Megamind (US - BD)
Gabe enjoys the story of a slightly pathetic blue headed supervillain...
After decades of losing battles to his arch enemy Metro Man (Brad Pitt), blue alien supervillain Megamind (Will Ferrell) finally gains the upper hand after kidnapping ace reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey). After trapping him in a copper topped observatory, Megamind blasts Metro Man with a heat ray, which blows up the entire hillside, and sends a flaming nigh-invulnerable superhero corpse into the air. Megamind assumes he’s achieved his life goal, and puts his awkwardly evil mark on Metrocity, but soon finds his life is empty without a nemesis to conquer, and goes about finding a means to create a new superhero to do battle with.
DreamWorks Animation was on a decent roll there for a while with fun, smart films that aren’t entirely dependant on pop culture jokes or simplified spoofs, specifically Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon (we’ll pretend the Shrek films are their own little studio subset). Megamind doesn’t live up to this new standard, which is likely set to compete with Pixar (who ironically seems to have taken a page from the DreamWorks playbook, and is spending time on unneeded sequels lately), but it’s a stronger representation of the studio’s original, more adult aimed entertainment model than garbage like Shark’s Tale or Bee Movie.
Megamind is very much a spoof of the superhero genre, specifically a spoof of Superman, to the point that I’m not sure how DreamWorks didn’t end up with a lawsuit against them (the alliterative heroine name, the dying planet origin story, Megamind even does a mean Marlon Brando as Jor-El). This ground has been covered in animation before, including a Batman: The Animated Series episode where the Joker laments his assumed dead foe, and Lex Luthor’s oddly homoerotic freak out following Superman’s ‘death’ in Superman: Doomsday. There are even some existential comparisons to be made between Megamind and The Incredibles’ villain Syndrome (more on The Incredibles in a minute), but Megamind’s real problem upon release was Universal’s Despicable Me, another 3D animated adventure concerning a likeable supervillain on his way to salvation. Comparing the films back to back (which I did, because I’m that committed to this process) I don’t have a clear frontrunner in mind. Despicable Me is less conventional, but a little on the sappy side, while Megamind isn’t particularly novel, but has a delightful cynical streak. The writers remember to write a decent story too, with a solid third act twist that I would’ve loved…if only the goddamned trailers hadn’t given it entirely away.
The comedy works, despite its relatively short shelf life, thanks to snappy dialogue, solid performances (most of the actors’ voices disappear into the characters, even Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt), and a good natured embracement of animation’s rubbery possibilities. I give the DreamWorks team a lot of crap for years of iffy storytelling, but besides the Shrek series they’ve been pretty good about aping classic Looney Tunes’ elasticity and slapstick. Despicable Me took this and an extremely stylized look more interesting visual places, but can’t match the extreme scale of Megamind’s action sequences. Despite some minor originality issues, and a not particularly overwhelming style, Megamind features some of the most exciting and awesome battle scenes in superhero cinema history. The filmmakers don’t quite reach the nail-biting heights of Brad Bird’s The Incredibles, but the incredible scope of these fisticuffs shames the vast majority of ‘real’ superhero films.
This Megamind Blu-ray doesn’t disappoint. The 1080p, 2.35:1 digital transfer exceeds the high expectations set by other DreamWorks Animation Blu-rays due to its big budget and continuing advances in the field of CG animation. The beginning of the film features a scene where Metro Man gives a speech in front of a new museum named in his honour. This sequence encompasses everything great about this transfer, and will probably end up on the new television sets at your local electronics store soon enough. From one angle the building and background is semi-monochromatic, and features tiny contrasting details, while from the other angle features colourful throngs of Metro Man’s adoring fans (about half a million total people according to the audio commentary). The tiny characters, who stand around front of a crystal clear reflecting pool, create a sea of competing hues and movement without any noticeable blocking or compression artefacts. The included DVD copy looks fine, great even for a standard definition transfer, but this early sequence really highlights the differences between the formats, especially on a decent sized set. Super impressive close-up details include Hal’s curly red hair, the scales on the Tighten cape, some incredibly tiny rain drops, and flecks of dirt and dust falling off of the mass destruction of Metrocity. Oh, and it’s also a kind of amazingly colourful movie. From Megamind’s big blue head, to Roxanne’s rich red dress, and giant orange fireballs, the bright, sharply contrasted palette impresses on every level.
