Sunday, April 24, 2011

REVIEW: Megamind

This one should have been called Tangled.

Megamind, by Dreamworks, is a wild, weird film. Some of it, like the poster at left, is downright hilarious. Some parts are remarkably well-done. Otherparts- less so. Overall, the film left me disturbed and feeling... dirty. So. Into the "labrynthian mind" of the film. (shameless SPOILERS ahead)

The Worldview

The Good

I really enjoyed the exchange between Megamind and Metro Man when Metro Man was trapped in the observatory. "You can't trap justice! It's an idea..." Nevertheless, this idea must be founded on God's Word, or it's just... well, a good idea.

We also see that we are responsible with what we do in our lives- it's not destiny's fault. It's not up to fate. We are to be judged by our actions. This is an important thing to understand, and a good moral.

The Bad

The counterpoint to above point- this film brought out some serious humanism/Nietzscheism. It begins blaming many events on fate- it's because of fate that Megamind is a bad guy. It's because of fate that Hal gets blasted with the superhero potion. Happily, this is later on reversed, but is replaced with the philosophy that we are masters of our own destiny, which is only a good moral if understood as our responsibility in the light of and in subjection to God's Sovereign Will and Providence.

The Super-Intelligent E.T. Philosophy. This is a school of thinking rooted in evolution with quite dark repercussions for us the viewers. "If we evolved then surely other intelligent life has evolved elsewhere in the universe!"

So we get Metro Man, who can violate the laws of nature at will (which is only explicable by the supernatural, and yet that power is transferred to someone else via Metro Man's DNA...), and we get Megamind, who has, basically, supernatural intelligence. These gods descended from Olympus then duel for the fate of mankind, and we, like ants, watch helplessly.

Metro Man and Megamind act like actors in a over-rehearsed play. They're not really scared. They're not really hurting anybody. Megamind doesn't expect to win, and when he does, after the first thrill of success, he realizes that he now has nothing to live for (amidst an existentialist discussion with a toy bird. More on that in a sec). Metro Man later calls Megamind "little buddy". This is odd. Is Megamind really a bad guy? He's the hero, but he's in jail, and he breaks out amidst some "b-b-bad to the bone", and yet the hero acts like his pal. This is blurring lines seriously.

It is during Megamind's duel with Tighten, however, where we really see the "gods from Olympus" syndrome. Towers are broken, buildings are burned, cars are smashed, and while they don't show it we may assume that many are killed. This is very dark and, ultimately, unScriptural. Let us rejoice that we do not have a fickle and capricious God ruling over us. These creatures with "god-like power" (yes, that was in the film) are not bound by man's (or God's moral or natural) laws, and they break them with impunity. There's no hope for a righteous man to stand up and bring justice. We just have to hope (pray, maybe, to our... benevolent aliens???) for another Metro Man.

Megamind, who is the hero by the end of the film, during his bad-guy stage at the beginning was playing darts with peoples' cars, desecrating property, stealing art, and enjoying every bit of it. He never repents, he just... changes. Kinda. Never is what he did shown as anything more than funny, in a superbly evil sort of way.

Existentialism. What is is. The existentialist believes (as I understand it) that there is no God, there is no judgment to come, there is nothing beyond the physical, there is no ultimate and inviolable Law. This gives way readily to pragmatism, where the ends justify the means, and paints a bleak picture of a world left to chance and the whims of the strong.

There is also some eastern mysticism in the film. Yin and Yang- where there is bad good will arise. This leaves us with "bad guys and good guys are two parts of the same whole." Everybody has some good in 'em, right? Well, except for Tighten, because we have to make him bad enough that the audience will be glad when he loses. And even he, in the end, is apparently having a blast in jail.

The good guy can't kill the bad guy- good guys don't do that. They take 'em to jail. How is jail Scriptural? The civil magistrate should punish the villain according to God's Law- and sometimes that means by death. Interestingly enough, when we're talking "gods from Olympus", the civil magistrate can't do this. The police are helpless. We need Batman, or Superman, or Metro Man, or somebody who's awesome enough to take down the bad guy- whatever the cost. More pragmatism. (And there's another reason I like Bolt- he's not anything more than just a man who did what's right.)

