The twist in the tale here is the story focuses instead on the devious villain, and not the bright-shining, incorruptible hero. Voiced by Will Ferrell (pleasantly restrained), Megamind is an evil genius with a skin tone which would make the Na’vi proud and a bulb-shaped head to cope with his huge, overstimulated brain. He is forever battling for control of Metro City from it’s lantern-jawed defender, Metro Man (Brad Pitt doing Brad Pitt), a muscle-bound do-gooders cut from the same heroic cloth as Superman.
After accidentally disposing of the city’s hero in a cleverly staged trap early on in proceeding, Megamind soon begins to lament the lack of action and competition when he finds himself in the position of ruler. Hitting on the idea of creating another superhero to fill the gap left by Metro Man, he finds himself falling for the Lois Lane-like reporter Roxanne Ritchi (30 Rock’s Tina Fey) who he initially used as bait in trapping Metro Man. Could she be the key to him giving up his evil ways and opting instead for a life as a defender of good, and not a destroyer of it?
No prizes for those who have already guessed the outcome, but there is much pleasure to be had from the film before the conflicted villain finally makes his Megamind up. DreamWorks have upped their game of late, producing a number of slick, well-crafted pieces of family entertainment which more than stand up to the likes of Woody and Buzz, and Megamind is no exception. The plot flies along at a breakneck pace, although never sacrificing astutely-observed character moments or development in the process. Like the Shrek series before it, the film contains the usual fun visual pop culture references which cater for an older, knowing crowd (there’s an amusing Donkey Kong gag for eagle-eyed viewers who grew up in that gaming era) and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the film also contains a number of humorous homages to the Man of Steel himself.
In a beautifully-constructed flashback prologue, we see Megamind as a baby (aided by his loving parents) escaping the destruction of his home planet (à la Krypton), only for the well-known myth to be hilariously turned on it’s head when Megamind’s pod ends up crash landing in a concrete prison yard and not in some corn field near Smallville. From there, he’s brought up and educated by the kind of criminals his parents initially envisioned him ridding the world of.
The nods to Superman don’t end there either. Megamind’s construction of a new superhero, achieved by using DNA left over from Metro Man, strongly echoes the plot for the much-maligned forth entry into the Christopher Reeves series of films. Megamind also disguises himself as a mentor for his new creation, whose image and voice bears more than a passing resemblance to Marlon Brando’s character in the first Superman movie, complete with his silver Mr Whippy-style quiff.
It’s also a handsomely animated tale, although its budget is clearly much bigger to that of Despicable Me’s – the recent 3D feature from Fox, and a film which Megamind will no doubt be compared against. Despite both having a central premise which hinges on the transformation of a bad guy who just needs a little love in his heart for him to see the error of his ways, like Antz and A Bug’s Life before them, the two films manage to be thoroughly entertaining in their own right, regardless of the similarities.
Alongside the likes of Ferrell and Fey, strong voice support also comes in the form of Judd Apatow regular Jonah Hill, who plays Ritchi’s infatuated cameraman and eventual subject of Megamind’s superhero replacement. Hill manages to make his character even creepier to that of his recent role in indie comedy Cyrus, and his transformation from puny, overweight wannabe love interest to powerful super being who still can’t get the girl, is genuinely unpleasant and presents something a little more disturbing behind the obvious bad guy boo-hiss theatrics.
Already this year there have been a number of CG-animated films which have resonated deeply with the popcorn crowd as well as appeasing those hard-to-please critics. Megamind is a welcome addition to that list and will hopefully be a continuation in quality for DreamWorks. Although it’s too early to tell if the film will have the longevity of some of its animated predecessors, it’s a welcomed slice of superior Hollywood entertainment and engaging enough for a mainstream adult audience, tired of being let-down by all the below-par live-action product on offer out there.