Will Ferrell and Tina Fey's animated superhero comedy, Megamind, is about an alien sent to Earth from his dying planet. Sound familiar? We thought it did, and the directors and stars confirmed the debt to Superman — with a twist.
The Megamind panel opened with a big surprise: Will Ferrell himself in full blue-face, dressed as the animated villain he voices. He was soon joined on stage by Tina Fey, who joked about an amorous encounter with a well-dressed Star Wars fan:
Later, Brad Pitt, who voices Megamind's nemesis Metro Man, was not quite present:
Then we were treated to an extended trailer for Megamind, one that reveals more of the movie's plot. The trailer opens with the superhero Metro Man grand-standing in front of a crowd — the same footage we saw in the first trailer. And, just as in the first trailer, Metro Man is interrupted by Megamind, who is launching his latest scheme. But after that, see the real meat of the story: Megamind actually succeeds in killing Metro Man (I won't spoil exactly how they reveal Metro Man's death, but it's a great parody of classic superhero moments), and manages to take over the city. Without a nemesis, Megamind finds himself getting bored, resorting to such mundane evils as using a giant robot to dunk a car in the city's reflecting pool. Meanwhile, crack reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey) fights to free the city from Megamind's clutches, and Megamind seems interested in Roxanne's coworker Titan (Jonah Hill).
Director Tom McGrath described Megamind as a movie that turns superhero conventions on their head, and says they worked to create a cast of characters that were inverted from what we expect. He described Metro Man as more having the "facade of a superhero" rather than being an actual superhero, and Roxanne Ritchi as a tough, competent reporter who never actually needs saving.
He also hinted at a big twist regarding the Jimmy Olsen-like character Titan. When Jonah Hill was asked about the twist, he said it was so key to the film that, if he revealed it, Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg would probably shoot an arrow through his head.
We only got a glimpse of the film, so the cast provided the bulk of the funny moments. Someone asked if, like Megamind, the cast members had their own nemeses.
Tina Fey thought for a moment, then replied:
Betty White is my nemesis and one day I will fight her in a ball of fire. It will be a glorious battle. We will wrestle live on Pay-Per-View.
Ferrell's answer was a bit less dramatic:
Oddly, my nemesis is Charlize Theron. I can't talk about it, but there's some bad blood there.
When asked what their greatest personal moment as an actor was, Fey and Ferrell decided to invent moments for each other. But after Ferrell claimed that Fey's personal apex was walking into a Ferrari dealership and driving off with a shiny new car, Fey became a bit more earnest:
On 30 Rock, we got Carrie Fisher to say "Help me, Liz Lemon. You're my only hope.
One audience member noticed that between Avatar, the upcoming Smurfs movies, and now Megamind, there's been a trend — toward blue 3D characters. He asked Ferrell, will we see an end soon?
"I hope not," Ferrell replied, then offered these words of wisdom to fans looking to cosplay Megamind:
My face is on fire. If you're going to do this, do it right. Don't got to the hardware store and use spray paint.
So it's hard to ignore how much of the story borrows from the Superman mythos. Both Megamind and his heroic nemesis Metro Man were sent away from their dying planets by their scientist parents, and both find their way to Earth. When you throw in Tina Fey's character, the Lois Lane-esque hard-hitting reporter and Metro Man love interest Roxanne Ritchi, the Superman influences shine through.
How deep does the homage go? We asked director Tom McGrath, who explained:
In the origin story, you can tell. And it's a big part of the movie, is it nature vs. nurture, are we predisposed to be evil or do we have a choice. So the fun part as an idea was to have this idea of these two pods coming from a dying galaxy - not an exploding sun but a black hole - and how the pods actually bounce off each other and where Megamind was intended to go was this mansion, but Metro Man's pod knocks [Megamind] into a prison. So a little bit of coincidence can change your life, but can you change your life?
Of course, the big difference is that here the supervillain actually defeats the hero, something that happens early on in the movie. In fact, McGrath mentioned that the growing romance between Megamind and Roxanne was his chance to explore whether Lex Luthor and Lois Lane could forge an unlikely bond if Superman was gone. He explained what attracted him to the story, and why animation was the perfect format for this story:
It felt unique for not just an animated movie but a superhero movie: what if the villain won and what would he do? It sounded like such a great idea. But for animation - I'm a huge superhero movie fan, but what always keeps me out of a superhero movie [is] when CG effects came around. Because, great as they were, I would realize when they went to CG effects from the characters. So when you're in a world of animation, you're dealing with characters, even caricatures, where the world is seamless because you don't get half those transitions going to the effects world. So for me it was fun to not only play in 3B but also make a world that's contiguous where the characters can do their own stunts.
McGrath also said that the movie is more adult than the other animated supervillain movie this year, Steve Carell's Despicable Me, and that it's more purely a superhero movie. He stressed it isn't a dark movie - despite the fact that Metro Man actually dies early on - but it's for slightly more adult audiences, as it tackles some sophisticated themes about what makes us who we are and how much we can shape our own destiny.
As for Will Ferrell and Tina Fey, they tackled the biggest question of all - would they want to do Megamind as a live action movie? Considering Will Ferrell showed up to the panel this morning in full Megamind makeup, we thought there was a good chance, but he seemed reluctant to commit to four hours of makeup each morning. Then Tina Fey asked him if a Broadway musical would work better, and his eyes lit up. Let's make Megamind a hit, everyone, because I definitely want to see a Broadway superhero musical starring Will Ferrell and Tina Fey. And the movie itself looks equal parts funny and fascinating for longtime superhero fans.
Top Image of Will Ferrell from CBS News.
Additional reporting by Lauren Davis.