Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Megamind - Home Video Review

Theatrical Release Date: November 5, 2010

The superhero genre has become prolific enough anymore to be have its own sub-genres. You have your realistic take with Unbreakable, the anti-hero with Hellboy & The Punisher, teen high school dramas like Sky High, a look at a family of superheros with The Incredibles, and even an epic like Watchmen. It's funny to think that we have never had a superhero feature film that dealt with the supervillian as the main character...until now.

Review Vital Stats:
Format: Blu-ray
Player: LG Model 370 
Monitor: Samsung 40' LCD Series 5
Picture Quality: 1080p
Sound Quality: TrueHD

Loves: Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Brad Pitt, David Cross
Likes: Popular genres flipped on their head
Neutral: Jonah Hill

Hates: Annoying pop culture references

Like I do for most Dreamworks released animated films I stayed away from this one upon its initial release  because of my fear that it would be filled with non-stop pop culture references and a star studded cast that only added their names to put up on the marquee as opposed to any actual contribution of talent. The first trailers for Megamind did nothing to alleviate that feeling, everything looked by the numbers. Beyond the obviousness of having Will Ferrell doing his usual shtick in voice form and what looked like a fairly unfunny whimsical look at superheros I was struck with a sudden sense of deja vu when watching the trailer. The plot looked like a complete rip off of Joss Whedon's web series Dr. Horrible's Sing-along-blog with a villain that was in love with a good natured woman who only had eyes for the slick talking and scumbag bashing superhero. I am happy to report that this film is none of that and is perhaps one Dreamworks better animated films they have ever produced.

A fair warning to anyone that has yet to see the film, this review will contain spoilers because in all honesty it is rather difficult to talk about what it was that won me over without giving away certain plot elements. Don't worry too much though, I am not going to give away the ending or anything major, but unless I talk about things not seen in the trailer I will only be talking about a quarter of the film. The main reason I want to warn anyone off is because the trailer for the film actually did something right, it didn't give everything away, go figure. So, if you want to stay unspoiled before you get a chance to watch it I highly suggest just skipping the meat of this column and go rent (or buy) it then come on back. Your enjoyment of it will be greatly increased because it is very rare these days for a movie studio to care enough to hide major plot developments and not reveal them in their trailers. So go watch it, now. I will still be here when you get back.

Megamind prepares to rule Metro City with a blue fist.

OK, did you like it? I hope so, but regardless let me get started here, for real. I love, absolutely love how we are set up from the very beginning to think this is going to be a typical superhero movie. Sure, I knew that there was going to be some kind of redemption for Megamind (Will Ferrel) near the end of it all, but I had come to expect that realization to be part of the constant battles that he would have with his nemesis Metro Man (Brad Pitt). When the film starts we see both Megamind and Metro Man as babies being launched off their respective planets just before they are swallowed up by a gigantic black hole. They become bitter rivals immediately after they both crash land on Earth with one ending up at a large mansion with wealthy and caring parents and the other at a maximum security prison where he is raised by the inmates. Guess which one landed where?

As they grow up they both begin to find their place in the world, with Metro Man showing signs of a budding superhero and Megamind showing potential for being a supervillain, although he was forced into a life of crime more or less from what we see. Fast forward a bit and we find that Metro Man, protector of Metro City has been fighting Megamind, scourge of Metrocity (say it as one word) for years now. Megamind with the help of his minion....er, Minion (David Cross), has cooked up one devious plan after another to try and rid himself of that pesky superhero once and for all. Each attempt always involves the kidnapping of the local reporter and love interest to Metro Man Roxanne Ritchie (Tina Fey). But, are the kidnappings because he knows Metro Man will stop at nothing to save her or is there something else going on in that big blue head of his?

Metro Man may be super but does that mean he can't be killed?

We catch up to all of this in the middle of his latest attempt. Interrupting a dedication ceremony for Metro Man he once again tries to lure Metro Man into a trap...but something strange happens this time, he actually succeeds and kills the superman once and for all. Everyone in Metro City is shocked, they cannot believe their protector, their hero, their town celebrity has finally perished at the hands of Megamind whom up til that point was the laughing stock of the whole city. But no one is more surprised or confused than Megamind himself...at least at first. He wastes no time and with the help of Minion and all his little brain robots he quickly takes over the city and....well, that is where things start to go in a different direction.