Irreverence, toward the elderly in the minor way of the lisp in Hal's "Space Dad", but much more destructively in Metro Man, when he walks on water, and Megamind- "Who is this man whom we have infused with god-like power?" Not only does the film act as if God does not exist, but it really creates gods out of its hero/villains.

And there's another problem. The Cool Bad Guy Syndrome (CBGS). It was even worse in this one than with Flynn in Tangled.

From the trailer: "All men must choose between two paths. Good is the path of honour, heroism, and nobility. Evil... well, it's just cooler." Um- I'm sorry. Evil is evil. Evil will be destroyed in the wrath of a just and holy God. It's not OK for us to portray it as cool.

The crude humor. It wasn't dealt out in spades, but they gave some good spoonfuls. For example, when Tighten (Hal), enjoying his new-found superpowers, is giving himself a wedgie and saying "look, I can hardly feel it!"- I'm left with a feeling of ugh. They could have taken the exact same well-acted vocal line and shown Hal banging his head off of the wall- "look, I can hardly feel it!"- and it would have been more hilarious and far less dirty. A desire for holiness doesn't mean that we can't enjoy hilarity- though it will take more work to create humor that pleases God. I have been convicted recently over my sense of humor, which is sometimes not as sanctified as I think God would have it to be. I'm also grateful to people like those at HeuMoore Productions who make hilarious films without crudeness, and speakers like Mr. Ray Comfort and others who model dignity while still being quite funny.

And, though I know that I'll have readers who disagree, we have another model feminist. Roxanne, shown in plenty-tight-enough (but more covered up than some of her other wardrobe choices in the film) clothing at left, is apparently out making a career for herself as a reporter.

Yes, I am a proponent of home-keeping mothers and bread-winning fathers. Yes, I'm a proponent of male headship. (Oy, I just can't stop stepping on toes.) Does this mean that women should sit at home knitting all the time? No. But Miss Roxie should "get married, bear children, keep house, give the enemy no occasion for reproach." Why does this seem like such an onerous calling? Maybe because we've watched one- or fifty- too many Megaminds.

She's hanging out with the cameraman all the time. He goes bad when she denies him. There's a good moral to be drawn here. Spend enough time with someone, you will tie heartstrings, most likely. Be careful with whom these strings are tied, and how tight you allow the knots to become!

I would have loved it if she were married to the cameraman... there's helping her husband.

Short hair again. And you say, "What's with the short hair? Leave it alone already!" Well, I have no desire to offend! Yet I cannot remain silent because I might hurt feelings. Paul says "if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her", and I want to embrace that as much as I want to embrace that it would be shameful for me to grow a three-foot-lo
ng ponytail. If someone can give me Scripture to show me otherwise- please, bring it to the table! As it is, I'm tired of this being modeled as good-looking for women- normal for women- feminine. Period.

The Art

The Good

The animation of the fishbowl was very neat looking and impressive. The falling scene at the beginning was a great shot as well.

The story was very unique and full of different twists on old themes. I really enjoyed the freshness of the concept.

The voice acting and sound design was good.

I've been noticing a running theme of cute characters in these animations. Dug in UP, the frog-chameleon-nuance in Tangled, Minion in Megamind, Rhino in Bolt, and so on. Very smart move by the filmmakers. They nailed the cute character in this one. Minion is admittedly adorable.

And some of the humor was both clean and hilarious. Some great scripting, hilarious stereotypes, and excellently-acted banter between heroes and villains.

The Bad

The animation wasn't bad, but I wouldn't consider it great, and our main characters had a touch of animé that I didn't enjoy.

The resurrection of the fish I have mixed feelings on. It made more sense than the resurrection of (SPOILING another film now) Flynn in Tangled, but it also seemed more forced. Again, the death of Minion would have added some gravitas to the end. Could have been a heartbreaker. Instead, it wound up a semi-cheesy, rather predictable, and underwhelming joke. Here we have the fish acting like he's dying, Megamind acting worried, the fish gasps his last- and then Megamind tosses him into the fountain and laughs about his acting, and then we admire the fish's cute face. It seemed to be... just odd. Uncomfortable. Too stark of a contrast, maybe? There were multiple moments of such inconsistency in Megamind's character that bugged me from an artistic standpoint. If Minion's theatricality had been referenced and experienced a few times previously, this might have made more sense.

The score was unique. The main theme was weird. I like it, but I don't know if I like that I like it. The rest of the score fit well, but something about it bugs me.

