Megamind on Blu-ray
Dreamworks' Megamind is a CG-animated superhero tale with a bit of a twist.
It's also a kind of a coming of age, or turning your life around-type tale, with more than a casual resemblance to Pixar's great "The Incredibles," which is supposed to be coming out on Blu-ray disc later this year. We can't wait!
Much like Superman (and this appears to be very intentional) Megamind is an alien orphan, sent to earth when his home planet was facing catastrophe. The difference here is that he was only half of a pair of such space alien orphans, because some other dying race sent another orphan to earth at the same time, an alien who on Earth would have the same type of super powers as Superman (but is different enough not to get the studio sued).
Megamind, alas, doesn't have superpowers but, as his adopted name hints, he's a super genius instead.
So while Metro Man (voiced by Brad Pitt) can fly, has heat vision and the like, Megamind (voiced by Will Ferrell) creates marvelous technological tools and toys – much like the evil Syndrome in "Incredibles".
Megamind takes an interesting look at the "nature versus nurture" debate, having the baby that would be Metro Man land in a loving home while the toddling Megamind lands in a prison and grows up in an atmosphere decidedly unfriendly to all that is the mainstream of society. Not only that, but the sun seemed to shine out the young Metro (kid)'s posterior, while everything Mega (kid) touched blew up in his – or someone's face. He was the last kid chosen for sports teams, etc. etc. etc.
You get it – Megamind's an innocent victim, and the only reason he became a super villain is because being bad was the only thing he was good at. And having grown up alongside Metro Man and seen the adulation he got only made him more jealous - and determined to bring down his nemesis and rule Metro City (which he pronounces "Metrocity").
Ah, but be careful what you wish for!
As it turns out, Megamind does prevail over Metro Man and finds himself Metro City's evil overlord. But life without challenge is empty, and like Jack Skellington in "The Nightmare Before Christmas," he gets bored with his unchallenged supremacy and decides to create a new hero to fight, to give his own life some meaning again.
While it's a pale shadow of "The Incredibles," there's still quite a bit to recommend with "Megamind." It has a few humorous moments, some great animated action, a terrific look, and some of the best CG animation we've seen.
But there are some groan-inducing moments as well, such as a rather clichéd love story between the confused Megamind and ace reporte/Lois Lane clone Roxanne Ritchie (Tina Fey) – though to be fair, the romantic element also helps Megamind find his path ahead through life. There's also a not particularly subtle "power corrupts" angle when Megamind's newly-created superhero turns out to be not quite the super hero that he'd planned.
If you can get around all this, however, you'll be treated to some pretty fine action scenes rendered beautifully against a backdrop of some of the finest CG cartoon backgrounds we've seen.
The animation is nothing short of superb, some of the best we've seen. There are subtle facial expressions, incredibly (er, Megamindedly?) lifelike character movement, and fantastic special effects. All of which should mean that Megamind is just the latest in a long line of fabulous Blu-ray experiences in the home theater, right?
Right. Except it doesn't.
Available in a combo-pack with a DVD copy included as well, the movie is presented in 1080p/24 widescreen. That's a good start, because these CG features generally offer some of the best pictures available, popping right off the screen at you. That kind of visual feast is one of the reasons we looked forward to reviewing Megamind.
Alas, we were disappointed. We can't really put our finger on the problem, because there's plenty of detail, the color is very good and all the elements for a great visual experience are there. But Megamind's HD picture is flat overall, with little of that great, "3D-like" look that helps make the best Blu-rays so enjoyable. It's really a shame, and we'd have rather seen them not release Megamind like this than to have this substandard version. Perhaps they're planning a special edition down the road?
Better is the audio, which is presented in Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and is dynamic and immersive. And that's just what you want from a movie like this, which is full of action, explosions, nifty sound effects and the like.
All of your home theater's speakers will get a good workout, including the delicious ".1" low frequency effects channel. Crashes, explosions, crumbling buildings, etc. all rumble nicely, and since you're surrounded by a bunch of other audio channels that are working their little hearts out, it makes you feel like a real part of the action.
It's reference quality stuff, except few will use this disc as a reference one because of its weak video.
Naturally, you get quite a selection of extra stuff, too. Director Tom McGrath, Producers Lara Breay and Denise Nolan Cascino, and Writers Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons are all on hand for an audio commentary track – though not one of the best examples of the species – in which they talk about the film's genesis.
"Animators Corner" is a picture-in-picture feature showing the animation as it appeared in various stages of completion.
"Meet the Cast" is a promo featurette that, as you might expect, gives you a look at the voice actors (with scenes from the movie). There's a deleted scene, too, introduced by one of the movie's producers. It's "The Toothbrush scene", which is kind of cool and would have worked fine if it had been left in.
You also get a selection of bloopers – too much of a selection, as it turns out. Actors blowing lines and laughing about it only goes so far, and this one goes past 10 minutes, which is at least a few bloopers too far.
"Inside Megamind's Lair" and "AnimatorMan" are promotional featurettes as well, the former about the movie's New York premiere, while the latter shows you how the animators bring their characters, including how they act out the performances to get the body movements and facial features just right. And they did a fine job at it, too – so much so that as we watched the movie we were wondering if they'd actually used performance capture instead of "classic" CG animation.
In "You Can Draw Megamind," artist Andy Schuhler takes you through a step-by-step class to teach you to draw the blue fella, while "Mega Rap" is a video that uses scenes from the movie to try to make hip hop less horrid.
"The Reign of Megamind: Video Comic Book" is just what it sounds like: a digital comic book you can peruse on your screen. "Spot the Difference" is a game in which you have to find the differences in two side-by-side pictures, though the programmers here seem to have forgotten to give you a place for your answers.
Other promo features include "Megamind: The Button of Doom," which is actually an animated short (that stars the characters from the movie) set after the movie in which Megamind, the new city's hero, has to defend Metrocity from one of his robots.
"The World of Dreamworks Animation" is a bunch of ads for other Dreamworks movies. And if that isn't enough, there are trailers for "Kung Fu Panda 2," "Rango," and the "Megamind" video game.
There's also a trivia track, "Comic Creator" (which is interesting for about as long as it takes to access the feature), and "Behind the Mind", in which you can navigate through still galleries of artwork.
Full disclosure: our first attempt at watching "Megamind" was truncated about half an hour in, because it really didn't capture our attention (and the substandard picture quality was rubbing us the wrong way). We returned to it the next night, watching it from the beginning again, and bore with it through the end - and we're glad we did. If you let the movie unfold it will offer you a decent hour and a half in the home theater, thanks to the exquisite animation and sound. It's definitely worth a rental, if not an outright purchase.
And while "Megamind" is no "The Incredibles," few animated films are.
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.