Alternate title: Why I liked Megamind better than How to Train Your Dragon.
Spoilers for both movies below.
So I finally saw Megamind. I liked it. I liked it more than (what many people consider to be) the better/more acclaimed How to Train Your Dragon. HTTYD was one of the first DreamWorks animated movies to take itself somewhat seriously. Megamind plays with its genre all over the place and feels way less serious, but I felt like it was a stronger film.
I'm an advocate of character relationships and development driving a story. I harp on it all the time. It's one thing that DreamWorks films seem to be lacking. It's a bit old-hat to compare DreamWorks unfavorable to Pixar, but it's done for a reason. Many DreamWorks films seem to be lacking some kind of heart that Pixar just seems to exude.
Megamind gets the closest to that heart in my opinion, rather than many peoples' favorite, HTTYD. I was left wanting... something... in HTTYD. Having seen Megamind though, I decided one of the reasons is that love story in HTTYD feels phoned in.
Sure, Hiccup starts the story wanting to become a dragon slayer so that he can impress the girl of his dreams. And she gets to take the freakin' cool dragon-back ride into the sunset. And then she's suddenly giving him a pep talk, supporting him staunchly when before, there was really no indication that she should trust him or vice versa. It just sort of ran straight forward to the support and love, when before that, I didn't feel the mutual attraction, chemistry or growing closeness. Hiccup and Toothless felt far more real and heartfelt, because it was given the time to develop. (Though even that seemed really fast. I dunno... The pacing in that film irritated me for some reason. It just felt so lacking in something.)
The romance in Megamind had the progression happen. All the interaction and time that went into developing Hiccup and Toothless' friendship went into developing Megamind and Roxie's relationship. It was the crux of his Heel Face Turn and her encouragement was genuine, as opposed to the sudden phoning in of cheery words in the third act of HTTYD.
Character development is key. In HTTYD, the relationships all start from scratch. Hiccup and Astrid barely know each other and Hiccup is his whole new thing. We have to see the progression from the very beginning. Which is fine. There are many stories in which this happens and it works fine. Most romances do. But here, it feels rushed and we are painfully aware of the fact that Astrid and Hiccup barely interact amiably from the beginning of the film to the end of it. And suddenly they are close?
In contrast, Megamind starts with relationships already laid out clearly. Minion and Megamind have fantastic repertoire as the bestest of buddies, the clear nearly-scripted roleplaying between Megamind and MetroMan is pulled off wonderfully, and Roxanne and Megamind have this strange flirty smarmy familiarity with each other. The progression still works, however, because we get to see their roles change. They go from these familiar roles to something completely different and we spend the time watching them make those changes. And we accept the rather fast pacing here because we already have a frame of reference for these characters. They all already were familiar with one another (which is, like, the first step of any meaningful relationship) and from there it can change and grow. This was the step that was missing from Astrid and Hiccup's relationship.
Personally, I think the HTTYD would have been stronger without Astrid in the film. Make it about Hiccup and his dad and Toothless. No need for a love interest. More time to focus on those important relationships. Either that, or have her be a more integral part of the film. As it was, she just sort of felt like eye-candy.
In Megamind, every relationship shown was vitally important. Between Hal and Roxie, between Megamind and Minion, between Roxie and Megamind, between Megamind and Metro Man, etc. etc. Take away one, and you lose some of the emotional impact of the film. And the most important ones were given the most time. Minion and Megamind didn't have a whole lot of time singularly devoted to their relationship, but we see constantly them interacting in the midst of other happenings and the two very vital moments of argument and apology were given the spotlight they deserved. It all felt very real and much of it was actually very subtle. In contrast, the romance between Megamind and Roxanne was given most of the focus, seeing as how most of their character development hinged on it.
Is Megamind a perfect movie? No. It's certainly just having fun with itself, some logicality be hanged. It's not a classic film. Some things irritated me, like how quickly Roxie accepted Megamind again after she dumped him (personally, I would have liked to have seen a little more of her emotional turn-around).
But I loved the music (seriously, every time any classic rock started playing, I freaked out my siblings by air-guitaring rather showily), the tongue-in-cheek treatment of super-heroics/villainy, and the animation was freakin' amazing. And it had real emotional impact, which was often treated very subtly. (For real, watch the scene of Megamind being dumped in the rain. Just watch his face. The expressions are almost barely there, but they just exude volumes of his past and his dreams and his despair, in just a few quick shots. Gorgeous.) And it got me thinking, which is always good, yes?