Megamind (2010, d. Tom McGrath)
Earlier this year I posted my notes on the animated feature Up! That movie really opened my eyes to the possibilities of animated family movies, in fact, it was so good it’s going to be hard not to compare every cartoon feature from now on to Up! I’m still pretty Magoo when it comes to animation. For me existential speculation about innate evil versus attained evil hasn’t moved an animated cel past wondering if the villian really could have gotten away with if it weren’t for those meddling kids. “And that dog!” So, one might draw from this that I don’t demand much from the oversimplified ethos of Megamind. But I do. I seek deeper meaning. Maybe I’ve finally grown up!
Two super-human characters represent the balance of power in battling for the soul of Metro City. Mega Man is the super-hero, a strapping, idolized, do-gooder with exasperating false humility, and the apparent affection of Roxanne, a t.v. news reporter Megamind is his arch enemy, a bantamweight, blue-skinned alien who decided as a child to adopt a life of crime. Megamind is also gaga for Roxanne, but she shows no interest in his attention craving schemes. During one of their often repeated good versus evil showdowns, Megamind, to his own surprise, effects a successful plot to harness the power of the sun into a deadly ray that actually finishes off Mega Man. Evil prevails. Megamind rewards himself with an office in Metro City Hall, raids all the banks of money, and acquires the great European art masterpieces. Yet, he discovers that having it all is still not enough. Without a force of good to challenge him, Megamind feels purposeless. So he schemes to create a new super-hero rival from the person of Roxanne’s schlubby, nobody news cameraman who he christens Titan. Megamind trains Titan for a new epic battle of evil versus good but the plan goes off course when would-be hero Titan elects to use his power for evil and reek havoc on the city. Meanwhile Megamind, who has been pretending to be good to impress Roxanne, ultimately discovers that love and goodness is indeed more rewarding. Megamind vanquishes his own evil creation, Titan, and becomes Metro City’s new super-hero.
Megamind is pretty funny and well executed visually. But I think the animation marketplace has evolved beyond all the cartoon cliches this movie depends on. Animated features now need to have more complex moral drama while still providing story and action that has universal appeal. I wouldn’t call Megamind juvenille, or stupid but it does feel purposeless. The idea of turning the Superman mythology inside out, so that the Lex Luthor-esque character is sympathetic seems original, but Megamind and his mixed-up moral compass become a trifling bore.