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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Megamind (Blu-ray)
Megamind (Blu-ray)
Dreamworks // PG // February 25, 2011 // Region A
List Price: $49.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted February 27, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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Doomed planet.
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Desperate scientists.
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Last hope.
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Kindly couple.
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Oh. Nevermind. It was that other alien that crashlanded to Earth who caught all the breaks: cool hair, not-blue skin, quadraseptazillionaire adoptive parents, and...oh, why not?...flight, invulnerability, heat vision, super-strength, and, for all I know, super-ventriloquism. The bouncing blue baby we're talking about here, though...? His pod smashed into a prison. The only things he really has going for him are a super-scientific intellect and a doggedly loyal, razor-toothed alien fish sidekick. No matter how hard he tries, this little tyke botches everything. The only thing he's good at is being bad, so...well, he tries to be the best bad guy he can. Cower, people of Metro City, before the malevolent mental might of...Megamind! Well, it turns out there's really not all that much cowering being done these days. Why would there be when Metro Man is around to save the day? Yup, that childhood rivalry is still kicking around all these decades later, although maybe "rivalry" isn't really the word for it. No matter what malefic machinations Megamind dreams up -- typhoon cheese, a boot-kicking-carousel, a dune buggy with eight
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spidery legs, a forget-me-bomb, kidnapping foxy ace reporter Roxanne Ritchie for the six hojillionth time -- Metro Man smacks it down without so much as breaking a sweat. When Metro City honors Metro Man with a Metro Man Museum...and, man, that's a lot of "metro"s!...Megamind tries to stomp all over the lovefest with yet another nefarious scheme to rid the world of his goody-two-shoed arch-nemesis once and for all. And...um, it works? Fake observatory. Massive solar death ray. A skeleton with a cape on it that flutters into Megamind's lair. The good people of Metro City are mortified, and...yeah, that goes for Megamind too. He never really thought it'd do the trick. His whole life has revolved around squaring off against Metro Man: y'know, the old Superman-vs.-Lex Luthor battle of muscles versus mind. With nothing left to stand in Megamind's path to world domination...um, now what?

Some of the trailers and TV spots answer "now what?" for you, but I'll play nicer than that and shy away from spoilers. Some of the twists and turns are exactly what you'd expect, and others are clever enough to have caught me off-guard, at least. Megamind really does do a good bit right. As a lifelong comic book nerd, I love stories where the bad guy gets the upper hand, and Megamind doesn't end the same way the comics pretty much always do whenever that happens. It's also nice to see that the movie doesn't lean on instantly dated pop culture references or gross-out gags for easy laughs, although there is a dance party at the end, and that's kind of unforgiveable. The characters' facial expressions and mannerisms are gorgeously rendered, and the design of Minion -- Megamind's flunky in a fishbowl with a Robot Monster body -- is kind of too brilliant for words. The pacing breezes along so quickly that even if you don't like Megamind all that much, you probably won't ever get bored, and that's gotta count for something. Megamind's moustache-twirlingly nefarious schemes are overflowing with a lot of imagination too. I also think it's great that Megamind heaps on a lot of action, but the resolution to it all amounts to more than just hitting things over and over.

The problem with Megamind, really, is that it's too
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okay. Its sense of humor is the type that might make you crack a grin or think "oh, that's pretty good" -- a Donkey Kong training sequence! A Brando-flavored Jor-El knockoff! -- but doesn't translate to an actual laugh. There are some really cool action sequences, but they don't get the adrenaline pumping as much as I'd like. There's a definite effort in establishing its characters and making their relationships feel meaningful, but a lot of it never really connected with me. Up until that dance number at the very end, there's not a single moment in Megamind that left me cringing or groaning, but it doesn't have the sense of humor or loudly beating heart of...oh, I don't know, Despicable Me, which tread some of this same ground and nailed it a lot more effectively. The voice acting, which is headed up by Will Ferrell and also includes turns by Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, and David Cross, falls anywhere from "fine" to "pretty good". Since they don't really veer too far away from their normal and instantly recognizable speaking voices, I found it a little tough to get lost in the performances. Part of the reason why Metro Man gets the nod as my favorite of the vocal work is that he doesn't sound exactly like Brad Pitt, even though I know that's who was in front of the mic. Ferrell's a solid fit for a lead character this theatrical and over-the-top, although for whatever reason, I kept expecting to hear Kevin McDonald's voice everytime Megamind opened his mouth. I'm surprised how lifeless Roxanne is...the least expressive of the central characters, by far the blandest of the designs, and the least memorable vocal performance of the bunch.

