Megamind – Movie Review
Review by Stacey Tuttle
I have been perusing some of the comments and reviews about Megamind. Some focus on the positive elements: the rather clean sense of humor, the redemptive qualities and the idea of destiny, often quoting the line, “destiny is not the path that’s given to us but the path we choose for ourselves.” Others focus on the movie’s take on good and evil complaining that, especially for young children, it’s a confusing message when the hero and the villain are both such mixed bags of the laudable and reprehensible. However, I think it’s just that mixed bag which provides a great opportunity to explore the concept of motives and provides some real insight not only into people in general, but also potentially into what our children may need to develop into the right kind of people.
Megamind (the bad guy) and his nemesis Metroman (the superhero) had opposite environments growing up, the one was raised in a prison and the other in a picture-perfect home. However, I think it was more than their environment that was responsible for their differing paths. I think it has a lot to do with the differences in their natures. Metroman was a born pleaser. He loved to be in the spotlight. And what pleased others, what brought him praise and attention, was being good. The better he was, the more adulation he got.
Of course, Megamind certainly had a bit of pleaser in him, too, but he was overshadowed by Metroman and eventually sought attention in the only way it seemed accessible: super villainy. Unfortunately, he failed at being a good criminal just as much as he failed at being a hero. But that was okay. Megamind didn’t actually thrive on being a bad guy – he thrived on conflict. As long as he had Metroman to try to defeat, he was reasonably content, in spite of his track record of dastardly failures.
But Metroman eventually burned out and gave it all up. And that is precisely where his true nature became most apparent. Think about it: if Metroman had really been a true hero at heart, he would never have taken the opportunity to disappear from the public realm. But trying to please everyone eventually wore him out because he wasn’t really trying to help anyone…he was only satisfying his own selfish needs through the adulation of others. Eventually, though, the effort of meeting their needs outweighed the personal satisfaction he got from being adored. So, he disappeared. He quit being a hero—because though his actions were heroic, his motives never really were. Trying to please others is not truly heroic. True heroism is motivated by a true desire to do what is right, not what is popular.
Megamind’s lack of true evil intent is perhaps more obvious. We see things from his perspective—his jilted beginning, his failed attempts to do good, his “evil” education/nurturing, etc. We also see that Roxanne (the required love interest) was never afraid for her life in his presence, though she had been captured by him and threatened with torture and death numerous times. Megamind didn’t actually plan to succeed in his evil schemes, he simply longed for a challenge…and probably some notice along the way.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that evil actions are good just because the motives aren’t pure evil. Bad actions are still bad. Let’s get that straight. In fact, whether or not he thought he would succeed in killing Metroman, we are left to believe for quite a while that he did. I think this helps drive home the fact that no matter how innocuous Megamind’s motives were, there were still consequences to his bad actions. Granted, he kind of got off the hook when he found out Metroman wasn’t actually dead, but he didn’t learn his lesson, and has to face the consequences again when he creates another superhero to battle. Sounds like a good thing, right? But, again, his actions lack judgment and there are serious consequences. So, bad actions and bad motives are still bad, and both have consequences.
Still, Megamind’s motivation is what intrigues me most. I think there is a lot we can learn from understanding motivation in others, especially for those of us who have kids or work with youth. Megamind was just contrary. He had a rather perverse streak in him, one that ran counter to what was easy and accepted. He loved a challenge. When the challenge came in the form of a hero, he attempted to be a villain (but without the heart to be a great one, since he lacked the stomach for true evil). And then, when the challenge came in the form of something villainous, he suddenly rose to the occasion and became a hero.
The ideal situation is for someone to mature and become that person who does good for the sake of doing good. The person who becomes truly heroic – motivated neither by pleasing others nor by opposing others, but by true purpose. However, that takes maturity. It is something we feel Megamind grows into in the end. But in reality, most people don’t begin life with the maturity and clarity to pursue good for its own sake. So, what motivates you? Are you doing the right things, but in all honesty you just do them so you don’t rock the boat? Do you just want to make others happy or keep things simple? Or are you on the other side, acting out contrary to your environment, just because you can’t quite stomach going with the flow?
If you have children or students, the question of motivation becomes a critical question. If they are of the pleasing sort, they need to be surrounded by others who are doing right things. But if they are of the contrary sort, they might benefit from having a few “negative” influences around – people for them to rub against…to struggle against. This may affect the type of school that is best for them. It may affect the way you teach – should you encourage or play devil’s advocate? And it certainly takes some prayer in either case as you hope and pray that they mature in their motivations, moving toward truly doing right for right’s sake.
One final note, the greatest motivation for Megamind, the ennobling factor, was love. No matter how you are wired or motivated, everyone is wired for love. We all find ourselves ennobled when we find a true, pure love. This is where Jesus comes in. Jesus gives us a reason to fight for what’s right. Jesus purifies our motives. In the desire to move from lesser motives to greater ones, in our growth to true heroism, nothing will propel us to that end like the love of Jesus.
Questions for Discussion:
- What motivates you—pleasing others or going against the grain?
- Can you see past the actions of others to the deeper motivations behind them?
- As you relate to others, as manager, coach, parent, leader…are you tempted to judge and regulate behaviors or do you get to the heart behind those actions?
- Have there been times in your life when good motives weren’t enough to make up for bad actions?
- How do you think you can help people move towards a desire to do right purely because it’s right (and not for the sake of pleasing or being contrary)?
- Do you believe that a pure love is an ennobling motivator—the stuff that makes heroes?
- Can you think of examples of great heroes who were motivated by love? (A few to start with… Braveheart and Gladiator – both were motivated by love…for a woman, country, freedom, truth.)
- If Jesus really did die for you – because he loves you and wants to save you from your sins—how does that change things for you? Would that love motivate you to be more heroic yourself?