Monday, March 11, 2024

Somehow, Megamind returned

Be ready for endless iterations of the DreamWorks smirk

Fourteen years after gleefully parodying the Superman mythos, the Megamind franchise has released a sequel TV film, Megamind vs. The Doom Syndicate, and a sequel TV series, Megamind Rules! In the film, the titular supervillain-turned-superhero has to deal with his former evil teammates who won't take kindly to his turn toward good; in the series, we follow a standard Villain of the Week format interspersed with the buildup toward the return of a threat from Megamind's past.

With the rare advantage of keeping the same team of writers from the original 2010 film, this continuation of the story preserves a consistent characterization of its protagonist, with a firm grasp on emotional tome. The first Megamind questioned Superman's inborn goodness by positing a scenario where the last survivor from a destroyed planet ended up being raised by criminals while his archenemy landed on a ridiculously rich mansion. The resolution of Megamind's arc hinged on the realization that established roles matter less than moment-to-moment choices, and therefore all he needed to do to become a good person was to start doing good things. This very existence-precedes-essence insight, far more than the superpowered battles, is the nugget of gold hidden inside those 95 minutes of unexceptional animation and way too many on-the-nose needle drops.

In the sequel film and series, Megamind undergoes further personal growth along the same path: the storylines explore the worth of fearless authenticity, the pointlessness of performing an identity instead of building an actual one, the irrevocable power of each individual to choose their purpose, the potential that can be achieved by not letting yourself be defined and constrained by past fears, the benefits of walking a mile in each other's shoes, the unhealthiness of having an emotional life tied to how other people manage theirs, the impossibility of being exactly the person you think others demand that you be, the dangers of feeling like you always have to prove yourself, and the benefits of knowing when to admit you need help. These are the usual life lessons that can be found in a show for kids, but the Megamind sequels manage to weave these key psychological themes organically within loads of silly slapstick, futuristic gadgets, and groanilicious puns.

The understandably lower budget of a TV series means that this double sequel release fortunately doesn't resort to as many musical callbacks as the original film. However, it also means it delivers noticeably diminished animation quality. For reference, this is a competently made, entirely unobjectionable image from 2010:

And this is what we get in 2024:

If you're going to take the risky bet of choosing an alien with an unmissably huge, bulbous head as your protagonist, the least you can do for the sake of your viewers' eyes is to draw him in a way that makes him pleasing to look at for a full movie plus eight TV episodes. One would expect 3D animation to have improved somewhat in all these years, but at least now we know a fun bit of trivia: Metro City is located along the placid slopes of Uncanny Valley.

Also, I thought The Incredibles had already settled the question of why child sidekicks are a bad idea.

Only the writing and plotting save these new productions from the lifeless look of their characters. The writing duo that first created Megamind have maintained a clear idea of who this hero is, how his atypical upbringing shaped his understanding of the world and of personal connection, and what kind of experiences can help him continue maturing. Given that the first season of the new series ends in a cliffhanger, Megamind is going to need to rely on all those anchoring points if he wants to fix the latest crisis life has thrown at him.

Nerd Coefficient: 6/10.

POSTED BY: Arturo Serrano, multiclass Trekkie/Whovian/Moonie/Miraculer, accumulating experience points for still more obsessions.