Megamind (2010)

Rated: PG for action and some language.
Length: 95 minutes
Grade: B+B+AA=A-
Budget: $130 million
Box Office: $318 million (148 U.S., 170 Intl.)

Written by: Alan J. Schoolcraft & Brent Simons (First script)
Directed by: Tom McGrath (Madagascar 1+2)
Starring the voice of: Will Ferrell
With the voices of: Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, David Cross, Brad Pitt, Ben Stiller, and JK Simmons.

When an evil genius actually succeeds in destroying the hero of Metro City, he must decide who he will be without a nemesis to define him.

Entertainment Value: B+
It’s solid. Not quite as funny as Despicable Me, and not quite as bad as a variety of other Dreamworks offerings have been. It’s entertaining enough, although I have to be honest, Will Ferrell sounded to me more like Robin Williams and Brad Pitt’s MetroMan should have been voiced by Patrick Warburton. Nevertheless, it’s a clever plot concept which violates the basic paradigm of comic book Manicheanism slightly, wherein the good guys normally win but both sides remain in play eternally. Also, the use of several excellent rock riffs (Welcome to the Jungle, Crazy Train, Back in Black, Bad to the Bone, A Little Less Conversation, and even Bad by Michael Jackson) certainly appealed to my classic rock sensibilities.

Superficial Content: B+
Drugs/Alcohol A-, Sex/Nudity A, Violence B, Language A-
Everything here is virtually squeaky and the only mild concern would be comic book violence including the death of a superhero and some menacing battles in the end. PG-5 I think. Our kids (6,4,2) had no problem with it. They even make a gag out of interrupting AC/DC’s famous song, “Highway to ---“ as a technical glitch, just so you know how much they were careful to keep it clean. One minor thing for those of you who care, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are listed (along with the Queen of England!) as fairy tales at one point.

Significant Content: A
The only way to discuss this is to spoil some of the plot, for which I apologize. But the broad strokes aren’t too hard to sniff out by the 30 minute mark. Basically, the love of a woman turn an evil genius into the better man/hero he always could have been if only that role hadn’t always been occupied by his popular and handsome boyhood enemy. The idea that evil could be redeemed into goodness is wonderful, and that being a hero can be such a burden that one might actually prefer to quit the profession. There’s also some very deep stuff about the inability of evil to exist or have an identity in the absence of goodness. Plus, evil can lay dormant in the form of a seemingly sweet person who has merely lacked the means to do to the world as he would have always preferred.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
As alluded to, the interesting premise/plot development here makes for plenty of things to talk about in contrast with the ordinary superhero and supervillain movie. In fact, on second watching I picked up a lot more on the variety of elements that were either violating or mocking that paradigm like the bad witty banter as definitive of the game, the slow pace of technology in the real world versus in movies booting up, and the Jimmy Olsen character being a villain-in-waiting. I’m actually pretty impressed with how thoroughly they tinkered with (while still homageing) the Superman comic paradigm.

Discussion Questions:
~Describe the process of how Megamind became a bad guy. Is there any aspect of it that he had control over? How might Megamind have turned out differently if he had landed in the wealthy home, had better parents, had good looks, or even been treated better at school? Why is it so important to consider formative environment whenever we evaluate other people. Why are people who enjoy advantageous circumstances so quick to discount the adverse effect of being raised in bad ones?
~If Metro Man had been a Christian, what might he have done to prevent Megamind from becoming a criminal? Is there any sense in your mind that the entire plot of this movie might have been a deliberate plan of his to redeem Megamind?
~Why is it so important to find productive ways to use people’s talents and give them both a place in society and something to lose by behaving antisocially?
~There has been a marked and disheartening shift in movies, TV, and comic books since my childhood from whimsical, sardonic heroes to somber, almost sinister ones. Do you see this progression represented in this movie by the subsequent rivalries? To what degree could you say that fighting evil used to seem fun but no longer is? Is this our culture’s way of dealing with the shift from national warfare to terrorism?
~If Megamind hadn’t employed a deceit, do you think he would have ever had a chance with Roxanne? Does that justify what he did? To what degree would you describe him as misunderstood, even by himself?
~Manicheanism is the philosophy that God and the Devil are eternal and equal combatants, but Christianity teaches that only God has essential reality and evil is defined only in relation to good without its own essence. How does this difference show up in this film? Why is Megamind so deeply dissatisfied with his victory?
~Tighten seems like a pretty good guy at first, but when he has power things change dramatically. How much of the apparent goodness of weak and socially marginalized people is just a ploy because they can’t take what they want? How does this relate to the idea that some people only do good things to coerce God to bless them even though their heart is really quite selfish? Consider that he goes from becoming a “loser” to being powerful and handsome and yet also a villain.
~What do you think of Metro Man’s choice? Was it negligent? In the end of the movie, who looks like the real hero? The Bible says, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” How does this relate?
~In a lot of movies, the bad guy looks funny, dresses funny, and talks funny. Why is it so important that Megamind has all these flaws but still turns out to become an extremely good person? What is this movie trying to say about our social norms and the way we treat people for their superficial defects?
~“Heroes aren’t born, they’re made.” What do you think of this idea? Why does Megamind think it takes the right sort of DNA for a hero? How does this believe interfere with him realizing who he can and should be?
~To what degree is this movie saying that society constructs villains and heroes as much as they make themselves. Are “hero” and “villain” socially constructed identities? Consider the influence of The Warden, the teacher, the kids, the crowds at Metro City, Roxanne Ritchie, and Metro Man himself.
~Why do you think it’s so common for similar movies to be released near each other? Is it corporate espionage, God providing a message through multiple vehicles, outrageously repetetive coincidence, or something else?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The ark of the covenant in the treasure trove.
~Megamind having his existential discussion with the dunking bird toy. What does it say about his own belief in himself and his plans that he seemed to have absolutely no idea what to do with Metro ~City once he actually controlled it?
~Tighten threatening to actually kill Megamind rather than just arrest him. Why is evil suddenly far less fun when your opponent doesn’t play by the good guy rules?

Overall Grade: A-
A very interesting and unusual paradigm-inverting superhero movie that’s entertaining enough for the kids and innovative and humorous enough for the adults. It’s not quite as entertaining as Despicable Me, but it makes up for this by presenting the progression and the themes a bit more richly.

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