Funny how movies have a tendency to come in pairs… Hot off the heels of the massively disappointing (and yes I’ll stick to that) Despicable Me, we’re treated to yet another angle on the whole ‘bad guy gone good’ theme – and the similarities don’t end there; both have needless voice casting, both have a lead character who deliberately mispronounces words, both have odd armies of sidekicks, both have soundtracks by Hans Zimmer and both (unrelated to that last point there) aren’t brilliant. That might tell a little too much of the tale right there – but as for the “who comes out trumps; who’s Antz and who’s A Bugs Life?” question… You’ll just have to read on to the end!
Megamind tells the story of the titular character (Will Ferrell), who has grown up being the bad guy yang to Metroman’s (Brad Pitt) Ying and begs the question; what does the bad guy do when the good guy isn’t around? Cue lots of things happening that beginning to end, no one really cares about; some good times are had, some bad times, people fall out and make up, some life lesson is learned and everyone ends up happy. Sorry, should have probably prefaced that with a SPOILER ALERT! The actual narrative content of this movie is very meh. Entirely predictable and supremely lacklustre, Megamind falls into the ever expanding category of films that fail to impress, and as such won’t stick around in your memory for long.
Visually the movie to ticks all the right boxes and is very well presented; that being said though this isn’t anything you won’t have seen before. My major exception in this case would be the look and feel of the characters themselves. I’m not quite sure what it is about them but there was something I found oddly disengaging – have a peek at this trailer and see if you can see what I mean – there’s just something about them I can’t get on board with…
So what’s the big topic of contention when it comes to animated movies? That’s right! The voice acting! Megamind definitely falls into the “mixed bag” category here with some worthy voice cast, some questionable and some just plain unnecessary. I’ll happily stand by the idea of having Will Ferrell and David Cross as the main voice talent – both are unobtrusive enough (with Cross being particularly well suited to his part as Minion) and hold together the main action well. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill however actually bring very little to the table, and even comedy’s leading (and lest we forget ridiculously hot) lady Tina Fey has very little to do here . That’s the worthy and questionable out of the way, but what about the unnecessary? Well this movie includes contributions from (deep breath) Justin Long, JK Simmons, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler and Ben Stiller all in completely unnoticeable roles – so much so that I only discovered half of them played their roles when researching the movie to write this review. It just makes me wonder what the necessity of having big names on board if they’re barely even noticeable and have less than a handful of lines? Surely those guys don’t work for free and it strikes me that it would have perhaps been a better use of money to hire actual (cheap) voice actors and use the funds saved for like a beach party or something awesome instead.
The one ace that Megamind does have up its sleeve though is an absolutely killer soundtrack featuring the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC, Michael Jackson and Guns & Roses. Admittedly it is only extremely well known songs from each act; however these songs actually serve to complement the action and don’t feel crowbarred in like on so many other similar occasions. The film’s score itself comes from Hans Zimmer but is mostly of little note, especially when you consider the other really great score he’s worked on this year.
I think my main issue with Megamind comes from the fact that there’s no real depth to it. Obviously this is fine if you’re looking for something fairly two dimensional or simply don’t care about moral undertones or life lessons; somewhere along the way though (and most likely because of the mastery of better films studios in this regard) I’ve come to expect that a high calibre animated movie will contain some central character conflict in the middle of everything else that is going on, and ultimately this movie felt hollow without it. Megamind’s discovery that being the adored good guy is better than being the notorious bad guy feels very arbitrary in this respect, and doesn’t carry the same kind of weight that some of the more complicated (and actually very mature) themes we’re used to encountering in this kind of film do.
So the inevitable comparison then; how does this compare to Despicable Me and (perhaps more importantly) which one will stand up in years to come as the more memorable bad guy film of 2010?
Megamind wins this one for me hands down. It’s far better than Despicable Me in incident, story, characterisation and animation (although that’s not really saying much…). That’s not to say that it’s perfect however, as it’s still a long way behind the likes of Pixar and even (to a lesser extent) 2010’s other animated joys in the form of How to Train Your Dragon and The Princess and the Frog. Megamind then is an early Christmas present for those who are either huge animated fans or those who are desperate to take their kids to see something relatively entertaining in the next couple of weeks. In the long term though I feel that this will be added to the ever growing pile of animated films that no one really cares about.