Megamind is one of those movies that I think was really hindered by its marketing, and specifically the desire to be overly coy. The impression that I got from the ad campaign was of a generic superhero movie, except the focus is on the villain. Interesting, but not terribly riveting, especially since it came out right around the same time as Despicable Me, a supervillain movie that at least had a clear premise.
But I caught it on cable a while back, and was impressed. See, they wanted so badly to push the whole “Hey, Brad Pitt’s a superhero” angle that they held back the most compelling detail: he dies ten minutes in. What looks like a generic superhero movie actually has a fascinating and largely unexplored premise: what happens when the villain wins?
Anyway, it’s a really good movie, and for a while it entered my sleepy-time rotation. (I need background noise in order to fall asleep, so a nice, familiar movie often fits the bill.) When you watch a movie over and over again every night, you tend to notice certain things.
To rewind a bit: One of the things this movie handles really well is its gadgets. None of this James Bondy one-and-done nonsense where the cool gadget serves precisely one purpose and then disappears. Instead, there are two or three of Megamind’s (Will Ferrell) inventions that reappear throughout the film and drive the action. One of these in particular is the watch pictured above, which generates a perfect disguise, including height, build, and voice.
Megamind uses the watch to escape prison at the beginning, then to disguise himself as Bernard, a curator at the Metro Man Museum, to avoid being caught in his pajamas by Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey). He ends up pursuing a relationship with Roxanne in the Bernard disguise… but still voiced by Will Ferrell, even though the few lines of dialogue that Bernard speaks as himself are provided by Ben Stiller.
This, of course, opens up a bunch of plot holes. Why did the voice duplication fail that one time? How did Roxanne, who’s been kidnapped by Megamind repeatedly, not only fail to notice the change in Bernard’s voice (after all, she spoke to the real one almost immediately before he’s replaced by Megamind), but place it? And hell, wouldn’t the real Bernard have been reported missing at some point, and wouldn’t Roxanne as a reporter have gotten wind of that? Noticing one inconsistency opens the door for a bunch of others, and starts to pull down the delicate house of cards that comprises any story.
Of course, there’s a very good extranarrative reason for this: without a consistent voice actor, it might be harder for the audience to track the character’s growth throughout the film. But my point, and a good takeaway for writers, is that extranarrative reasons aren’t enough. It has to work within the narrative as well.
It wouldn’t have been that hard, in this case. Have Will Ferrell voice both characters. Have someone comment that Bernard’s voice changed. Have Roxanne mention that he sounds kind of familiar, but dismiss the thought. With this, as with a lot of similar cases, half a moment’s acknowledgment would have been enough to smooth it over.
Obviously, this is a minor thing. I didn’t notice it at all until after repeated viewings of the film, and it doesn’t prevent me from enjoying it. (That’s what makes it fridge logic–the kind of thing that only occurs to you much later–as opposed to a plot hole that immediately jolts you out of the story.) But I think that minor inconsistencies like this are what prevents a good movie (or book, or play, or comic) from becoming a great one. Granted, getting caught up in trying to create something “great” is a dangerous trap that prevents creators from actually finishing their stuff, but learning to recognize these little nuances is a big part of how you develop your instinct for what makes a story work.