Tina Fey and Will Ferrell star in Megamind
Beware, spoiler alert.
Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt face off as super-foes in this smartly scripted and philosophically profound piece of kids’ entertainment. The 3-D animation adds even more dimension.
Featuring the voices of: Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey, David Cross, Jonah Hill and Ben Stiller
Rating: Four stars out of five
The movie is billed as being in 3-D, and you know what? There is genuine truth in that advertisement.
Megamind is a fully realized statement on the nature of good and evil, the superhero’s role in the universe, and our social need for absolutes to structure our daily existence.
Don’t worry: The metaphysical depth is entirely imperceptible. The movie dazzles with its surface perfections, ensuring there isn’t a single moment of gratuitous enlightenment.
It all looks like mere entertainment as Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt face off as Megamind and Metro Man — respectively, supervillain and superhero for Metro City. From the opening sequence, which pays direct homage to the Superman narrative, we watch two alien babies land on Earth as their home planets are sucked into a giant black hole.
One baby is blue with a giant head. The other is humanly formed, and blessed with naturally chiselled features.
One baby lands in the lap of luxury. The other lands in the middle of a prison yard.One baby becomes the handsome hero of his school (Metro Man, voiced by Pitt), and eventually his entire species, while the other (Megamind, voiced by Ferrell) does his best to outdo his rival’s acts of charitable triumph.
Writers Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons get full marks for playing with the cliches in the genre with just the right amount of jaundice. When Megamind decides to kidnap intrepid broadcast journalist Roxanne Ritchi (voiced by Tina Fey) in order to bring Metro Man to his knees, it’s Roxanne who provides the running commentary on Megamind’s lack of originality — from the alligator pit under the floor to his grand schemes that inevitably fail to meet their cataclysmic ambitions.
It’s funny, well-written and Tina Fey does a fabulous job bringing her intelligent smirk to the pixels through her performance.
Most movies would be satisfied with mere parody and tongue-in-cheek commentary on the conventions it’s tacitly reaffirming, but Megamind cleverly pushes it one step further by recreating the convention and pushing the audience to reconfigure their view of the binary forces that keep the universe in constant flux: Halfway through the movie, Megamind actually succeeds in killing off Metro Man.
The citizens of Metro City are stunned, and so is Roxanne. The poles have been reversed, leaving Megamind to rule as he sees fit. The only problem is that Megamind is not your average supervillain.
Thanks to the digital animation and Ferrell’s signature loser-pathos, Megamind is entirely sympathetic from the very first frames. We like him. We feel he’s been the victim of circumstance, which allows us to see him as a vessel containing both good and evil.
To assert the fuzzy quality of morality, and the idea that good and evil reside within each one of us in equal proportion, is a risky move, given our current affinity for boiling things down to fundamentalist ideals. The beauty of this movie is just how effortlessly this philosophical challenge is presented to the audience.
When Megamind succeeds in removing his rival, he realizes he’s lost his purpose in life. Without good pushing up against his wall of evil, he has no form, no reason to keep hatching villainous plans for world domination. The loss pushes him into an existential state of reflection, which prompts a Eureka moment: What if he recreated Metro Man in another form? What if he took a mere mortal and gave him superhuman abilities so he could once again get back to his drawing board of villainy? Surely then, the universal axes would realign.
He carries out the plan and deposits the seeds of greatness into the gelatinous heart, body and mind of a slovenly news cameraman voiced by Jonah Hill. By the time the Rocky montage is over, and we see the blobby kid reborn as Tighten (sounds like Titan, but as the Megamind character tells us, it wasn’t already subject to copyright), we think we see the happy ending on the horizon, with the balance between good and evil restored.
Yet, when Tighten turns out to be a completely selfish loser who uses his superpowers for his own gain, it’s up to Megamind to reverse his own polarity and use his gifts for good instead of evil.
Questioning the nature of heroism is always a valuable exercise, because it puts us back in touch with everything that is bad and good within us, while reminding us that we have the free will to choose.
All these smart points are packaged in such great lines, and delivered by such clever performers, all we really feel is the pleasure of a great piece of entertainment. But make no mistake: Behind this two-dimensional formula of good vs. evil lurks a three-dimensional view of the human soul.
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