There’s so much to love about Megamind. The blue, bulb-headed villain-hero (Will Ferrell) begs for our affection from the start when he rockets to Earth after his planet and his parents are swallowed by a black hole. His pod lands in a penitentiary, and he is adopted by the prisoners who teach him right from wrong, or maybe that’s wrong from right. At school, his nemesis, Metro Man (Brad Pitt), wins over their classmates with spiffy popcorn tricks while he’s branded a freak and troublemaker. Failed by the system, rejected by society, the kid turns to the only kind of life that gives him validation – a life of super villainy!
Megamind is a bad guy by default, and he’s not very good at it to be honest. After he kills Metro Man quite by accident, he realizes that he doesn’t have what it takes to sow terror and destruction on Metro City (rhymes with ‘atrocity’ if we’re going by his pronunciation). He decides to restore balance by creating a new superhero, one who can give Megamind a sense of purpose again. And again, quite by accident, he creates the superhero Titan, or Tighten if you prefer, when a hapless news cameraman, Hal (Jonah Hill) happens to walk by his lair. But Megamind’s tendency for messing things up puts a wrinkle in his plans when Tighten decides that being bad is much more of a thrill than being good. Our villain finds himself in the unfamiliar position of playing hero in order to save Metro City.
It’s hard not to throw your sympathy behind Megamind. His large crystal green eyes are begging for approval. Ferrell zeroes in on his character’s insecurities. Megamind may talk a tough game, but deep down, all he wants is love and acceptance. As one of the few people who isn’t a great fan of Ferrell’s comedy, especially the physical side, I enjoyed this animated, less spastic version of the actor. The script is witty and filled with quirky sense of humor even if some of jokes may fly over the heads of younger kids. Also the animation is a thrill, whether or not you watch in 3D.
As sympathetic as I am to Megamind, however, I found the characterization of Hal/Tighten not just awful but actively harmful. That’s because he’s not an anonymous cameraman but the colleague of Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey), TV reporter and love interest of all three male leads. Hal has what seems to be an innocent crush on his very able and accomplished partner, but it becomes apparent that he is a misogynistic beast, a man-boy who feels entitled to a woman’s affections and who goes nuts when he doesn’t get them. His transformation only magnifies his destructive behavior, and some of the most offensive scenes play out like a Twitter pile on. Hal’s first move as Tighten is to woo Roxanne. Failing, he kidnaps her and nearly gets her killed just so that he can swoop in to save her. When she still rejects him, the guy explodes, bellowing, “I have powers, I have a cape, I’m the good guy!”
The movie’s messaging is confused, and ultimately the wrong one comes through. On the one hand, it mocks the notion that the superhero gets the girl simply by being the superhero. But at the same time, “the girl” is often at the center of the fighting between Megamind and Tighten, and she never controls her own narrative. Megamind has no problem using his relationship with Roxanne to bait his nemesis, never mind the fact that he gets close to her by shapeshifting into museum nerd, Bernard. At the end of the day, the trajectory of Hal’s character is this: I get the woman I want and deserve or else I will wreak havoc on society. We have enough of this corrosive thinking in real life. Why would I want to watch it in an animated movie?
Prod: Lara Breay, Denise Nolan Cascino
Dir: Tom McGrath
Writer: Alan J. Schoolcraft, Brent Simons
Cast: Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, David Cross, Brad Pitt, J.K. Simmons, Ben Stiller
Time: 96 min
Country: United States