Megamind (2010)

(In theaters, December 2010) Comic-book culture is so pervasive by now that films such as Megamind can just file the numbers off the subgenre’s most familiar archetypes and run with the concept.  The derivative nature of such premises is obvious –but given that derivation is Dreamworks Animation’s specialty, it’s perhaps better to be happy at the end result than to expect fresh premises and concepts from them.  Surprisingly enough, Megamind actually has one or two things to say about super-villainy and its need for super-heroism: Our protagonist isn’t evil as much as he’s misunderstood and bored: by the time he’s had a few weeks to rule over Metro City, his lack of challenges is such that he sets out to reinvent a superhero… with hilarious results.  The action set-pieces have a welcome kinship with Monsters Versus Aliens; unfortunately, the angular character designs owe more to the Madagascar films in that they are distinctive but not particularly appealing.  Fortunately, most of the film feels bright, bold, clean and contemporary: The action sequences have a fondness for large-scale destruction, and the film moves at a pleasantly rapid pace.  There are a few twists and turns: nothing shocking, but a pleasant reconfiguration of dramatic situations every twenty minutes or so.  In doing so, Megamind manages to be the best think-piece about superheroes since The Incredibles and The Dark Knight, and it’s partly that vivaciousness of ideas that makes it so much fun to watch.  In this context, the derivative nature of its premise isn’t as much a problem as it is scene-setting for second-order questions… and that’s not bad, especially for a film supposedly aimed at kids.

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