Umm… why isn’t there a sequel for this yet?
I don’t want that opening statement to mislead my readers. The Incredibles, in spite of its title, is just an average Pixar effort. It has most of the usual Pixar stuff: great visuals, funny gags, fair share of action, one of Pixar’s better soundtracks, and even Pixar storytelling, all let down by Pixar’s first bothersome story. I’m just wondering why Pixar are willing to make Car sequels, which are clearly cash grabs, when they could actually please fans of a movie which was (and still is) actually left somewhat open-ended. For all the able decisions Pixar makes, I just don’t understand this one.
The Unique Premise
One word: Watchmen.
No, I am not talking about Zach Snyder’s Watchmen in 2009–that would be rather precarious. I am talking about Watchmen the DC comic published in 1986 and 1987. Now, I’m actually not a big comic book guy, so I’m going to have to go off of Snyder’s apparently faithful adaption: the concept of superheros being rejected by society and forced into secret lives is not unique to The Incredibles. In fact, people would be justified for saying The Incredibles is a rip-off of DC’s Watchmen and Marvel’s Fantastic Four in 1961. Nonetheless, I still think The Incredibles has an incredibly unique premise: portray a superhero family in an animated film targeted for non-superhero families. And for all the anthropomorphic stuff Pixar was so successful at during the time, it’s interesting it was at their peak with Finding Nemo in 2003 that they decided to finally animate humans as main characters. And while we’re on the topic, the humans actually look really good in a cartoony sort of way. I guess it’s a testament to how willingly versatile and confident Pixar was at the time (and still are!).
We have another character dealing with depression in this Pixar flick. He went by the name, Mr. Incredible, but was sued for doing superhero things and subsequently forced into leading a normal life with his superhero family. Going by the name Bob Parr, he gleefully rescues citizens from fires and such when he’s not working at an insurance company. Logically, not being invested in his job and having a prick for a boss leads Mr. Incredible to getting fired and so he takes on a secret job fighting off Syndrome’s, this movie’s antagonist, prototype robots. But with all secrets, how long can Mr. Incredible keep this away from his family? How long can Mr. Incredible keep fighting off Syndrome’s increasingly indestructible machines? Hence, the adventure.
In concept, the general set-up of the story is fine. Maybe a little bit more predictable than the previous Pixar outings, but still good enough to thrill and excite. It’s the little details that bog the movie down. Consider this: Mr. Incredible is sued for saving a man… who was attempting suicide. He gets fired from his job. He hates his life. The color is sucked right out of the screen, and no Ellen DeGeneres voiced comic relief character comes to save the day. There is simply no joy for children in this first act of the movie. Had this been an adult’s film, I probably would thoroughly enjoy this stuff, but like in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Pinocchio, I could not help but to wonder: would I show my kids The Incredibles?
The Pixar Moment
Eventually, Mr. Incredible gets captured by Syndrome and his family comes to rescue him. Syndrome launches missiles at their plane, and after a confirmed hit, Mr. Incredible believes he has paid the price for not appreciating his family. What he doesn’t know is that they survived the hit, and they eventually rescue their father.
In the midst of a lot of action involving Syndrome, his latest robot model, and a superhero friend of Mr. Incredible named Frozone, there is a really great moment in the film that almost single-handedly redeems the troublesome plot. It is so good, in fact, I’ll let the dialogue speak for itself.
Elastigirl: While what? I watch helplessly from the sidelines? I don’t think so.
Mr. Incredible: I’m asking you to wait with the kids.
Elastigirl: And I’m telling you, not a chance. You’re my husband, I’m with you – for better or worse.
Mr. Incredible: I have to do this alone.
Elastigirl: So you can be Mr. Incredible again?
Mr. Incredible: No!
Elastigirl: Then what? What is it?
Mr. Incredible: I’m not strong enough.
Elastigirl: Strong enough? And this will make you stronger?
Mr. Incredible: Yes. No!
Elastigirl: That’s what this is? Some sort of work out?
Mr. Incredible: I can’t lose you again! I can’t. Not again. I’m not strong enough.
Elastigirl: If we work together, you won’t have to be.
Mr. Incredible: I don’t know what will happen…
Elastigirl: Hey, c’mon. We’re superheros. What could happen?
This… is… brilliant! Mr. Incredible is genuinely affected by the events that occur in the story. The dialogue perfectly balances the tone from becoming overly sentimental. Elastigirl is a butt-kicking feminist superhero.
But then why does Mirage not affect Mr. Incredible at all? She saved his life! What’s her happy ending?
Why does Incrediboy, AKA Syndrome when he was Mr. Incredible’s biggest fan, not affect Mr. Incredible at all? Mr. Incredible learns not to work alone in this conversation with his wife. He says to Syndrome: I was wrong to treat you that way. I’m sorry…
It may seem like I am imposing my own personal dislikes and likes into the story, but that is not the case. I would not be complaining about these story elements if they hadn’t taken the time to develop Mirage as a dynamic character. If they hadn’t taken the time to develop Syndrome as a psychologically driven character. If Mirage’s only function in the story was to fly a rocket for the Incredible family, then why give her so much screen time? Just have one of your main characters fly that rocket. If Syndrome’s only function in the story was to be killed by Mr. Incredible at the end, then have him be the most wicked villain worthy of death. Don’t make Syndrome Mr. Incredible’s biggest fan. What are you doing Pixar?!?
I meant to have this review be a movie review (as compared to a longer full review) but The Incredibles is such a mixed bag that I have spent a great deal thinking about it. That is why I have so many things to say. I’ve already omitted an official climax section to this review in order to cut down on the word count. In the end, I think The Incredibles is a movie that people can love, and people can hate. It actually really surprises me that almost everyone ignored (didn’t notice?) all the story problems in The Incredibles and decided to love the stuff that was great.
Ah, screw it. I like this film too, guys. As long as you walk in expecting a superhero movie, not a Pixar movie, I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised by the incredible story of The Incredibles family.
Final Grade: B (84%)–The Incredibles hurdles its problematic plot with a touching family story.