When you go see a movie, you are putting yourself in the hands of the filmmakers and trusting them to entertain you. The good people at Pixar are masters of leading you through the story while playing with your heartstrings. The Incredibles was Brad Bird’s first time trying to uphold the extraordinary Pixar tradition of fun, emotional movies and it goes without saying he was an astounding success.
Mixing thrilling sequences like the missile scene (one of the most stressful moments in Pixar history) with small, relatable moments like Dash chuckling when he finds out he can run on water, the genius of this movie is precisely that: the perfect mix between exciting, awesome blockbuster moments with a strong emotional core full of everyday intimate instances we can all relate to.
Here are the main reasons The Incredibles is so good, in my opinion:
To have your script nominated for an Academy Award, you need an exceptional story with strong characters. This script has both. On top of that, the introductions to these characters are great. You meet them, you learn their flaw and what they need emotionally in a matter of seconds. One of the first things we hear Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible say is “I work alone” before Helen/Elastigirl tells him he needs to “be more flexible”. By page 7 of the script, we already know Bob’s fundamental flaw and what he essentially needs to learn by the end of the movie.
Or think about Violet’s introduction. Within seconds of seeing her and without needing a single word to communicate this, Bird shows us she’s shy and that she probably has low confidence. She hides behind her hair and when her crush looks at her, she uses her powers to be invisible. We later learn Dash, like his dad, doesn’t like hiding his powers while Violet doesn’t want to have any. None of the characters accept their present situation but Helen.
As an added plus, the casting for this movie was impeccable. All actors do a great job with the highlights being Holly Hunter’s acting in moments of anguish (the missile sequence and when Syndrome takes Jack-Jack come to mind), Samuel L. Jackson’s Frozone and, of course, Brad Bird voicing Edna Mode to perfection.
Samuel L. Jackson seen here in another of example of an ordinary situation put in the middle of a crazy one.
Family, Power and Letting Go of The Past
As the story begins to unravel, we see Bob is miserable in his current life. After being the most recognizable and famous superhero in the Glory Days, the former Mr. Incredible’s feelings of boredom and claustrophobia are represented by the clustered, square and gray offices of Insuricare. One of the first instances he loses control is when his boss shows him how little power he has in spite of his superpowers.
So when Mirage plays on this feeling by telling the Glory Days aren’t over, we have no doubt he will accept the mission. It’s then and there we get one of my favorite moments on the movie, when Bob looks at the posters of his former glory while one of Giacchino’s best scores to date highlights the emotion. We understand him and we want him to be great again.
And while this theme of powerlessness is important, another focus of the story is letting go of the past to embrace the present (like in Toy Story 3). In fact, Bird subtly uses the character he voices to tell us this.
Bob doesn’t take the hint, though and he continues clinging on to his past until the end of the movie, where he asks his family to stay behind not because he wants to work alone to feel powerful and strong, but because he realizes he loves his family and can’t bear to lose them. It’s there he finally puts his family before himself. In fact, they all do and they start fighting together. The emotional climax of the story is very satisfying and after that, the movie quickly wraps things up so it doesn’t overstay its welcome and leaves us wanting for more (after all, that’s the one sequel we all want, right?).
Turn The Extraordinary into The Ordinary
As I mentioned, the magic of this movie is that even though it’s a great superhero, spy and comic book movie, it stands out because it’s a GREAT movie about a family. Think of the scene where they’re having a family meal. It’s the quintessential family scene and yet they’re all using their superpowers.
Or we have a scene where they are flying in a rocket to fight a giant robot. That’s not exactly a typical evening (at least for me. I don’t know how you all spend your free time) and yet Bird fills the whole thing with small moments we can all connect to. Dash asks “Are we there yet?” and then Bob and Helen fight over what exit to take to get to the financial center to fight a giant robot. It’s genius.
After five great Pixar movies, John Lasseter feared getting complacent and brought the outsider Bird to freshen things up after he made The Iron Giant (if you haven’t seen The Iron Giant, go see The Iron Giant, I’ll wait. Ok, you saw it? Drink some water to rehydrate. Let’s go on). The moment the movie starts, we know we’re going to get something different. After the short interviews at the beginning, the first thing we see is a machine gun. And then said machine gun is fired against a police car. Not your typical Disney/Pixar moment.
So a new, refreshing concept with a strong emotional core (inspired by Bird’s own struggles trying to balance his work life and his family life coupled with great animation), interesting characters, a fun, touching story underlined by Giacchino’s wonderful score and one of the strongest voice casts we’ve enjoyed are what make The Incredibles one of Pixar’s strongest and most beloved outings.