The events I just described happen within the first twenty minutes of the film and in regards to the trailer I mentioned before just about every scene from that trailer is in that first twenty minutes. Which is why I was caught off guard but in the best way possible. From that point forward we begin to see Megamind question his villainous ways while also trying to find possible avenues into the heart of his constant kidnap victim Roxanne. When a villain loses his arch nemesis what else is left? He no longer has any reliable resistance to his evil plans and before long he becomes completely bored with it all but more importantly he has lost sight of what and who he is. That is when he begins to lay off the criminal activities for a little while as he tries his best to woo Roxanne. Easier said than done though because he is responsible for killing the one man that truly mattered in her life and destroying her city to boot.

Roxanne has a little heart to heart with her geeky camera guy Hal.

While I appreciated the romantic angles taken with the story I can't say that it was all that successful. I suppose it succeeded at the bare minimum for what is expected of such a plot device but I can't say that I ever truly felt their connection was legitimate. Megamind is a guy that was forced into the business of evil because people just wouldn't accept him but when Roxanne finally starts to see a glimmer of good in him I feel as though I was supposed have some sort of joyous reaction to it. But I just didn't care enough about Megamind as a person, his exploits are fun as hell (love those presentations he puts on before each attack) but I felt as though his character never truly earned the respect he starts to receive from her. Perhaps I am digging too deep here, I don't know. I do know that I really did enjoy how he decided to deal with his certain other problem though.

One thing I haven't mentioned yet is the humor and with this cast of actors there is plenty of it. Anybody familiar with Will Ferrel will find nothing surprising here. That's not to say he isn't funny, he just doesn't really seem to be doing anything different than he has done in the past (he is in full on Anchorman mode here). His main contribution to the film was how he mispronounces almost every word he spakes (that is how he would say "speak" for the slow ones out there), which was cute at first but kinda became annoying the more it went on. Tina Fey plays Tina Fey, but once again that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Jonah Hill as Roxanne's camera man Hal starts out like a typical Jonah Hill character but he puts in a surprisingly good performance after he goes through some changes...and becomes Tighten (say it out loud, you'll get it). The two standouts for me were Brad Pitt and David Cross both of whom made me chuckle every time they were on screen, I couldn't help but crack a silly grin at their line deliveries. All in all the voice cast they got for Megamind is one of the better ensembles I had the pleasure of listening to in quite some time.

Megamind and Minion aren't afraid to rock some tunes.

Then there is the animation itself, let's be straight with each other here though, in this day and age it is difficult to give high praise to animated films (unless they are hand drawn that is) because they almost always look so dam good and they are produced like clockwork anymore. Sill, everything looks great though, from the animations to the effects but the one standout is the style. I really liked the character designs (Megamind looks like a baby blue Ming the Merciless) and the overall look of Metro City. It definitely does a good job of setting itself apart from other animated films out there which was easy on the eyes. I also got to mention the use of music in the film, while it didn't always work (the song choice for the final battle was strangely out of place) I appreciated the use of rock classics from the likes of Guns N Roses, AC/DC and even Michael Jackson none the less.

The only real negatives I have to label the film with are that it didn't leave a very long lasting impression on me. Don't get me wrong, I had fun while I was watching it and like I said before I was pleasantly surprised by the twists and turns it took as it went on. But once it was over I almost never thought about it again. I know that may seem like a petty claim but honestly I tend to like films more when they make me think or challenge me in some way or another. Megamind most definitely carved out a niche in the superhero filmography for itself but I can almost guarantee that after a couple years have gone by without another viewing that...well, as the saying goes "Out of sight, out of mind".


What's on the disc?

