The Incredibles (2004)

While comic book movies are shooting to audiences in theaters at an almost rapid fire pace, very rarely does the film medium examine the person behind the superhero, the true human and “The Incredibles” does that. Few films such as the underrated “Unbreakable”, “Spider-Man 2” and “The Hulk” have taken the time to examine the psyche and basic mundane aspects of being a superhero and living with the persona as a human too. As a comic book geek since childhood I always relish the chance to catch my superheroes on the big screen despite the fact that rarely is the transference ever satisfying, but few films create their own heroes and then work from the ground up, and instead of focusing on the superhero aspect and then the human, films such as Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable” and this, work on focusing on the humanity and then the hero which is more secondary.

Director and writer Brad Bird’s films are very similar both in tone and structure. He has a sense of reality to a fantastic situation while not being afraid to discuss and basically conquer dark adult themes within the story, and Bird has a knack for the dark, even in films like “Iron Giant” which had themes of death, war, and basic society paranoia. Bird, a rebellious and outspoken worker of the system in Hollywood is a yet to be discovered and marketed artist and “The Incredibles” is a true accomplishment to be proud of which is an amazing fantasy tale while confronting issues of violence, marital troubles, adultery and monotony. Pixar has taken a smart move and managed to enlist the help of Bird whose pet project was a moneymaking, commercial and critical accomplishment. Perhaps now studios can start taking chances. Anyway, “The Incredibles” does the really difficult task of taking the superhero mythos and drops it down in reality.

What if Superman was sued for saving a person during a train robbery for accidentally hurting them? What if Batman punched out a villain and the villain decided to exercise their rights and sue him for unnecessary force? It’s those questions posed during this story, but don’t be fooled, this is a very fun, very funny movie with the usual clichés of the hero genres; the costumes, the one-liners, the villains with wordplay names like a mad bomber villain named Bomb Voyage, and a miner villain named the Under-Miner. Regardless, the fact Bird so skillfully takes this mythology and wonder and places it into the reality (Why capes are bad ideas for a superhero, the importance of a good costume, etc.) spectrum where superheroes just aren’t needed. I have never tried so hard to watch a movie since “Shaun of the Dead”, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch this in theaters, so when it landed on DVD, I snatched this up!

The city of Metroville is in constant peril and there are a lot of superheroes who pride themselves in working for the greater good, including the heroes Elastigirl, Mr. Incredible, and Frozone, but when Mr. Incredible saves a man attempting to commit suicide, doesn’t want to be saved, the man sues Mr. Incredible and begins a chain reaction of lawsuits against all of the superheroes in the city. The heroes, now codenamed “Supers” are then forced into early retirement and are relocated by the government being forced to work as average citizens, but when the unhappy Bob Parr is called out of retirement to a mysterious island, he must sneak behind his wife’s back to get back in the game. Mr. Incredible is caught and now the rest of the Parr family must journey to the island to save him before the evil Syndrome kills him. Bird tackles not only the dark themes of life in normality, but also manages to tackle even more social commentary about how society rewards mediocrity and basically shuns away anything exceptional or outstanding based simply on fear.

That in itself is cause for Bob and Helen to experience marital woes as they’re forced to suppress their amazing abilities while they have children born with amazing abilities and force them to suppress theirs despite their curiosity. The characters fit their powers and within their seeming perfections, they also have some minor bugs that they have yet to master, yet somehow Bird keeps it down to reality yet again. Mr. Incredible is the strong man who still has problems keeping his powers under control, Elastigirl is a woman who can get stuck pretty easily, Frozone is such an incredible character with the representation of not only his costume but the way he seems to ice skate along his ice powers, but he can only make ice if he’s hydrated and or if he’s near water which helps his powers naturally, and then there’s Violet who feels invisible most of the time, and her power calls for invisibility, while Dash, the kid with ADD has super-speed.

Pixar tops themselves again with their incredible animation with amazing characters, backgrounds and terrains that we’re thrown in to, and it will hook any child or comic book fan. Pixar spares no detail whether insignificant ranging from the individual strands of hair on a character, right down to the sheen of the costumes. Excellent animation is pretty much a given with Pixar as is the voice acting.

They seem to bring it out of the stars who manage to pull in great performances including Craig T. Nelson as Mr. Incredible, Holly Hunter as Elastigirl, Spencer Fox as Dash, and my favorites, essayist Sarah Vowell as Violet, Jason Lee who sounds like he’s having a lot of fun playing the very cool villain Syndrome, and, the biggest bad ass in Hollywood, Samuel L. Jackson as Frozone. The performances are all very good to watch and there’s plenty of chemistry between the characters to make for one amazing adventure. As for the characters, there’s a lot to like here with a colorful cool assortment of characters and villains. While as a character I related more to Violet and her sense of feeling vulnerable and invisible, Dash is my favorite character, because while all of the other heroes treat their powers as burdens, he looks like he’s having a lot of fun with his, and we get to see that in the exciting chase sequence with the hovercrafts reminiscent of “Return of the Jedi”.

All the while we’re given some great on-screen gags including some great fight sequences, epic battles with robots, and the gag with the youngest child Jack Jack whose powers have yet to show, if he has any, and in the fun climax we find it out and you won’t be disappointed. I loved this movie. Comic geeks such as moi will really instantly notice the similarity in story and characters with the Incredibles and a certain fantastic four. The similarities are so blatant that at times it was pretty distracting, though Bird declares it as a tribute, I viewed it more like taking from something and using it in your movie. Ripping off is the term. While the characters within the family are really focused on to seem as individuals, they never pull it off because they don’t focus enough on the important aspects; the children.

Couldn’t there have been minor sub-plots involving Dash and Violet within the fold of the adventure? I don’t think that would have hurt too badly. If you’re worried about the violence for your children, you should be. There’s a bit intense violence for the kids that may not sit well with parents where killing is a basic foundation of the villains, people attempt to commit suicide, people get hurt badly, and we even see someone get beaten up in an alley. It’s more shadows and motion but kids will make out what’s happening pretty easily. While I took issue with certain violent sequences, I was stunned by how Pixar manages to top themselves again and again with amazing animation, great characters, fun exciting adventures, and a story that breaks down the superhero mythos with dark undertones. This is an amazing movie.