15 August 2006

Ink Blots XXV - The Incredibles

As good as this film is, I will resist the urge to lazily refer to it at any point in this review as "incredible." Brad Bird, director of the under- appreciated The Iron Giant, makes his Pixar debut directing this film (Next up for Brad is next summer's Ratatouille). The Incredibles is everything that a Fantastic Four movie should have been. This film masterfully presents a super family with internal and external conflict that is able to pull together in the end. Opening in November of 2004, The Incredibles earned the largest opening weekend and second largest total ($261 million) for any Pixar film.

The Incredibles opens during a golden age for Superfolk. Mr. Incredible (perfectly voiced by Coach Craig Nelson) is in his heyday. In the first few minutes he manages to stop a high speed chase, ditch Buddy, the annoying wannabe sidekick, foil Bomb Voyager the French bomber, and rescue a man falling from a sky-scraper. Unfortunately, that man he saved did not want to be saved. The man sues, and a flurry of lawsuits against "supers" follows, and superheroes are forced into retirement.

The story picks up fifteen years later. Mr. Incredible is now living the mundane life of an insurance claims agent. He has settled down with Elastigirl, and has a couple of superpowered kids (Dash and Violet). He and his buddy Frozone (Samuel Jackson on ice skates) long for the glory days and sneak out to fight crime at night. But when the mysterious Syndrome's scheme kicks in, the world will finally need the whole Incredible family to save the day.

The humor in this film is clever and truly funny. The superhero genre is parodied though still respected. Throughout the film, we are shown the perils of capes (the cause of several superheroes demise) and taught the term monologuing (when the villain goes off on a long speech revealing all of his plans rather than just offing the good guy). Also hilarious is the Q like character Edna Mode, a little gadget maker voiced by Bird himself. Another of this film's highlights is its score. The jazzy sleek music gives The Incredibles a retro spy feel that fits perfectly with the onscreen action (not to knock Randy Newman, a Pixar standby, but his style would not have really fit in here).

It is great how the heroes' powers compliment one another and fit the particular character. Mr. Incredible is super strong and nearly invulnerable, mom (Elastigirl) is always stretching, the young hyper Dash is super fast, and Violet, the adolescent girl wants to blend in and can turn invisible, and the baby Jack-Jack still has limitless potential.

I must mention that while possibly homages, there are a number of elements in this film the appear to be blatant rip-offs. I mentioned the Fantastic Four above, it' no coincidence they come to mind when watching this film. The Incredibles family is also pretty much four members. The dad and the Thing are both super strong. Elastigirl and Mr. Fantastic are both stretchy. Violet and The Invisible Woman can both turn invisible and can both create force fields. The only missing Fantastic is the human torch (homaged by Jack-Jack), replaced by a Flash clone in Dash. The Underminer, a villain that appears in the end of the feature is strikingly similar to the Fantastic Four's enemy Mole Man. Frozone slides on ice slides just like the X-men's Iceman. The Omnidorid's tentacles are quite reminiscent of those used by Doc Ock. Even the name Elastigirl (Helen Parr) was coined years ago by the Doom Patrol's Rita Farr. All of these "inspirations" would bother me a lot except that the execution of the film is so perfect that I can overlook these details. The Incredibles is so much better than the Fantastic Four movie that followed it, and even the acclaimed X-Men films never made use of the ice slides that Frozone makes look so "cool". Brad Bird should be given freedom to use any element of any superhero he wants in a much longed for sequel to The Incredibles. If it is not obvious, I love this movie. It is as near to perfect as a film can be and gets an A+.

The Iron Giant (Special Edition)

The Incredibles (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)


j said...

Also a favorite of mine. I feel like pretty much any reasonable superpower has already been had by some superhero, and that the point of the film was to have a comedic look at superheroes. To require brand new superpowers would mean having people with obscure powers like the people on that reality show you reviewed. The powers shown were what I would call traditional superpowers, the only one really missing being the ability to fly.

Probably my favorite Pixar film, although Toy Story 2 ranks right up there.

Chip Chief said...

you may be right that the "core" powers are what the incredibles happen to have, but they are still quite similar to the fantastic four. more so than to any other team. the x-men for example have telekinesis, telepathy, healing powers, eye lasers, and as you mentioned flight. These are also common powers, and are not present in the Parr family. i wouldnt expect them to all have new powers, nor am i unhappy with the powers they have. but i just think its a bit silly that some of those involved with the incredibles claim they had no idea that their chacters were similar to the fantastic four. yeah right.

toast said...

Again, I bring up the point of animated believability and live action believability. The fact that made this movie so good is the believability that animation brings to the picture.

It also had a great, meaningful story whereas Fantastic Four did not.

This film is top notch. I can wait to see Ratatouille

j said...

I guess you could call some of the X-men powers "core" powers, but I think flight is really the only one that the mainstream audience would associate with traditional superpowers. And yes, its silly to suggest they aren't similar to the F4.