‘Megamind’ at the Everyman

Got to do an essay on Megamind at last:

There’s really a lot that could be said about this movie. I wouldn’t call it a great film: there are some gaps in the writing and not all the jokes land (though most of them do). But it is a very good film, with strong storytelling, endlessly quotable dialogue (“I’m in a heated existential discussion with this dead-eyed plastic desk toy”), and some really good superpowered action scenes. It’s one of that best brand of satire (like the superior Galaxy Quest or the superlative Princess Bride) which provides all the real thrills, joys, and fun of the works it’s parodying even as it uses the material for comedy.

But even rarer than that, it’s a villain-centric story that doesn’t try to undermine the moral premise of its source material. Unlike, say, Wicked (where the Wicked Witch of the West is a persecuted outcast, Glinda is a ditzy collaborator, and the Wizard is a corrupt monster), Megamind takes an unexpected and much more interesting approach to the Superman formula.

The set up: in ‘Metro City’, the superhero Metro Man (who is Superman in all but name) wages perpetual war against the evil Megamind (who is something of a cross between Lex Luthor and Brainiac, being an evil supergenius alien). The supervillain’s plots mostly involve kidnapping Metro Man’s ostensible girlfriend, intrepid reporter Roxanne Ritchie (you get the idea).

At the start of the film their battle has been going on for so long and has become so predictable that almost no one takes it seriously anymore. Oh, they mostly all play their roles, but the truth is that they’re, as one character later describes it, just going through the motions.

In particular, the damsel in distress is so jaded that she doesn’t even flinch at any of the villain’s deathtraps and spends most of her hostage time sniping at him (“Can someone stamp my frequent kidnapping card?” “You of all people should know we’ve discontinued that promotion”). In any case, no one, least of all Megamind himself, actually expects him to win.

But then the unthinkable happens: he does.

Which leads into the central idea of the film: what does a villain – this kind of villain – do without a hero? The first step is pretty predictable: Megamind takes over the city and indulges in a crime wave, able to do whatever he wants with no one to stop him, only to quickly find that he’s become bored and existentially depressed. Having defined himself as ‘the bad guy’, he now realizes that he has no purpose without a ‘good guy’ to challenge him. This leads to a scene where he and Roxanne end up both standing before a giant statue of Metro Man, wondering what to do in a world without a hero.

Up until now the film has been fun, though fairly standard parody fare. But it’s about this point that things start getting very interesting.

Read the rest here.

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