Despicable Me and Megamind, on the face of it, both have a lot in common. They are animated family films featuring a supervillain in the lead role voiced by a leading American comedian. Both aimed to be a twist on the comic book adaptations proving popular and make a family film tied in with the idea. What follows is a review of these films and a comparison of the two.
———–WARNING, HERE BE SPOILERS————-
Despicable Me was the first of these two films to be released and is also the most successful. It both cost less than Megamind and made more money. As is so often the case with films with an interesting spin, being the first to come out is a considerable advantage and leads to success. Some reviewers have even suggested that Megamind has stolen ideas from Despicable Me, despite there only being three months between the two films, so the possibility this could have happened is non-existent. We should therefore consider these two films as two separate entities, with no real correlation.
The main protagonist in Despicable Me is called Gru, played by Steve Carrel, who is a supervillain applying for a loan from the Bank of Evil to steal the moon. When he is rejected, he attempts to steal a shrink ray from another supervillain. To do this, he uses some girl guides selling cookies in his scheme and subsequently adopts them, first begrudgingly and slowly gets to love them. The film is very light family friendly stuff and has quite a few laughs. I must admit however, that due to various friends quoting the catchphrases from that film at me, those moments where not nearly as funny as they could have been.
The main thing that interested me about this film was the fact there was no superhero. The competition he had was with another villain who wanted to achieve exactly the same thing rather than preventing something he viewed as evil. I found this oddly unsettling in a children’s film, as the idea of no good guy being present is really quite bleak. The main character has quite a hard lot in life; his mother doesn’t appreciate him as a clever genius, he has no real friends and most of his minions don’t really appreciate him either. To know he is on his own and there is no hero to come save him struck me as depressing. It is only by pure chance that he adopts the girls and they help him learn what love is. It is a touching tale which tries to be heart-warming but didn’t quite sit right with me. The idea of competing against someone for a prize, on your own, and only finding truth by striving for what you want made me think that this was an awfully capitalist film, and while I’m not a communist, it didn’t quite feel right. It certainly isn’t a picture of a lovely healthy functional family, but was reasonably enjoyable all the same.
Megamind however, was far more to my liking. The main character is a superbly intelligent alien played by Will Ferrell who has been in a struggle against the superhero Metro man his whole life. The twist is that he wins and the hero is beaten. Megamind however soon gets bored and wants to create a rival to spar against, as it is the conflict that he enjoys. His plan fails however and he ends up having to turn into the hero.
This got my interest very early on as the concept was announced by DreamWorks as a clear parody of super-hero films. It was originally intended that Robert Downey Jnr. would play the lead, but due to conflicts with other films, he had to drop out for Will Ferrell. This is very much clearer on the parody level, with the villain being openly mocked as being cliché, the hero being too smug for anyone’s liking and enough Superman references to make anyone smile. Even in the soundtrack it uses enough AC/DC to make it obvious that it is ribbing Iron Man, possibly as a way of giving the finger to Downey Jnr.
I must confess that I dislike Will Ferrell so had low expectations of this film. It is however an awful lot of fun. It is very silly but also gave me a lot to think about. The fact his morals change and that this is a good thing, clearly, gave me a lot to think about in other superhero films. It made me wonder about the typical three story arc of origin, doubt and multiple foes. Surely learning and growing in morality could be an optional route to follow? Dark Knight played with Batman being tempted to break his one rule, what if the third one played with him having to rewrite his rules?
In conclusion, both films are good and of a very different tone. I much preferred Megamind but most people loved Despicable Me. At time of writing, Despicable Me had a score of 7.5 on IMDb and Megamind 7.3. I suggest you try both, as they are both interesting takes on the genre that are far more family friendly than Kick Ass, though that is the better film out of these. I might just watch that again now. Hmmmm.