Dreamworks recently released their slate of upcoming animated films, and the poster for their 2010 supervillain comedy Oobermind caught our eye. The film features the voices of Robert Downey Jr. and Tina Fey, but what is Oobermind actually about?
There are a lot of conflicting reports regarding Oobermind, which probably has something to do with the multiple changes to its cast, crew, and even title in the two years since it was first announced. Oobermind began life in April 2007 as Master Mind, written by first-time screenwriters Alan Schoolcroft and Ben Simons, with Ben Stiller attached to play the title supervillain. At the time, the story was said to be about "Master Mind, a baddie who goes into a depression when he accidentally kills off his archrival Uberman."
The project seemed to remain in stasis for over a year until August 2008, when it was announced that Robert Downey Jr., fresh from his career-revitalizing success in Iron Man and Tropic Thunder, was taking over the Master Mind role. Tina Fey also joined the cast around this time. Stiller, who was now also a producer on the film, had apparently switched to a different role.
An interview Stiller gave around the time of Downey Jr.'s casting shed some light on the project's history - including its origins as a live-action film - and provided a very different summary of the film's premise:
"It's a script that my company Red Hour got that was written as a live action movie but we thought it would work as an animated movie so we brought it to Jeffrey Katzenberg and now we're in pre-production.
"I'm in it and Robert Downey Jr. plays an evil superhero villain. Basically it's about a bad guy who loses to the good guy that he's fighting all the time, so he has to create another good guy for him to fight."
It's hard to know whether Stiller simply botched his explanation of what Master Mind was about. Certainly, it doesn't really fit with either the 2007 or 2009 versions of the story, both of which concern a villain who vanquishes his archenemy. Even so, it would appear the idea of a villain making his own hero did take hold at some point, as can be seen in the most recent synopsis, released last week:
When super villain Oobermind defeats his archrival Metro Man, the world should be his oyster. But instead, Oobermind falls into total despair. It turns out that life without a rival is life without a point for him. So he creates a new superhero rival. Unfortunately, the new hero wants to be a super villain too. Who can we turn to? Who has what it takes to stand up to this menace? Who will defend the innocent? Oobermind! That's who.
Master Mind also went through its fair share of directors as it evolved into Oobermind. Dreamworks animators Kyle Jefferson and Cameron Hood, co-directors of the 2006 short First Flight, were initially on board to helm the project, but they apparently dropped out in early 2008. IMDB listed Gary Trousdale, co-director of Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as the director around the time Robert Downey Jr. and Tina Fey signed on. Now Tom McGrath, director of the Madagascar films (both of which feature Stiller in the voice cast), has taken over Oobermind.
So, to recap what we know:
1. The film has always been about a supervillain. He was originally called Master Mind and was to be voiced by Ben Stiller, but now he's Oobermind and Robert Downey Jr. is playing him.
2. The supervillain has an archenemy that is a superhero. In 2007, this was Uberman, who was killed by Master Mind. In 2008, this superhero routinely defeats Master Mind. Now, the superhero is Metro Man and he is merely "defeated" - not necessarily killed - by Oobermind. In all three versions, the superhero does something to the supervillain that causes him to experience an existential crisis.
3. The supervillain creates another superhero to replace the original. In the latest version of the story, this supposed hero proves to be even more evil than Oobermind, forcing him to play the reluctant hero.
4. Ben Stiller was originally supposed to play the lead, then shifted over to producing and playing a supporting role, and he is now only listed as an executive producer.
5. Tina Fey is involved. Somehow.
Then there's this new poster for the film, which is worth a closer look.
Putting all of these facts together, I think it's fairly safe to conclude the blue guy with the giant brain is Oobermind (I mean, a mind that big is clearly of the oober variety). I'd say it's even safer to conclude the woman he's holding is Tina Fey's character. I would guess the superhero on the left is Metro Man and not the replacement superhero, considering it looks like he's doing the heroic thing and trying to thwart the villainous Oobermind. This means the one announced character we haven't seen yet is the superhero Oobermind creates. Although only Downey Jr. and Fey are currently listed as voice actors, I'd still say it's possible Ben Stiller will end up voicing either Metro Man or the new superhero.
The fact that Metro Man is (probably) on the poster suggests to me that the character has a more substantial role in the film than someone who is killed early on, as he would have been in the original Master Mind. As such, Oobermind probably doesn't kill Metro Man but instead manages to put him out of the picture for a lot of the story, which still allows him to make a climactic return.
I'm sure plenty more details about Oobermind will be revealed in the coming months, but we'll get our chance to learn exactly what's going on when the film is released. So mark your calendars for November 5, 2010 - it just might be worth it.