Review: The Incredibles


[This week is Pixar Week here at Flixist, so we’re doing special reviews and features for all things Pixar. Keep your eyes on the Pixar Week tag page for more updates, or just watch the front page!]

Here at Flixist, a 100 score is an absolutely perfect movie. Obvious, right? I’m not sure why I even need to mention that. Granted, given the nature of reviews, that’s a healthily subjective thing, but we maintain that 10/10s are given out a handful of times in all history. Again, that’s over a hundred years of film history, possibly a hundred films released a year depending on the era, all distilled down to that small number of truly perfect films. Lawrence of Arabia, for instance, is one of the four or five films that I would call completely, utterly perfect. The point I’m making is that a perfect score is a rarity on par with the snow leopard.

The Incredibles is one of my perfect films. Allow me a few moments to tell you why.

I’m assuming that most, if not all of you have seen The Incredibles, so I won’t bore you with a retelling of the plot. However, the setup for the film has to be mentioned. If Pixar had set out to just tell a superhero story, that’d be awesome. It would probably be a damn fine movie, win the Oscar for “Pixar Released a Movie This Year” and I’d buy it on Blu-Ray. However, The Incredibles is far from your average superhero story. We see Mr. Incredible, through no fault of his own, save trying to help his fellow man, bring down the entirety of super culture in his world and be forced to live in a sort of exile, an extraordinary man forced into a mediocre life. Granted, living in exile isn’t so bad when you have your family, but they inevitably serve as just a reminder of Mr. Incredible’s fantastic past and the terror of boredom he faces as an insurance company drone.

Chillin' wit the fam.

I suppose this is as good a time as any to talk about the script. Any screenplay class worth its salt should offer at least one class dissecting The Incredibles. It’s tightly written, expertly plotted, and the dialogue snaps at every opportunity. There’s not a single moment of waste. Other than furthering the plot along, every single scene has some wonderful underlying theme or message. Take, for instance, the scene early on in the film, where Elasti-Girl has to go to her son Dash’s school when he is called to the principal. You know the scene. A hysterical teacher claims he has video footage of Dash moving too fast for the eye to see, planting a tack on his chair. It’s a funny scene, and we get so much of both Dash’s character and Elasti-Girl’s. Dash is the epitome of the boy that is untested and unchallenged, so he has to act out. He’s not a bad kid, maybe a bit of a jerk, he just doesn’t have an outlet. Imagine having all that power bottled up inside you as a kid, with nowhere to really cut loose.

When we see his mom dressing him down for the incident, he’s not just pouty because he got caught. He’s got this thorough sense of boredom with the entire world. With Elasti-Girl, the moment is a little more on the mark, as she’s got most of the dialogue in the scene. She’s about the only one in the family that wants nothing but to forget all the extraordinary past and move on as a normal, simple housewife. I could give you an example like this for every scene in the film, but then I’d be writing this until the world ends in October.

Everything about this shot SCREAMS "golden age."

For a kid’s film, The Incredibles also goes to some surprisingly dark places. None of it is Dark Knight-style grim and gritty, though, so it still works in the context of the film as a kid’s adventure. Two scenes immediately come to mind. When Mr. and Mrs. Incredible have their big fight over Dash’s trouble at school, the scene is actually pretty chilling. Their marriage has been tested time and again, thanks to some unseen exploits of Mr. Incredible that have forced them to move around the country a lot. Their argument treads perilously close to a legitimately abusive relationship. Think about that for a second. In a Pixar movie, we see two superheroes in kind of an abusive marriage, and it works so well, without compromising either character. They’re only human, after all. Everyone shouts sometimes.

In addition, when Mr. Incredible finally infiltrates Syndome’s lair, after being left for dead and hiding behind the bones of a friend, he finds the database of every super brought to the island to test Syndrome’s weapons. It amounts to Mr. Incredible seeing that every single one of his old friends is dead, save for Frozone. Jesus! Gives me chills.

