(Megamind, Tom McGrath, USA, 2010, 96 mins)
Unless you missed the 2008 X Factor runner-up turning on the lights in your local town, or the several inches of snow which may or may not be destroying society, then you won’t be surprised to learn that it’s nearly Christmas. This, as always, means that a plethora of family friendly titles will be hitting our cinemas in the hope of securing Christmas number one at the box office. Flying out of the traps early from Dreamworks comes Megamind, a 3D super-hero animation featuring the vocal talent of Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt. Megamind toys with conventions of the genre and takes the relatively original approach of focusing on the villain.
The plot is a gentle and affectionate parody of the Superman story, as the opening scenes depict Megamind (Ferrell) as a baby whose home planet is being destroyed. His parents help him to escape and send him on his way to fulfil his destiny. At the same time, however, another baby whose home planet is facing a similar fate is also rocketing towards earth. While the latter infant lands in a plush mansion and is raised to a life of luxury and adulation due to his superpowers, Megamind crashes in a prison as is raised by the inmates with a somewhat warped view on right and wrong. When school sees him reunited with the child who will become Metro Man (Pitt) he realises that he will never be loved like his counterpart, and decides to dedicate himself to being Metro Man’s greatest adversary. Years later their battles have become the stuff of legend, but when one of Megamind’s villainous plans finally works he is left without an opponent. The film then sees Megamind struggle with his lack of purpose following the demise of Metro Man, and with his feelings for reporter Roxanne Ritchie (Fey) and questions begin to arise about just how evil the blue headed ‘master of all villainy’ really is.
The problem with taking on a genre which is so saturated in its own conventions is trying to do something original with it. While having the villain succeed early on in the film is certainly one way of doing this, Megamind then lapses into tried and trusted mainstays of the genre. Standard plotlines such as the training of a new hero and the difficulties of concealing a hidden identity from a love interest are used, and while hardly breaking new ground, they are approached with enough fun and irony to come across as fresh. The balance is well struck in terms of providing family entertainment as there is plenty of slapstick action to keep children happy while in-jokes such as a send up of Marlon Brando’s Jor-El from the original Superman movie provide laughs for older audience members. However while there are a few moments of genuine hilarity, Megamind seems never to live up to the comic potential that its premise and characters suggest. Ferrell, as always, launches himself into the part with gusto and delivers the film’s best lines with aplomb, but a few more gags could have helped make the comedy of Megamind work as well as the action sequences.
Indeed it is in these action sequences that the film excels, delivering fast-paced excitement and utilising the potential of 3D technology in a way that many recent animated titles, such as Dreamworks’ own Despicable Me, have failed to fully grasp. Sequences high above the Metro City skyline are a particular treat as the use of 3D allows a breathtaking sense of perspective. The attention to detail too is admirable, and is as evident in simple effects such as water running through the streets on a rainy night as in explosions or flights through the city.
Visually stunning and consistently entertaining, if a touch short on laugh out loud moments, with Megamind, Dreamworks have put themselves in pole position in the race for the smash-hit of the festive season. As well as standing as a worthy addition to the 3D animation canon in its own right, Megamind offers a protagonist who is worthy of his own franchise (not that he wouldn’t have gotten one anyway). Our cinema screens are sure to be filled with Megamind’s giant blue head for another couple of outings yet, and if they can keep up this kind of form, that will be no bad thing.