CG animated movies always featured busy surround sound tracks, and 3D movies always take directional effects to an extreme, so 3D CG animated movies tend to be generally the most aurally aggressive movies. Well, except for disaster movies and superhero movies, which Megamind happens to be as well. This Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track easily matches the audio expectations that come strapped to all these styles. The early scene in which Megamind attempts to frighten Roxanne with varying violent implements features a bevy of zippy noises that run like an electric toy car set around the five channels. The two massive scale battle scenes easily match intensely loud live action stuff like 2012 or Spider-Man 3, including couch shaking bass, and ear-drum shattering explosions. The only thing I didn’t like about this particular mix, besides the fact that TrueHD is generally slightly quieter on my system than DTS-HD Master Audio, is that the music is delegated pretty much directly into stereo channels, and isn’t ever loud enough for the sound effects. This is a relatively common problem for big budget action movies, but even the licensed rock and pop music (and this is a really fun soundtrack including AC/DC, Ozzie Osborn, and Guns and Roses) is pretty low on the track, except for the comparatively noisy LFE support.
The Blu-ray exclusive extras begin with another ‘Animator’s Corner’ PiP option, which adds a visual component to the commentary track (which can be listened to separate from the PiP stuff). This includes footage of the crew as they record the commentary, storyboards, early animation, interviews with the animators from their desks, and occasional cast interviews. The story behind the film is actually pretty interesting, mostly because the script was bumping around Hollywood for quite some time, and was originally conceived as a live action film. The commentators don’t discuss everything that was changed over the years, but beyond the rather dry technical discussions, and actor back patting, there’s quite a bit of the alternate script and take talk. The PiP option doesn’t really add a lot, but is a nice option for those watching the film a third or fourth time. There’s also a pop up trivia track option for those on their fifth or sixth viewing. The other Blu-ray exclusives are a digital comic book creator (as seen on other DreamWorks Animation releases), and ‘Behind the Mind’ galleries that include conception art of hideouts, inventions, vehicles, and costumes.
The most heavily advertised extra is a new animated short entitled The Button of Doom (15:50, HD). This mini-sequel to the film sees Megamind and Minion selling their evil concoctions for cash. One of the items is the ‘Button of Doom’, which they proceed to accidentally activate. It’s a fun little short, but doesn’t really add anything too special to the film’s mythology. The behind the scenes stuff follows along usual DreamWorks Animation lines, starting with a ‘Meet the Cast of Megamind’ (9:20, HD) featurette, which includes the usual cast and crew interviews, coupled with scenes from the film, and footage of the actors doing their voice work. ‘Inside Megamind’s Lair’ (7:20, HD) is a fluffy making-of featurette that includes some decent discussion concerning the artistic choices. ‘Animatorman’ (2:00, HD) takes a brief and amusing look at the animator’s video reference acting, while ‘You Can Draw Megamind’ (13:50, HD) gives one of the storyboard artists a shot to teach the audience to sketch the supervillain.
The extras are wrapped up by a single deleted scene, ‘Megamind Rap’ trailer (1:00, HD), ‘The Reign of Megamind Video Comic Book’, ‘Spot the Difference’ game, ‘World of DreamWorks Animation’, and trailers.
Megamind isn’t destined for long term greatness like Kung Fu Panda or How to Train Your Dragon, but along with Monsters VS. Aliens it represents DreamWorks Animations’ continuing improvement over the last few years. Comic book fans aren’t going to be surprised by the story, which has been similarly told several times since superheroes starting getting all introspective and post modern in the 1980s, but will enjoy the comedy and large scale action despite familiarity. I enjoyed this one a tiny bit more than Universal’s Despicable Me, which shares some basic narrative elements, but think that the kiddies might disagree with me, as Megamind’s best gags and character traits are aimed at older audiences. This Blu-ray collection features reference level video and audio, and some informative, if not somewhat slight extra features.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may not be suitable for children
Release Date: 25th February 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French and Portuguese
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Extras: Filmmakers Commentary, Animator's Corner Enhanced Viewing Mode, Trivia Track, Megamind: The Button of Doom, Comic Creator, Meeth the Cast, Lost Scene, Megamind's Lair, Animatorman, Learn to Draw Megamind, The Reign of Megamind Digital Comic, DVD Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Tom McGrath
Cast: Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill
Genre: Action, Adventure, Animation and Comedy
Length: 96 minutes
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