The source music. Ugh. The film was filled with rock songs from days gone by. It seemed to, at least in parts, be an attempt to parallel the Joker's behavior in Tim Burton's Batman. Again, how fitting that rock music be associated with pride, destruction, and all-around evildoing. This not only cheapened the feel of the film, but it made it darker and more disturbing than it would have been without.


I wasn't impressed with the film. While the story was a neat and fresh concept, the worldview was disturbing, and it felt overall B-grade. I wouldn't recommend this one. 2.5/5


Grace said...

Thank you for this thoughtful review. I agree with you on some points, disagree on others, but overall I am thankful for your careful, God-centered perspective. :)

~ Grace

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Grace- you're very welcome. Thanks for reading and commenting. I'd be curious to know where we disagree, but if you'd rather not go there, that's fine. :-D

Grace said...

I don't mind if you don't. :) Without going over the whole thing, I think the main disagreement was Megamind's turn. For me, it was different than other films (like Despicable Me) where the hero?/villain? never has any substantial change.

Megamind changed because of his love for Roxanne (not a perfect love, and Roxanne had her problems, but still), starting to think of what was best for her rather than what he wanted.

Also, when Megamind sees the stolen money in Tighten's apartment, I think something clicked for him and he realized that there really WAS right and wrong, and what Tighten had done wasn't right.

Again, of course it wasn't perfect, as it wasn't from a Biblical standpoint, but I thought that aspect of the film was powerful.

I too was sorry to see Roxanne's short hair, career mindset, and immodesty. I didn't appreciate Tighten's crude humor. I think we're on the same page with a lot of things. I just saw Megamind's journey differently.

Some things, like the fact that Megamind and Metroman are essentially aliens -- I agree with you on the alien issue, but I don't have a huge problem with it in the film. But that's personal conviction.

Sorry to leave such a long comment, but you asked for it. :)

In Christ,
~ Grace

Gabriel Hudelson said...

No, no apology necessary. I like long comments.

The alien thing isn't a hill I'd die on. We disagree, but I don't consider you a heretic. :-D

That's the other thing I forgot to mention... "I had a reason to win... you." So... if Roxanne weren't here, you'd still be evil?

I don't think that's deep repentance- brokenness over sin before a holy God. You're right, though- there's still a change in him, and there's also a good moral to be drawn from "good guys don't steal." Heroes don't do that.

Rebekah said...

I haven't seen "Megamind". I wasn't sure that I wanted to before (I read quite a bit about it) and now after your review, I'm think I'd rather not. It sounds like such a twisted story.

I agree about the cute character thing, - but they all better be careful before it gets overused REALLY fast. (I'm not tired of them yet though.)

I'm tired of bad guy's being portrayed as good. Or partly good. It's ridiculous! But if you don't use the Bible, I suppose you don't have a standard on which to base good and bad. It's so mixed up!

Just curious as to what you though, by the way... Did you consider Flynn's change to be "good" - or just a shallow change? Just curious... :)

To the KING be all the glory!

Jennifer said...

I think you'd really like "The King's Speech".

Gabriel Hudelson said...

It looks like a film I'd really enjoy, Jennifer, but the language deterred me from seeing it. Is it workable-throughable?

Jennifer said...

Yes, it's definitely workable-throughable :P It's mostly one scene, where the king's speech coach tries to lossen him up by getting him to swear, and it's hysterical; he calmly asks, "Do you know the F word, your Highness?" To which the king stutters, "Fuh, fornication?" LOL "Nooo"...says the coach, and clarifies. Then the king awkwardly spouts off some random swear words at the top of his voice to let off steam, and you can't help but laugh. The only other time such strong language is used, I think, is when he's trying to really give a speech; he halts at the microphone and looks at the coach, who mouths the F word rapidly to loosen him up.

You might also enjoy "Blood Diamond"; there's less sensuality than "Gladiator" and the profanity is not overwhelming. Pretty severe violence, but it's realistic to the story; stunning movie all the way around, about morality and greed. There's one minor nude scene; a man in prison is accused of hiding a diamond, and he randomly strips down to prove he doesn't have it. He's a very dark black man and his body is cloaked in the shadows, so between this and the speed of the scene, it's very hard to really see anything.

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Well, I saw it, Jennifer- and you were right! I did like it. Review is viewable on... um... my blog...