Wednesday, November 10, 2010


 "The Player on the Other Side"

The news that Zack Snyder would be the director in charge of the next (Christopher Nolan-produced) "Superman" movie leaves one slightly ambivalent.  

Sure, Snyder can do comic-book movies competently (as he did with 300 and Watchmen), but when you look at the mess he made of the flying scenes in Legend of the Guardians,* you begin to have some doubts whether he can make you believe a man can fly...or even make you recognize it as so when he does. 

I hope he takes a look at the other Superman films, and while he's at it takes a look at Dreamworks' new Megamind (in 3-D or no), which takes on major super-themes, while being something the "official" franchise films don't seem to have the super-vision to risk—a fresh take on the concept.

Megamind (directed by Tom McGrath takes a look at the story from the point-of-view of "the player on the other side," the villain, the arch-rival, the one best matched to take on the hero.**  Megamind (voiced effetely by Will Ferrell, and looking like a cross between Conan O'Brian and Neil Patrick Harris) has his rival (for everything) in the majestic form of Metro Man (Brad Pitt at his most arch), the protector of Metro City (or as Megs calls it "Metrocity," same emphasis as "atrocity").  Both are rocketed from doomed planets, making them eternally star-crossed, and then thrown together in marked contrast as children, setting them both on the parallel pathways of Good and E-villAt the unveiling of the gaudy Metroman Museumit, like the rest of Metro City, seems to have been designed by The Fountainead's Adam Roarke—Titans Clash, and Megamind manages to (dare I say it?) KILL Metro Man, stunning the city, which he then takes over as Overlord.  

Well, that's different.  And it is there that the movie gets interesting, rather than merely amusing (which it is...a lot).  Faced with an existence of pure unchallenged evil, Megamind grows dissatisfied, and schemes to create a new hero to battle, while also wooing (in holographic disguise) comely reporter Roxanne Richi (Tina Fey), all forehead and eyes, who cracks wise about getting her "frequent hostage" card stamped.   That Megamind's new hero, Titan (Jonah Hill)—who, not being the brightest yellow sun in the star-cluster, spells it
"Tighten" (heh)—also has the hots for Roxanne, sets them at odds and the former villain must come to grips with being a force for Good...and Niceness.

This is good stuff, providing nice plot and character arcs that exposes the creative kryptonite that vexes most writers of superhero movies (especially Superman superhero movies)—that the hero must remain crashingly good and the villain relentlessly (to the point of absurdism) bad; it's no wonder so many of them run to the old "camp" trail.

In the meantime, the movie does some good things making fun of the tropes of these diversions (and the Superman franchise, in particular***) while finding its own path to making the idea fresh, funny, and..."jeepers, Mr. Kent"...even worth doing.

Megamind is a Matinee.  You might even wanna spring for the glasses (maybe).

* The review for which will be featured Saturday.  Why wait?  Well, we do "Take Out the Trash" days on Saturday, that should tell you something...

** When one has an indomitable hero, authors often succumb to creating an Anti-Christ figure who is everything the hero is not, while maintaining related ties between the two: Sherlock Holmes has his Moriarty, Bond has Blofeld, Superman has Lex Luthor (which Megamind hues closest to), Batman, agent of Order has the Joker, agent of Chaos, etc. anti-etc.   The nicest "take" on this concept comes from M. Night Shyamalan, whose Unbreakable is a lovely little summation of the concept, while also providing a nicely realistic Superman-type origin story.

*** Check out Titan's mush-mouthed holographic "father," for instance, and in the subtlest of instances, at one point Metro Man floats down to walk on his museum's reflecting pool...the surface of the reflecting pool, which, of course, a man who defies gravity could do, but also references the tendency of Superman writers to hitch it to "Christ" allegories.  That illicited a thought-response that happened frequently during Megamind: "Why don't the REAL "Superman" movies do stuff like this?"

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