Megamind is the redemption story of the mega-super-villain Megamind (voiced by Will Ferrell). Sent to earth as the lone survivor from a faraway planet being sucked into a black hole, Megamind lands inside the walls of the Metro City prison and is raised by criminals. Thus, his moral code is totally inverted.
Meanwhile, Metro Man (think Superman) is the lone survivor of a neighboring planet and quickly becomes the hero of the city. The rivalry of the two is the stuff of legend, but by the time our story starts, they’ve done this same battle-of-good-and-evil so much that no one is really going through more than just the motions.
So no one is expecting it when Megamind actually succeeds in defeating Metro Man, including Megamind himself. He takes Metro City and becomes the Evil Overlord. But having no good to challenge his villainy, not to mention the flaring of love, stirs Megamind’s heart towards redemption.
The story is masterfully written, with dozens of call backs (lines from the beginning of the film that are “called back” to later on in the film to great effect) and at least four major plot twists. In fact, the entire story is subversive of the entire superhero genre, playing on our expectations and the typical story conventions of the “superhero movie,” and turning them all slowly on their heads. This makes for a very refreshing plot, one with a lot of depth and thought put into it. The result is nothing short of delightful, and makes Megamind the best kid’s superhero film since The Incredibles.
Like Incredibles, Megamind relies not on flashy effects or slapstick humor for its own sake. Instead, the story is driven forward by relationships. People. Love, hate, forgiveness and revenge, not to mention the devastating effects of a broken heart, are what makes this story captivating.
Ultimately the film is an act of deconstruction; our expectations for the guy in the white suit and the guy in the black suit are twisted around and turned upside down. But the reason for this is not to create an atmosphere of moral ambiguity, but of transformation. People we think are good (because of our expectations of genre and culture) turn out to be evil or cowardly, and the true heroes turn out to be those we dismiss because of how they dress or because they’re different (or have a different color of skin). The reversals of our perceptions of good and evil work in Megamind the same way they work in the Harry Potter books – to transform our minds, to draw us into clearer moral thought, rather than leave us in the morass of relativism.
To grasp this transformation, either in Megamind or Potter, requires a subtly of mind and a patience to allow the narrative to run its course. But the result is enjoyable and in many ways profound. Recommended.
Rating: **** out of *****