Directed By: Tom McGrath
Written By: Alan Schoolcraft, Brent Simons
Starring: Will Ferrell, Jonah Hill, Brad Pitt, and more
Run Time: 1 Hour, 35 Minutes
Release Date: November 5th, 2010
Link to IMDb
The superhero genre has become incredibly overcrowded over the last decade. Nowadays, you can barely go a week without some new comic book movie or TV show coming out. It seems like this genre will only keep going for years to come.
But today, I want to go back to 2010. The Marvel universe has only just gotten onto its feet, and the Dark Knight only took the world by storm two years ago. Among all the movies that have come out, one stands out. An animated movie that we didn’t realize was ahead of its time.
I am of course talking about Megamind.
This movie has seen an incredibly odd resurgence recently. Normally, people would only start talking about a Dreamworks movie again because it is becoming a meme. But this time, people are talking about this movie for entirely different reasons. Because, if you look at it with the current cinematic landscape in mind, this movie becomes an interesting subversion of the genre!
Comic book movies are built entirely on the cliches of their source material. The good guy is raised up from a tragic origin, which the villain will likely share with them to some degree. They grow stronger and more mature over the course of the story, then they defeat the villain. The villain will either die by the end of the story or fall into greater pits of villainy.
Megamind’s story is built on these same cliches. The opening prologue shows us the origin story of our ‘hero’, Metroman, and our ‘villain’, Megamind. After that, we go into a very familiar and cliche opening scene, ripped straight out of a comic book from the ’60s. But then things take a simple twist.
The villain actually wins.
From here, the story spirals off into something completely different from a cheesy and cliche comic book to a character study focused on existentialism and depression. This isn’t the story of a villain who needs to become a hero. It’s the story of characters who need to find purpose!
Now, I hear you saying “But Jonah! The ending is just the main character beating up a supervillain! Its the same as any other comic book movie!” Well, you are correct. But you are also incorrect.
First, our heroes need to actually employ tactics to win a fight. So many superhero movies devolve into the hero and villain beating the hell out of each other until someone stops moving. DC movies are especially guilty of this. But in Megamind, our heroes need to utilize the different lessons they’ve learned over the course of the film to overcome their ultimate challenge.
Second, the finale isn’t about them simply beating the supervillain. It’s about the protagonist finding and realizing his purpose in life. His confrontation with the villain is the overcoming of his past and embracing a new future. It isn’t about the fight or the spectacle. It’s about emotional triumph.
Remember: the only real action scene in the entire movie is at the very end! Sure, there are a few scenes that aim to pump your adrenaline. But this isn’t an action movie! Rather, the enjoyment is found purely in the characters.
Both Megamind and Metroman are perfect subversions of their character archetypes. Metroman is a clear satirical take on Superman, what with his powers, stupid haircut and over-the-top personality. Even his backstory is exactly like Clark Kent’s. However, unlike the Kryptonian, Metroman has a few problems.
He doesn’t enjoy living his life purely for the sake of saving other people. He gets tired of the whole hero act, so he leaves to go find a new purpose in life. So he gives music a shot!
We don’t know if it works but. But considering the quality of modern music? I’d bet his career took off!
Megamind is just the same. He’s a clear twist on every megalomaniacal supervillain of all time. From his first moments on Earth, he was raised in an environment that promoted evil. But he secretly wanted to be accepted. To be loved. To be the good guy.
He becomes a villain not because he loves it. But because it garners him attention. As a villain, he forges a strong, unbreakable bond with his rival, the superhero. So naturally, when that hero is gone, he begins to question his purpose in life. This leads to the events of the whole movie, coming to a head as he finds his true purpose.
Superhero media is everywhere nowadays. And they’re all braindead simple. ‘What if the hero is actually the bad guy?’, what if heroes are actually a bad thing, or other simple concepts plague the genre. But none of them dive any deeper than that. They all maintain the same simple mentality. None of them truly subvert the genre as well as Megamind does.
Funny how age can make some things better, isn’t it?