But that's minor - the real issue with this film is that, while the differences between good and evil form a large part of the film's plot, and Megamind eventually has a "conversion" of sorts at the end, the distinction is not sharp enough to satisfy the discriminating Catholic viewer. Even when Megamind turns good, he comes across as a "bad" good guy. This is especially a problem in the way the super-hero characters of Metro Man and Titan are denigrated. Metro Man is portrayed as an arrogant, selfish prig and Titan, his replacement, is just plain evil and turns quickly into a nemesis. Thus the film serves to deconstruct traditional ideas about super-heroes; if your child loves super-heroes, Megamind will make them lose their "super-hero" innocence by the way it makes you question who is really good, who is really evil, and displaying the all too human faults of our role models. It's hard to explain this if you haven't seen the film, but if you have, then you know what I mean.

But there are some notable positives about this film, especially the way it illuminates the privation theory of evil. Megamind, as a villain, can only find fulfillment in using his evil to thwart good, in perverting and destroying the good deeds of Metro Man. But once his super-hero protagonist is killed, Megamind finds that doing evil for the sake of evil is profoundly unsatisfying. Yet, once he begins to turn and act as a kind of "good" anti-hero, Megamind quickly realizes that doing good is quite different - while evil qua evil is empty and unsatisfying, good qua good is inherently satisfying and rewarding. Good is a substantial reality, but evil is only a negation, and as such, has no meaning or existence apart from the good it tries to corrupt.

The major flaw in the film is the writing. While Megamind has his moments (there is a particularly humorous exchange between he and Metro Man at the beginning of the film), most of the jokes fall flat. The female lead (voiced by Tina Fey) is annoying and Megamind seems overly melodramatic in a degree that is almost unbelievable, if it were possible for an animated character to overact. And, as I said, while the distinctions between good and evil and their relationship are explored, instead of a clear delineation between the nature of good and the nature of evil we get a kind of yin-yang conclusion that there is good in all evil and even the good is tainted by evil.

Another negative is the soundtrack by AC/DC and Guns N' Roses.

I give this film two out of three tiaras. It was enjoyable, and there was nothing overtly objectionable, but the moral message was a little hazy and the writing could have been better.