A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Incredibles

July 18, 2010

The Incredibles

It’s been a while since I last watched this movie and I gotta say, it takes its sweet time getting going. The first forty minutes of the movie are concerned with establishing the world and the characters. Some of it is slightly complex stuff for a movie that’s aimed at children to attempt. Difficult because one of the central points of the movie revolves around a super hero with a mid-life crisis. This was considered revolutionary back in the eighties when Allan Moore did it with Watchmen, and that was intended for adults. So a whole lot of work has to be done before we can get to the meat of the movie.

The world itself is quickly introduced through a series of interviews. We meet Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl and Frozone, three of the super heroes that defend the world. It introduces the tone of the film, the way that the super heroes seem like almost normal people who have to save the world because they have these super abilities. (Mr. Incredible fumbles with his microphone, Frozone talks about secret identities.) Then we get a sort of typical day in the life of Mr. Incredible. On his way to an important appointment he saves a cat from a tree, foils some bank robbers, defeats a purse snatcher (with help from Elastigirl,) prevents a suicide attempt, almost succeeds in stopping another robbery and bombing, and prevents a train from falling from a broken track.

After all this daring-do Mr. Incredible gets sued a lot. Indeed the floodgates open and “Supers” left and right get sued for all the damage and injury that their profession results in. This forces the government to pass the Keene Act encourage all the super heroes to abandon their super activities and hide amongst the populace as regular human beings. Which is where the mid-life crisis comes in. We finally arrive in the present, and Mr. Incredible has settled down. He’s married to Elastigirl and they have three children. He works an awful job at a soulless insurance company and his boss looks like Lumbergh from Office Space and has the voice of Vizzini from Princess Bride. His son is a speedster named Dash and his daughter Violet has the powers of the Invisible Woman from the Fantastic Four. (His other son, the baby, apparently has no powers.)

In his regular life as Bob Parr, Mr. Incredible is miserable. He just wants to help people, but he’s not allowed to. And of course his home life is filled with chaos, as any home life with four super powered people would be. He secretly goes out with his buddy Frozone to fight crime once a week and tells his wife that he’s bowling. (In what I assume to be another Watchmen reference his first on-screen heroism in this part of the movie is saving people from a burning building.) Ultimately he even loses his job when he snaps at his boss and the government is threatening to uproot his family so they can hide in a different community. So when he’s contacted by a secret organization that needs the help of a super hero he cannot resist.

Then, finally, the true movie begins. Bob is whisked off to a secret island facility where he defeats a nasty robot gone amok. It’s like he’s his old self again at last, even if he has to hide his new super activities from his family. But when he is captured on the island by an evil mastermind his entire family gets caught up in the action (except for the baby Jack-Jack) and the four of them have to band together and learn to act as a super-team together to defeat the evil Syndrome and stop his nefarious plan.

Once it gets past all the exposition at the start this movie really takes off. Some of the action scenes are amongst the most amazing ever done in an animated film (particularly the amazing “Dash’s run” segment.) It pokes fun at a lot of super hero tropes (such as when Frozone reminisces about the foolishness of bad guys who “soliloquise” and yet another Watchmen reference when costume designer Edna Mode rants about the danger of costumed heroes wearing capes.) And mixed in with the action and the humor there are some serious issues to address like how the kids can ever fit in with their peers and weather or not Bob’s marriage can be saved.

But what I enjoy most about the movie, and what really makes the whole thing work for me, is the slightly retro art-deco style of the whole thing. The technology being used in the film is generally futuristic or modern day, like the clip-on microphones in the opening and the extensive cool gadgetry, but the general aesthetic is more sixties. Bob’s home is a classic sixties one-level abode that reminds me in many ways of my grandparents’ old house when I was growing up. Syndrome’s huge volcanic lair is heavily influenced by the lairs of James Bond villains that have gone before him, all rounded corridors, transportation pods on monorails and of course flowing lava.

Further enhancing the James Bond vibe is the extremely cool Michael Giacchino score, which often sounds directly out of Goldfinger or Diamonds Are Forever. It’s all blaring exciting horns and mellow jazz themes. It fits the visual style perfectly, and keeps playing in my head long after the movie is over. “Bah-da-BAH-da-bahhhh!”

Also a word on the technical wizardry on display in the animation of this movie: It’s a strangely mixed bag, combining some almost sparse environments at times with some real accomplishments in computer graphics. The character models themselves are very simplistic (which sort of fits the retro look of the movie) but I can’t help being amazed by their hair! It blows in the wind, it hangs wet around their faces, it even gets realistically mussed. There are also a lot of very nifty water effects employed, that clearly demonstrate that Pixar at this time was beginning to explore the limits of just what can be accomplished technically with computer animation. Watching this tonight I got the feeling that technical breakthroughs were taking place as the movie was being made, and that as new techniques were developed they were instantly folded into the fabric of the film. It’s strange how it can be simultaneously simple and jaw droppingly complex.

I’ve ranted before about my love for director Brad Bird’s work. I will say that because of the, probably necessary, very long time that it takes to get to the meat of this movie it is not my favorite of his. (Iron Giant holds that place in my heart.) But it’s nonetheless easily identifiable as all his, and I love him for it. And of course he somehow ended up also voicing the funniest and most enjoyable character in the movie as Edna Mode. I look forward now to reviewing Ratatouille and can’t wait to see what he does next!

July 18, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: