The Incredibles is Still Incredible
Overview: A family of superheroes is forced into hiding but may not be able to stay hidden for very much longer. Buena Vista Pictures; 2004; Rated PG; 115 minutes.
Impeccable Fan Appraisal: At Audiences Everywhere, we have a system by which we decide if a movie is a Great or not. A writer pitches an idea and every other writer votes upon it, yes or no. Get enough yes votes and away you go. Get too many No votes, and no dice. When The Incredibles was pitched as one of The Greats, it received zero no votes, which is generally in keeping with popular opinion regarding the film. There are people who say that The Godfather is pretentious and that The Exorcist is boring. Certain folks would rather watch The Waterboy than Goodfellas, but there are few to say a bad word about The Incredibles (though those people might appear once this article is published with the internet being what it is).
So the question is simple, why? Why is it so good? What’s good about it?
Short answer: Everything.
Long Answer: There are very few movies that have what The Incredibles has. It is funny as a fantastic comedy but also full of heart without being melodramatic. It tackles issues pertaining to family, mid-life crisis, growing old, having kids, being an outcast, being punished for doing the right thing, meeting your heroes and finding them disappointing, working a boring job, not living up to your potential, marriage and friendship. It does all that and still tells an amazingly exciting superhero story that mixes the best parts of The Fantastic Four, James Bond, and Watchmen, while never feeling less than wholly original and uniquely engaging. It has awesome characters, great acting, and is never boring.
In terms of superhero movies, it is the gold standard. It should be given out as a manual for superhero movie directors with a big sticker on the front that says “DO THIS.” It never becomes bogged down in mythology but still paints a picture of a world that is chock full of heroes and villains. By the end of the opening sequence, which gives a glimpse of Mr. Incredible in his heyday, we are provided a fun introduction to the superhero life before it vanishes, without the need for a lengthy origin story. Beyond that, The Incredibles introduces a villain whose plans stem from something real rather than simply being bad for bad’s sake, and fun side characters who never pull focus, only serve to enhance the quality on screen.
And it has the scene of Elastigirl flying a plane while being shot at by missiles. I will put down a challenge right here and now. If you can find me a movie scene in the last ten years that is as tense and exciting as the plane scene in The Incredibles I will take your address from you and send you a handwritten apology note that will read that you were right and I was wrong.
The plane scene still puts a lump in my throat and makes my hair stand on end now, a million rewatches later. Everything about it is genius. Mr Incredible listening in to Elastigirl’s frantic cries of “abort, abort, abort” while Violet struggles to make the force field around the plane as the missiles close in is as good as it gets. Even writing that last sentence put me on edge.
Consider the criticism leveled at a lot of big budget blockbusters, wherein fans and critics like to say these movies have become cartoons through their use of CGI. The Incredibles is literally all CGI and yet because the writing is there, the characterisation is there, the acting is there, and the directing is there, the thrills and emotions are there too. In comparison, the final fight of Man of Steel or the Iron Man/Hulk fight in Age of Ultron are lacking because there never feels like there is any heart in the scenes. They are just two cartoons beating each other while destroying a city. If you want a modern example of doing it right look at The Winter Soldier; the final fight of that movie involves huge CG vehicles crashing and exploding but the focus is upon the two human beings fighting within- two characters that the movie has taken the time to build a relationship between so that the huge CG battle is merely backdrop for real (or superhero real) human drama. And The Winter Soldier is simply borrowing from the same storytelling principles that inform Elasticgirl’s plane sequence.
To find that sort of precedent-setting richness in an animated children’s movie is outstanding and the fact that it is surrounded by wall-to-wall quality is something we can all enjoy.
Overall: In the decades to come, once every movie is a superhero movie, it will do us good to remember that no matter how many movies they make, they may have perfected the formula in 2004 with this movie, this incredible movie, the Great, the amazing, The Incredibles.