The Incredibles (2004)
Directed by: Brad Bird
Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee, Spencer Fox, Sarah Vowell, Brad Bird
‘Revisiting THE INCREDIBLES: A retrospective review’
‘Bob Parr and his wife Helen used to be among the world’s greatest crime fighters, saving lives and battling evil on a daily basis. Fifteen years later, they have been forced to adopt civilian identities and retreat to the suburbs where they live “normal” lives with their three kids, Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack. Itching to get back into action, Bob gets his chance when a mysterious communication summons him to a remote island for a top secret assignment.’
Only Disney Pixar’s 6th feature film at the time, it was refreshing to see a project from the studio that was told via the perspective of humans for the first time, making it a nice change from toys, bugs, monsters and fish. Although this being the second Pixar film to feature a nuclear family – mother, father, children – the first being demonstrated in ‘Finding Nemo’ (the last film made previously to ‘The Incredibles’), this is one that is totally in a league of its own. Having the Parr family modelled upon The Fantastic Four (a dysfunctional family of superheroes that never stop bickering) with a fun and exciting James Bond-esque espionage vibe running throughout, it solidifies itself as my favourite film released from Pixar studios thus far.
From director Brad Bird, who already has had previous experience working in Animation with 1999’s ‘The Iron Giant’, and would go on to co-direct ‘Ratatouille’ three years after ‘The Incredibles’ in 2007, he surely must have known he had a winner on his hands here when he got the job as director. The idea had been brewing in his head from the early 1990s, basing the story on his personal life experiences of trying to balance out a career with his own family, which essentially is what Bob Parr/Mr Incredible is going through, and becomes one of the key focuses of the movie.
‘The Incredibles’ doesn’t traditionally transport us into the world of superhero movies; there’s no big action sequence or a hero/heroine discovering their powers for the first time, like we see in many films of this category. Bird subverts what we are used to seeing in the opening scene of a superhero origin story by introducing us to an interview broadcast with already current superheroes (Mr Incredible, Elastigirl, Frozone), being asked if they have secret identities and whether or not they’d like to fight crime forever.
The life of being a “super” and saving the world from ongoing dastardly threats soon takes a nosedive when Mr Incredible gets sued by a suicidal employee who apparently didn’t want to get saved. This leads to dozens of lawsuits being filed against all supers across the globe to hang up their costumes and live their lives as normal civilians. As part of the ‘superhero re-location programme’, they must never again resume their superhero identities. This is a really interesting direction and take that hasn’t previously been explored before in the superhero world, where the rest of civilisation has moved on and have come to terms with the realisation that they don’t need a bunch of guys in spandex with flying capes coming to their rescue and saving the day. Its an aspect that I really liked about this movie and acts as an effective plot device that really helps move the story forward and let it unfold, after initially being enshrouded in so much mystery and intrigue.
Setting the rest of the story fifteen years later after this ‘no more supers’ business, Mr Incredible and Elastigirl are now married as Bob and Helen Parr, and trying to settle down with their three kids in an ordinary boring suburban family life, after previously relocating so much. It wouldn’t have been so much of an issue if they found fitting in with the rest of the world (while not revealing their powers to the public) to be like an easy stroll in the park. But as the Parrs are a dysfunctional family, with each family member embedded with their own unique special powers, they quickly learn for themselves that the struggle with the pressures of everyday life and all the obstacles that come with it when adjusting to civilian life, is anything but a simple walk in the park.
Trapped within such a soul destroying home insurance office job, Bob longs to relive his good old ‘glory days’ as Mr Incredible. One evening when out with best friend Lucius (a.k.a Frozone), they can’t help but listen in on any crimes being committed via their police scanner. With a robbery taking place just a few blocks from where they are, they waste no time in engaging in a bit of excitement in thwarting the typical street level criminals and rescuing the hostages from a building fire. This in turn attracts some unexpected attention from a mysterious organisation with an offer that Bob would be really stupid to refuse. An offer acting as the lottery ticket that he’s been craving for, for the last 15 years – a top secret message regarding a highly confidential mission that will send him to a remote island to defeat a seemingly undefeatable sentinel robot. Having been fired from his office job while keeping it a secret from Helen, he feels he has nothing to lose (apart from his family of course!) and feels it’s his duty to accept this top secret mission.
Reuniting with Edna E Mode, the costume lady (one of the best creations in a Pixar film), he asks for her help in mending his old super suit. Instead, much to his surprise, she throws the old suit in the trash and presents him with a new, all improved outfit but this time without the cape. She has a strictly “No Capes!” rule which lends itself to a funny montage sequence of why capes are a superhero’s main downfall, preventing any super from saving the day and allowing villains to successfully carry out their evil plans for world domination. This ‘no capes’ rule also ironically backfires at a later stage on the film’s antagonist in a really unlucky way.
Speaking of its main antagonist, I like how this villain was someone who idolised Mr Incredible as his number one fan during his childhood but became torn apart as soon as Mr Incredible rejects the idea of taking him on as his crime fighting sidekick, preferring to work alone instead. This is another irony that comes back to haunt our leading hero and put him in a serious case of bad luck and danger. Knowing he can’t fight the bad guys alone this time, he’s backed up by his whole family and together they realise it will take a super family effort to save the entire world from total destruction and mayhem.
Enthusing the film with some of the most exciting and exhilarating chase and action sequences that Pixar have totally outdone themselves with so far in their 20 + years of impressive filmography, complete with absolute stunning cutting edge animation that the Studio are proudly renowned for, ‘The Incredibles’ is perfectly accompanied by a fantastic score by the one and only Michael Giacchino that truly harkens back to classic James Bond scores.
With the amazing news that has been recently announced of its long awaited sequel now being bought a year sooner than what was originally reported, now aiming for a June 2018 release; I shall be one of the first people in line to see The ‘Incredibles 2’, having waited nearly fourteen years for its extremely anticipated arrival!