LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Superheroes have all the fun, right? Not in “Megamind,” the new 3D film in theaters on Friday. Sure, it is a superhero movie, but the animated comedy comes with a big twist: the super-villain, not the hero, wins the day and gets the girl.
Imagine a world where Lex Luthor defeats Superman and wins the heart of Lois Lane in the process, and one gets some idea of how the makers of “Megamind” have turned the comic book world of crime fighters and caped crusaders upside down.
“I love this premise which I felt was so original,” Megamind Will Ferrell told Reuters, “and to get to be in a film with this cast is the most exciting part in a way for me.”
Ferrell voices the role of the maniacal and somewhat hapless villain, while Brad Pitt puts life into the crime fighter Metro Man and Tina Fey is the Lois Lane-style reporter Roxanne Ritchi.
Much like Superman, the blue-skinned, green-eyed Megamind and the suave, handsome Metro Man are sent to Earth as babies by their parents because their own planet is being swallowed by a black hole.
But once on the planet, very different fates befall them. Metro Man grows up in a loving, well-adjusted family to become a hero who uses his super powers to do good, while Megamind finds himself raised in a prison where inevitably he begins his life of crime.
For years, the evil but inept Megamind tries to defeat Metro Man and take over Metro City, but his plans always end in spectacular failure until the unthinkable finally happens, he wins. As a bonus, he earns the affection of Roxanne.
Yet, in victory Megamind inadvertently removes his sole purpose in life, and thus sets up the real story of Megamind, in which the villain slips into a sort of existential crisis and must learn who he is and how to love.
The film’s plot evolved from an early premise, said director Tom McGrath. “What if Superman were out of the picture and Lex Luther and Lois Lane realized they had more in common than they thought? It is an epic superhero movie but at the heart of it is a very intimate love story, and that’s where casting really became invaluable with Tina and Will.”
The movie features two of today’s hottest comedy stars in Ferrell and Fey. The “30 Rock” star joked with reporters that while she has had little experience working on animated films, she was well-versed at playing reporters by virtue of her former job as the anchor of the faux news segment on TV sketch comedy show “Saturday Night Live.”
“I am one of America’s foremost fake reporters,” Fey said. “I really like that in this story (Roxanne) is a modern version of (Lois Lane). She’s active and intelligent, and she looks like Sharon Osbourne.
“I like her short hair and I like that she’s brunette and I like that she has an ample can. I’m not going to lie to you. I really like how she’s drawn.”
“Megamind” is full of pop culture references, but the cape of Superman casts the longest shadow, from the chiseled do-gooder Metro Man to another character, Space Dad, also voiced by Ferrell, and obviously modeled after Marlon Brando’s performance as Jor-El in the 1978 film “Superman.”
Director McGrath said that while the cast stuck closely to the script, there was plenty of room for improvisation, and unlike many animated movies where actors work alone in a studio, for “Megamind “ McGrath put Ferrell and Fey together to record their characters.
Fey called the teamwork a “lucky” circumstance, and Ferrell agreed that the pair had “a great amount of freedom in terms of getting to come up with stuff on the spot.”
Giving the actors room to create helped many of the characters evolve, McGrath said, most importantly Space Dad.
McGrath said that the character originally appeared more like the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy than Brando. But Ferrell first came in to the studio to record and tried on the sort of lisp that Brando had used for Jor-El, which made the film’s makers laugh so much, they tried it out on other members of the cast and crew.
“They were laughing so hard that they didn’t even catch any of the dialogue so we knew that was going to work for the movie,” McGrath said.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Jill Serjeant