Hello all! It’s nice to be back! I am still pregnant and actually still not in great shape because of it, but at this point, I’m mostly just exhausted instead of outright sick. And during this hiatus, I got the chance to work through most of the movies I own with my kid because while I’d ordinarily like to limit her screentime…you do what you gotta when you’re sick or too tired to do much.
And that means I got to watch one of my own favorite movies again, Megamind. Watching Megamind is all kinds of nostalgic for me, since many of the times I saw it, including the first, involve wacky hijinks or at least wacky people. It also often reminds me about the interesting disparity between what I expected the film to be and what it was. The trailers presented it as, “This is an action hero story from the villain’s perspective!” but most people I talk to agree that that’s…not…really what it was. Heck, Despicable Me did a better job of telling a villain’s story, as a villain’s story, than Megamind did. (That said, while I like both movies, my own personal preference is still for Megamind). And that’s simply because Megamind isn’t and never was a villain.
He only ever played villain, and as well as he might have filled the part, his motivation behind everything makes it pretty clear that he wasn’t ever a real villain. And this is incredibly important to note because amatuerish villains are barely more real villain than Megamind ever was – and in a big way, less so, because the writer generally (if not always) fails to make his villain a real person, whereas Megamind is wonderfully rounded out with real motivations and feelings and it is on purpose that he is only filling a role handed to him – which is kind of the point of the movie.
Now don’t get me wrong, Megamind filled the part beautifully – he knew all the things a villain does and he did them and he did them pretty well.
But he didn’t do any of those things because he’s a villain, he did them because that’s what he was supposed to do as a villain, and pretending to be a villain meant he could fit in and have a place in the world. All it takes is listening to the prologue for this to be crystal clear – he felt left out, confused, lost, and realized he could fit in if he played villain. The fact that he is not a villain, and still has to find his real place because he is not really a villain, is also reiterated throughout the movie. Metroman felt like he was also shoved into a role he didn’t care for, doing what others expected him to and failing to be true to who he really was; he tells Megamind that it’s now time for Megamind to find out who he really is, indicating he believes the same of Megamind. And the movie ends with Megamind declaring that destiny is the path we choose for ourselves, not what appears to be handed to us. The moral of the movie is tied to the fact that Megamind isn’t a villain.
No part of the movie makes it more clear that he’s not a real villain, to me, than when he takes over the city and crashes. His motivation to take over the city was “that’s what villains do,” rather than a real desire to control the city. A real villain? They have a real desire, for one reason or another, to have power over others. Sometimes it’s a noble goal in the eyes of the villain:
So back to what this means for our villains – remember my five main points of villainy, most specifically, the one about evil deeds? Where I said that a villain isn’t evil because he does bad stuff; he does bad stuff because he is evil? Yeah, this is a prime example of someone who is trying to be a villain because he does bad stuff. And he does do some bad things. Like I said, he plays the part of villain well. But it doesn’t make him a villain. Contrast in the same movie, Titan/Hal:
He was supposed to be a hero, but instead he becomes a villain – a real villain – because his motivations are sour and unlike Megamind, he doesn’t view his participation as a game. He actually wants power over other people. At the very least, he wanted power over Roxanne. Who knows how he might have developed if he hadn’t been conquered so quickly? But I’m gonna guess a man motivated by pain and frustration to scare and bully others was not going to go in any good direction.
When you compare Megamind and Titan, and their actions, and whose actions were worse, that’s a comparison between someone who does bad things to be a villain, and someone who does bad things because he is a villain. Compare an evil act both performed: kidnapping Roxanne. Roxanne was part of the act with Megamind, and being a savvy woman, was not afraid of him. She knew how the script went. And when she found herself in private with him after he took over the city, they still spoke to each other as intimate acquaintences, no assailant and victim. But she’s a true hostage when Titan kidnaps her. She is clearly honestly afraid for her life, and much more. And they still are close acquaintences, and that’s still part of their conversation, but you can see how the relationship has evolved to include real fear.
Even if Megamind’s villainry was more refined, it was still clearly an act.
If you stick yourself, the writer, as a character into Megamind, you are Destiny. You are the one who casts the die, to callback to the start of the film. And if your villain is Megamind, he’s someone who isn’t evil and doesn’t belong in the villain’s role, but you need a villain and that’s where you decided he fits, so that’s where you’re sticking him, directing his actions to be evil again and again when his heart is somewhere else. And even if he does a good job…he’s not a real villain, and the audience is going to see that one way or another, whether because you have to force him to act against his will so often that he goes limp and becomes cardboard, or as the audience begins to furrow their brow at your labeling him a villain when they can clearly see there’s more to him than that. Megamind was never a real villain because he was just filling a role; if you want your villain to be real, he can’t do the same thing.