Well now, this is quite an impressive list of extra features now isn't it? Don't be fooled though, while some of the features here are fairly good, most of them are one-timers such as games for kids and little curiosities that will keep you engaged for maybe a few minutes before you get bored. The strange thing I found with such a wealth of features though were the things omitted. Where are the behind the scenes features on the animators or the people that built the world of Megamind? This was an animated film right...and all we get is a quick drawing tutorial along with some funny clips of animators doing strange things? But most of all where the hell was Brad Pitt in any of this? His absence from all the special features is very peculiar. One bit of warning though, do not watch any of these features until you have watched the film because they gratuitously give away everything without question.

Your standard superhero/supervillian showdown...or is it?


Brilliant Blu-ray Exclusives:

The Animator's Corner  - A mixture of storyboards, pre-visualizations and interviews play while watching the film. While the storyboards and pre-vis images matched up with each scene on screen, whenever the interview segments came up I couldn't get any audio for them. Only the audio from the film would play, not sure if it was user error but either way it gave a good impression of the work put into the staging of all the scenes.

Trivia Track - Your standard trivia facts about certain aspects you would probably never know otherwise (two of the kids in the school scenes early in the film are voiced by Ben Stiller's children).

Comic Creator  - Take certain pre-selected scenes and impose comic book style tags on them, then save them and re-watch them to your hearts content. Amusing but ultimately pointless, clearly this is for the kids out there.

Behind the Mind  HD - A gallery of still images comprised of sketches and design ideas. If you are interested in the design elements behind the look of the film I am sure you will find these interesting.

Mega Features:

Meet the Cast of Megamind (9:26 min) HD - Some rather brief and shallow insights on the voice cast assembled for the film. Given the amount of talent they were able to wrangle up for the film I was a little disappointed with what was here, they basically state the obvious and that's it, "Will Ferrel is the funniest guy on the planet, what else needs to be said?"...I was hoping more than that. Also, apparently Brad Pitt was unavailable for any interviews because he is MIA.

Deleted Scene (1:36 min) HD - A really quick scene involving Megamind. Don't know why it was cut, they say for pacing purposes but it was barely 40 seconds long, strange but no real loss.

Inside Megamind's Lair (7:16 min) HD - A more in depth look at the early conceptual designs for both Megamind and Minion and how they ended up with their final looks.

AnimatorMan (2:00 min) HD - Some quick clips of the animators actually acting out the scenes for reference. Informative for anyone that has no idea how animators work, but this was kind of pointless.

You Can Draw Megamind (13:14 min) HD -Learn how to draw Megamind from one of the artists. Probably my favorite feature on the disc ( I have a slight artistic background so take that as you will ).

Mega Rap (1:00 min) HD - Nothing more than a trailer for the film with a really really bad rap song.

The Reign of Megamind - Video Comic Book HD - Not sure where the video in this is. This is a motion comic book that you move through by clicking the controller buttons that contains a random showdown between Metro Man and Megamind. Pure fluff.

Spot the Difference - A memory game for children...yawn.

Filmmakers' Commentary - View the film with commentary by Director Tom McGrath, Producers Lara Breay and Denise Nolan Cascino, and Writers Alan Schoolcraft & Brent Simons. I found this to be the most informative piece of extra material on the disc. Usually I dread commentaries on animated films (god bless them but animators always only talk about how they were able to animate everything) but since they assembled the creative team around the films construction both narratively and as a whole we get some pretty interesting tid-bits (such as the fact that the film started out as a live action feature). Definitely worth a listen.

World of Dreamworks Animation  -  A collection of promo material for the other Dreamworks animated films Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, Shrek, & How to Train Your Dragon.

Previews - Trailers for Kung Fu Panda 2, Rango & the Megamind THQ videogame.

Megamind: The Button of Doom (15:52 min) HD - An animated short with Megamind on his first day of his new job in Metro City. This was a fun little addition and just like everything else in these features do not watch it until you have seen the film.


Final Verdict:

Megamind has given me a positive outlook on Dreamworks. Sure, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon are their breadwinners but I thought this was one of their most original films to date. I also really appreciated the lengths the studio went to, to avoid giving away certain plot elements in the trailer, you have no idea how amazing that is. The disc offers up a really great presentation on both the audio and video fronts as well as a decent size of extra features to plow through. In the end I guess I have to say...


Blu-ray                              DVD
Megamind (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)       Megamind (Single-Disc Edition)


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