While we’re here, let’s talk about Syndrome for a second. On the surface, his character is a reasonably common superhero trope. He’s the villain that once idolized the hero, even wanting to be his sidekick, but turned to evil after the hero spurned him. Not exactly the super common, Jason Todd-style “former sidekick turned evil,” but close enough. However, a look at his motivations shows a damn cool character. He’s got this almost Ayn Rand-ian mentality about superheroes, spreading super abilities via his technology. He’s got one line that absolutely sums up everything: “And when everyone’s super, no one will be.” So eager is he to destroy his former idol that he has to completely destroy his idol’s past, both by murdering former supers and destroying any possibility that supers might come back. Miles away from the villain that’s just a tortured little boy angry at the world.

Let’s talk about the visuals and the production design for a second. The Incredibles has to face the hurdle that every CG animated film must face, and that’s the terror of dated CGI. Technology moves so fast that even a film made in the same year can potentially show up something made earlier on. With The Incredibles, there’s a fantastic stylization to every single moment that Pixar has created a rare CG movie that ages beautifully. I’d like to see fans of Final Fantasy: Spirits Within make a claim about that film. All three of those fans. In addition, there are dozens of wonderful production design decisions that add more layers to the film. Look at Mr. Incredible’s early scenes at the insurance company. The cubicle is an obvious choice, but couple that with his odd-looking, squarish computer, and how he has to shove himself into a tiny, boxy car. The imagery of him trapped inside a box, one that, remember, is technically of his own making, is powerful stuff.

I’ve already made this into a much larger essay than I honestly meant to, so this is as good a time as any to close this out. In the history of film, I feel that both the animated movie and the superhero movie both have The Incredibles to look up to as the absolute zenith of both genres. It’s funny, smart, action-packed in the most intelligent way, and equally heartbreaking and uplifting. It transcends every part of its superhero, animated kids film trappings to become something more. Even, one might say, something super.

Overall Score: 100 – Legendary. [These films are as close to perfect as a film can get. These films are, quite literally, the best and most influential films ever made.]

Tom Fronczak: Incredibles is a great example of how a Pixar storyboard can really come to life in a way that has renewed value at later ages in life. Great main characters, okay side characters, great camera work, good dialogue, great pacing (suck it, 90 minute movie formula), and conflicts so good that I like the indoor family scenes even more than the fight scenes, which are often as layered as they are clever. The only things holding me back from calling this one of the best Pixar movies ever made is a lame sub-villain — a metal ball with legs, really? — and at times an odd art direction. While the jungle has several immersive and memorable scenes, several city locations feel unintentionally or un-metaphor-ically bland. Most of the film has no textures but at times you’re slapped with a highly detailed object that just distracts, or far too much gray on the screen at the same time. 84 – Great

Glenn Morris: I’ve never actually seen the Cars movies, widely considered to be the kink in Pixar’s impenetrable armor. With that considered, The Incredibles has always been my go-to example of what holds back the CG animation company. It happens like clockwork. I sit in awe of the near-tangible quality of the visuals, I weight the animation most favorably. At a certain point though, I wonder what I’m supposed to be feeling other than impressed by the craft. Boredom sets in, and just when I mentally pray for it to pick up again, the comedy/adventure vehicle is brought to a screeching halt. Here comes the moralizing. There’s a typical pause in hijinks and the characters sit down near or around a campfire, delivering the social message with dialogue only suitable for the youngest in the audience, the ones too naturally infantile to care. With The Incredibles it was outside a cave, but also scattered about the entire screenplay. You always say do your best but… you always say be yourself but… you always say act normal but… and that’s why you should be nicer to your brother. Couple this with a downright annoying badguy voiced by Jason Lee and an uninventive copy-paste job of the very least interesting flavors of comicbook lore and you have a movie where all you can say is “Wow, that scene where the hero was hit by little black sticky blobs was really well done.” The Incredibles is a blatant reason why Pixar has always been impressive, but never masterfully relevant until 2008’s WALL*E. 47 Sub-par