The Films of Pixar: “The Incredibles” (2004)

Towards the end of The Incredibles, a little boy on a bike proclaims, “That was totally wicked!” referring to a big battle he’s just witnessed between the villain and the superhero family at the center of this film. The same sentiment could be shared by one that has just finished watching The Incredibles.

Brad Bird’s second film follows the Parr family, a family of superheroes made up of Bob (Craig T. Nelson), or Mr. Incredible; Helen (Holly Hunter), or Elastigirl; Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Spencer Fox) and Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile and Maeve Andrews), who seems to not have any superpowers at the start of the film. Several years before most of the action of the film, superheroes were forced to go into hiding due to mounting public anger and lawsuits against superheroes, notably Mr. Incredible. But in the time of the film, Bob is working at an insurance company, still trying to save people by finding ways to help them get around the system and listening to the police scanner with his buddy, Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson). After Bob is fired from his insurance job, he is pulled back into the superhero world after receiving a message from Mirage (Elizabeth Peña), which results in a visit to Edna Mode (Brad Bird. Yes, Brad Bird.) for a repair to his old suit and a new suit. Helen eventually gets suspicious and Bob finds out that the person he’s helping is a former fanboy, turned villain, Syndrome (Jason Lee). In order to save the world, the family has to band together.

The major thing about The Incredibles is that it was the first Pixar film where a the entire main cast was made up of humans. As a result, we see how the animation of hair, fabric, character expressions, and the facial structure of humans has changed for the animation studio. For this film characters run, jump, float, swim, all of which has some effect on how they’re animated. We see how realistically the hair of the characters reacts when someone goes underwater. Violet’s black hair is animated so we see portions that have a blue tint to it. Syndrome’s hair that resembles a flame moves slightly with his head, although staying fairly stationary like a well spiked head of hair. With fabric the details of suits and the reflection and fit of the fabrics is figured terrifically, allowing the characters to look more human.

But there’s more than just the animation that makes this such an awesome movie. There’s the struggle the characters face between their nature and what the world forces them to be. This is no different from the Iron Giant’s struggle to be a weapon or to be Superman, or Remy’s struggle between being a garbage picking rat or a chef. What makes this struggle interesting is how the characters deal with this. Bob is constantly trying to save people, which makes it understandable as to why he is pulled back into the life of a superhero. From what we see, Frozone—whose real name is Lucius—is only drawn to saving people because of Bob’s pressure until the end of the film when a large threat attacks the city. Helen seems to have retired from saving the world and is only drawn back in because she wants to see what her husband is doing—although Edna creating matching outfits for the family might have helped. As for the children, they’re aware of their powers and use them to pull pranks, hide from a boy they like, or make family dinner really interesting. They know they’re not normal, but they’ve never had to deal with the life of being a superhero because of the supers being forced into hiding.

But then there’s the villain, Syndrome. He’s always wanted to be a superhero but is rejected as a sidekick for Mr. Incredible who says, “I work alone.” To achieve being a super, he creates gadgets such as rocket boots and a cuff that does numerous tasks. To become what he once idolized he has to become evil, a concept that does not escape Syndrome.

The final aspect that ties this film together is Michael Giacchino’s score that is filled with an almost James Bond feel to it. There’s something that is simultaneously classic, fresh and exhilarating to his score that is filled with trumpets, horns and saxophones.

If you haven’t seen The Incredibles, you must. There’s something for everyone. Action, romance, marital problems, betrayal, kids being awesome and helping save the day. But like most Pixar films and all Brad Bird films, there’s a fascinating display of how people behave in situations and the internal struggles we face.