What is it with Hollywood animation industry’s new-found fascination for villains as heroes these day? Agreed, villains make more colourful characters than the heroes. And, we are a little tired of seeing the good guy getting the girl every time.
I think the trend was somehow popularised by Shrek (2001), the story of an ogre who marries a princess. Three more films later, which have been released in the span of the last 10 years, villains are the new heroes in Hollywood animation films.
Last year, we saw two villains demanding our attention: Magamind, the eponymous villain turned hero, and Gru, aspirant of the greatest villain of the world title in Despicable Me. Both are well-made and entertaining pictures. But if you ask me to choose between the two, I would vote for Megamind. While the plot points of both the films are predictable, I enjoyed the grown-up approach in Megamind, and the classic superhero formula it mimics. Here, both Megamind and Metro Man are aliens. Despicable Me, on the other hand, is too realistic; actually with the introduction of the three cute girls, it makes the film look more like a fairy tale.
Another thing similar in both the film is the brilliant use of self-deprecatory humour. Both Megamind and Gru introduce themselves as villains, without qualms, and both are given their back-stories, the reasons why they decided to become villains.
After a Superman like journey from a dead planet, Megamind and his helper, Minion, a fish inside a suit in armour, land on our planet. On the way, he meets another castaway from another planet, who, as chance would have it, lands in a rich household. Poor Megamind, with a blue complexion and an extra-large head, lands in a jail, where he learns the tricks of the book. The rivalry between them grew when they started studying at the same school, and soon they grow up to be archrivals, saving and destroying Metro City. A classic comic book superhero situation, where the hero always wins the day, and the villain never stops making another plan. But, their latest showdown goes horribly wrong and Metro Man, the hero, is dead. Megamind becomes the evil overlord of the city. But, this was not what he wanted; he cannot remain a villain without a hero. So, he decides to create a hero with whom he could fight. At the some time, he starts falling for a TV journalist (Lois Lane, anyone.) You know what happens next, the love affair becomes a bumpy ride, and the intended hero appears to be more villainous with more powers than Megamind himself.
The best part of the film, apart from the fantastic animation work, is the voice performance by Will Ferrell, who with a few twist in intonation and pause, makes Megamind a well-rounded character. Observe how the mispronounce Metro City!
Despicable Me, on the other hand, is more cliché-ridden. Gru is a sociopath, whose only ambition in life to be the world’s greatest villain. When some young thief threatens to steal his thunder by stealing the, yes, Pyramid, Gru, with the help of his mad scientist aide, plans the ultimate heist, stealing the moon. But, for that he needs money, and the ‘shrink ray’. But the shrink ray is with someone else, and Gru cannot possibly penetrate the other thief’s castle. Then he decides that the three orphan girls who sell cookies door-to-door can be used for the purpose. Without much ado, he adopts the girl, of course, to disastrous consequences. Soon, from being a villain, Gru turns into world’s greatest dad. Sweet.