Megamind's visual style can be wildly uneven, and that seems kind of unusual to me. On the thumbs-up side of the column, the character animation here is exceptionally expressive, and a similar level of care and attention has been invested in conveying the scale of Metro City. For instance, one crowd scene is teeming with fifty thousand-plus people cheering away, and it feels as if you can pick out each and every one of them individually. One of the slug-in-the-gut emotional sequences is set against a
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torrential downpour, and especially for anyone fascinated with the technical end of computer animation, the result is breathtaking. The camerawork -- well, virtual camerawork, I guess -- is also dazzlingly fluid, roving around and keen on uncovering unique angles. At the same time, though, the visuals are a mish-mash of individually spectacular elements with disappointingly bland texture and detail. Metro City is clean-scrubbed to the point of being kind of boring to look at -- lots of clean lines, solid colors, and no dirt or weathering anywhere -- and faces tend to be too smooth and plain. This is especially a letdown in the wake of the awe-inspiring visuals of How to Train Your Dragon. I've thumbed through "The Art of Megamind" book, so I know there's an enormous amount of artistic talent behind the project, but I don't see as much of that as I'd like on-screen. Maybe this plays a lot better in 3D?

I like Megamind, but I chucked this disc in my Blu-ray player hoping I'd love it. Not a lot about it lingers...no cacklingly witty lines you'll be quoting the day after and no standout scenes that'll have you flinging YouTube links to your pals right afterwards either. The high-level version of the premise reads something like The Incredibles-meets-Despicable Me, but I'd rather just sit down and watch those much better movies instead. Rent It.

In case you have one of those glossy, new 3DTVs and figured you'd grab Megamind to marvel at in three full dimensions...well, no. You can't. The 3D version is an exclusive for Samsung TVs. I guess you could buy Samsung's $499 starter kit that piles on both Shrek and Megamind in 3D, but otherwise, you're stuck with the same 2D version the rest of us are watching.


Video
C'mon, Megamind is a shiny computer animated flick straight outta theaters: of course it looks perfect. Well, close enough to it, at least, but I'll get into that in a bit. Aside from a few relatively minor hiccups, Megamind looks exactly the way you'd expect it to: ridiculously crisp and detailed, overflowing with vividly saturated colors, and bolstered by deep, inky blacks. Since nothing about Megamind hops outside the digital domain, nicks, tears, and flecks of dust on the source obviously aren't a sticking point, and the bitrate has enough headroom that I couldn't spot any sputters or stutters in the compression. No edge enhancement or noise reduction ever creeps in either. The only thing keeping that perfect five star rating out of reach is some shockingly heavy distortion in certain patterns. Whenever the camera whizzes past the Metro City skyline, a bunch of the windows start to moire up. (Wait, can I use "moire" as a verb?) The same thing happens on a triumphantly raised churro, of all things, and even in the scraggly beard of one character fairly late in the game. The sum total of this aliasing added together is just a few seconds, so I'm not gonna pretend it's a dealbreaker or anything, but this is still a kind of surprising thing to see in this day and age, especially with such a high profile title. It's severe enough that I bet it'd stand out even to people who aren't A/V geeks like I am. If you can look past that, though...!

Oh, and since Megamind comes packaged with a handy dandy DVD, that makes snapping screenshot comparisons a breeze. If you wanna get a taste of just how much better the movie looks in 1080p, click on any of the images below.
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Megamind's AVC encode spans both layers of this BD-50 disc, and the image is letterboxed to preserve its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1.


Audio
Megamind is lugging around a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, which means it's like...5.1, only two better! I don't have enough speakers to take full advantage of all that, but even on my six-channel rig, Megamind is about as good as it gets. Even outside of the over-the-top, metropolis-flattening battles, the sound design is exceptionally immersive. When Megamind whirls around on a wheeled little chair, it pans across every single speaker. Everything from popcorn to jangling keys to scattered debris to the grinding gears of a superpower-dandruff-distill-o-thon explode into the surrounds. Some of the back-and-forth banter is sweetened with a bit of subtle stereo separation too. The mix really roars to life when the action amps up, what with an invisible sedan careening around and half a skyscraper being chucked down the street and all. Every last sound effect and line of dialogue is rendered cleanly, clearly, and distinctly in the mix, and even with as chaotic as things can get, the voice acting always keeps its head above water. With fifty-foot tall robots stomping around and death rays being blasted from space, bass response is expectedly solid. I was hoping it'd have at least a little more kick than this, though. My subwoofer wasn't collecting dust or anything, but the action in Megamind didn't rattle the room the way I was expecting it to. Otherwise, though, the lossless audio on Megamind is pretty much perfect.

There are also Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs in French, Spanish, and Portuguese, and an English descriptive service track is also tagging along for the ride. Subtitles are served up in English (traditional and SDH), French, Spanish, and Portuguese.


Extras
A pretty hefty percentage of the extras are Blu-ray-exclusive, just in case you're still mulling over what format to grab Megamind on.
  • Megamind: The Button of Doom (16 min.; HD): This high-def short picks up the day after where Megamind leaves off. That means digging too much into the premise gets a little spoiler-ish for the movie it's spinning out of, but the short answer is that Megamind's rummaging through a bunch of his old,
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    evil gadgets and stumbles onto a button. He doesn't know what it does or what kind of nefarious scheme it was meant to unleash, so...well, the only way to find out is to press it, right? Oops! Turns out it's one of Megamind's better plans to flatten Metro City, and now he's gotta figure out how to stop something that's designed to be unstoppable.

    By the way, "The Button of Doom" sports the same technical specs as the movie proper, all the way down to the eight-channel lossless audio. David Cross and Will Ferrell both return to field all the voice acting too.

  • Deleted Scene (2 min.; HD): This little snippet is too short to really qualify as a scene -- it's mostly just a super-short gag with a tube of toothpaste -- but it's still kinda neat to see it on here. After adding in a brief video introduction, the whole thing clocks in right at a minute and a half.

  • Meet the Cast of Megamind (9 min.; HD): The first featurette chats about lining up a cast of comedians-slash-actors, what each of the voice actors brings to the table, what sets these characters apart from the standard issue comic book crowd, and how improv was encouraged in the recording booth. There's some pretty amazing conceptual art scattered around in here too.

  • Inside Megamind's Lair (7 min.; HD): Character design! Costume design! Production design...and, yeah, as you could probably guess from the title, that includes Megamind's lair chock-full of nefarious knick-knacks. Again, the conceptual art steals the show, especially the very different ideas being tossed around for Megamind and the reveal that Minion was originally envisioned as a dumpy, stout little human-person.

  • AnimatorMan (2 min.; HD): The animators shot a bunch of reference footage of themselves acting out scenes from the movie to guide their work in the digital domain, and snippets of that have been spliced together in here. You get to compare their home videos with storyboards and the final, polished footage from Megamind.

  • You Can Draw Megamind (13 min.; HD): One of the lengthiest extras on this disc runs viewers through how to draw Megamind running away from an explosion...or, well, whatever you opt to have chasing after him. It's really great to see this level of detail too.

  • MegaRap (1 min.; HD): This minute-long TV spot is, um, a rap. But you probably figured that part out already...

  • The Reign of Megamind (HD): The comic book that was handed out at the Megamind panel at Comic Con last summer (and, he types pushing up his glasses, I was there) is also on this Blu-ray disc with a pretty slick interface to smoothly pan from panel-to-panel.

  • Spot the Difference (HD): Think the game from Highlights magazine on a shiny Blu-ray disc. Two images are placed side-by-side, and you've gotta spot what's different between 'em. There are several difficulty levels and varying numbers of changes per round. It's not super-interactive, so you're kind of on the honor system about how many you get right.

  • Behind the Mind (HD): Hey, still galleries! There's oodles more conceptual art piled on in here, including peeks at lairs, Megamind's sinister arsenal, a fleet of Megamindmobiles, and character designs. These designs
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    stem from when the filmmakers had already landed on the general look for these characters, so they aren't as wildly different as what's showcased in some of the other extras.

  • Comic Creator (HD): This feature basically lets you drop word balloons and Batman-'66-style "BIFF!" "POW!"-esque bubbles over different scenes from the movie. It's really not fun to goof around with, and even though you can save your work when you're done, you can't really do anything cool or clever enough that'd make you wanna come back and watch it again later.

  • Audio Commentary: Director Tom McGrath is joined by writers Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons as well as producers Lara Breay and Denise Nolan Cascino for Megamind's commentary track. It's a pretty terrific commentary too, touching on how Megamind was originally envisioned as a live-action feature, how the first draft of the screenplay was written completely over the phone, putting together one crew that did nothing but fiddle with cape movements, swiping a bike model from Bee Movie, and how Guillermo del Toro gave Megamind a last minute polish.

  • The Animators' Corner: Megamind's picture-in-picture feature dishes out a little bit of everything. The foundation of it is still the audio commentary, and you get to catch video of those five folks as it was being recorded. A big chunk of the 99,590 storyboards for the movie are also lobbed out here, along with animatics, conceptual art, reference video shot by the animators, and footage of the voice actors in front of the mic. There are some interviews with the cast and crew too, including everything from cape dynamics to how to best plunk rain onto an invisible car and even what it looks like to throw half a skyscraper down a city street.

  • Trivia Track: ...and last up is a pretty solid subtitle trivia track. Some of the in-jokes lurking in the background are highlighted here. There are also running tallies of face-smashes and Megamind-ian mispronounciations. My favorite thing about it, though, is all the numbers that are tossed around: the reveal that Metro Tower is just a little bit bigger than the tallest building in the real world, the number of raindrops in the torrential downpour, the turnout for Metro Man's museum unveiling, how many cars are tooling around the streets of Metro City, the speed of Metro Man in flight, how many pizza boxes are littered around Hal's pad, and the exact number of storyboards sketched for the movie. I'd recommend pairing it with the audio commentary although there is some overlap between 'em.

The Final Word
I had kind of the same reaction with Megamind that I did with Dreamworks' Monsters vs. Aliens a couple years back. It feels like the premise is tailor-made for me, I'd get all ridiculously excited popping in the Blu-ray disc, and then I kind of just politely stare at the screen for an hour and a half. Sure, I like both of these movies, and they really do pull off a lot of stuff really well, but they're still just not nearly as funny, engaging, or exciting as what I'd waltzed in hoping to see. After marveling at the terrific How to Train Your Dragon, I was really hoping Dreamworks would knock it out of the park the second time in a row, but...nope. Curses! Foiled again! Rent It.
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