The Incredibles (2004)

Posted by on Dec 30, 2011 in Comics & Superheroes | 0 comments

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Disclaimer: Some violent attacks against robots, villains, and middle class mediocrity.

While kids can sit back and enjoy the funny and thrilling barrage of action sequences and chase scenes in Pixar’s The Incredibles, on a deeper level parents will realize its subtle references to Bond films and superhero serials, not to mention its bold analysis of life in the working class.

We follow Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), a traditional superhero who will just as quickly fetch a cat stuck in a tree for an old lady as catch a pair of bank robbers. He’s the biggest, strongest, and most-loved superhero in Metroville (a mix of Superman’s Metropolis and Smallville) until he saves a man who was attempting to commit suicide. After a class-action lawsuit, dozens of others follow and all the superheroes are doomed to live out their lives as their boring alter-ego identities.

Thus, Mr. Incredible and his wife The IncrediblesElastigirl (Holly Hunter) become Bob and Helen Parr. Bob spends his days packed into a cubicle for an insurance company, while Helen stays in the suburbs with their children: rebellious speedster Dash (Spencer Fox), shy and invisible Violet (Sarah Vowell), and infant Jack Jack (Eli Fucile and Maeve Andrews). On Wednesday evenings, Monsieur Incredible and fellow superhero Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) listen to the police scanner and relive the glory days with minor heroics.

As you can imagine, however, Señor Incredible grows weary of this life of mediocrity and finds new hope as the mysterious Mirage (Elizabeth Pena) offers him the assignment of battling a super race of robots on a volcanic island. The plot thickens, however, as the diabolical inventor Buddy (who originally wanted to be Incredible’s sidekick) hopes to create an unbeatable robot that only he can destroy, thus making him the superhero Syndrome (Jason Lee). Though the family was ordered not to use their powers ever again, they must join forces to battle evil.

Primarily the film hinges on fans of the superhero genre and contains several prototypical themes and scenes as such. But overall it plays out as a souped-up James Bond flick with similarities in music, action, and environment. Plus, let us not forget the Q character in fashion guru Edna Mode (better known as “E”). Edna (voiced by writer/director Brad Bird) is the most enjoyable character, as she sticks to her no-cape policy and develops high-tech suits for the family, all while personably chatting away. “Daaahhhhhling, don’t make me beg.” Sources of inspiration for the character are rumored to be Isaac Mizrahi, Edith Head, and Coco Chanel.

Though the film is neither topically nor narratively original, it adds specific elements to spice up and redevelop the genre. For instance, it breaks the mold of a typical housewife and female superhero by presenting a strong, independent, and, in many ways, superior character (and matched it expertly by casting Hunter). It also adds the satirical element of suburban living, dull daily routines, and mediocrity. Meanwhile, the Communism-pushing Syndrome aims to cause havoc and save the day, thus becoming a superhero in the minds of the general populace. And then, sell his gadgets to make everyone “super,” thereby flattening the playing field and making no one more super than anyone else.

The Incredibles works on several incredibles3levels. It’s a funny, thrilling, jaw-dropping, and exciting animated feature that picked up another two Oscars for Pixar. Before The Incredibles, Pixar stuck to animals, bugs, toys, and monsters and hadn’t experimented with people. But when animators picked up those trendy tights to adapt the superhero genre, they, and viewers, found them to be an excellent fit.

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