Volume 23, Number 02, Winter 2005

An Incredible Movie Experience

The Incredibles

Written and Directed by Brad Bird

Pixar Productions/Disney, 2004
Reviewed by Anders Monsen
November 2005

With its latest movie, The Incredibles, Pixar Animations Studios once again demonstrates the power of craft and creativity in the animated movie world. The company that began it’s feature length movie life with classic toys childhood brought to life, and showed us a jaw-dropping slow zoom toward an island in A Bug’s Life, has moved from the world of toys (Toy Story and Toy Story 2), animated bugs, imaginary creatures (Monsters, Inc.), and sea life (Finding Nemo) to that of people.

The Incredibles was written and directed by Brad Bird, best known for creating the wonderful animated movie, The Iron Giant (1999), where a young boy in the 1950s befriends a powerful alien robot that a paranoid government agent seeks to destroy. The Iron Giant never attained much popular success, and Pixar hired Bird shortly thereafter.

Animated movies often are perceived as entertainment for children. Adults who see animated movies often attend the shows with their kids. Bird seems to discard this view. The Iron Giant portrays the narrow-mindedness and paranoia of governments and their minions. The Incredibles offers an intensity and intelligence rarely seen in animated films.

The animated action is so fluid and real, it’s hardly a coincidence that the movie was a best movie nominee (motion picture —musical or comedy) for the Golden Globe Awards, alongside live action movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Sideways.

In The Incredibles, super-heroes have been forced into hiding among normal people. Beset by lawsuits from people who don't want to be saved, or who are hurt when superheroes save their lives, they're all been retired, sent into witness protection programs, and ceased their daring do life style.

Foremost of the once-admired superheroes is Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), endowed with superhuman strength. When forced into retirement he becomes Bob Parr, an insurance agent boxed in by rules and small spaces. His frustration is palpable, but out of love for his wife, the former Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), and his three kids, he lives his life of quiet desperation. The two oldest children, Violet and Dashiell, aka 'Dash,' also have superpowers. Whereas young Dash chafes under not being able to use his super speed, the shy teenager Violet tries to hide not just her powers (invisibility), but her physical person.

When Mr. Incredible gets a chance at covertly using his superpowers again, he jumps at the opportunity. Keeping this secret from his wife proves more difficult, and when she suspects he’s having an affair she follows him, only to discover a darker threat. Someone is killing off the former super-heros, one by one. Can the Incredibles save the day and defeat the person behind these murders, and what is the ultimate goal?

The question of merit and special abilities is one of the movie’s prime themes. What does it mean to be special? Should you use your special abilities, and suffer slings and arrows when you stand out from the crowd, where you feel their envy and anger? At what cost? Merit certainly is lauded as a value, but the Incredibles do not see themselves as superior; they simply seek to use what they’re given.

Watching this movie I almost forgot these were not real people. Special effects has come a long way, as movies such as X-Men and the forthcoming Fantastic Four demonstrate. The abilities used by the super heroes in The Incredibles could just as easily have been replicated with real humans. This is a movie going experience for both young and old alike.

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