A Discussion of The Incredibles

There is a scene in this movie where a young boy with super-speed is running for his life only to come across a large body of water. He closes his eyes and winces, bracing for the inevitable but it never comes. He looks up to see that he is actually running on the water. He gives a small laugh and picks up speed.

That scene is one of the best in the film. It’s not overdone and, in fact, is a very minor point in a much larger scene; it focuses on what is important (action) but gives it a strong emotional core. Or to hear the director tell it, it’s all about hugs and explosions.

A little story info for those who came in late. The Incredibles is about a pair of former superheroes, two of the most respected at the time. All this ends when Mr. Incredible saves a man who was trying to commit suicide, injuring him in the process. The man sues Mr. Incredible opening a floodgate for lawsuits against other heroes. Eventually this causes the world to lose its heroes and the movie begins to focus on this couple and their children living their daily lives. Notice daily and not normal, the heroes, and their kids, still have powers so life can be frustrating having this ability to do good but not use it. Eventually Mr. Incredible gets into trouble and the whole family has to become heroes to save him. Also, Sam Jackson.

The plot is good, and pretty unique. There are some derivative moment but these mostly work as a way of deconstructing the superheroes. But what makes this movie great is that after it has deconstructed and broken down the heroes it uses the knowledge gained to rebuild them. It gives us a dash of realism but also fights past the darkness to give us beacons of light. And everything is better with beacons.

The characters themselves are well defined, and even minor characters remain memorable due to unique designs and dialogue. For some inexplicable reason I really like Bernie the school teacher, and of course The Underminer. The main characters are treated as such first: characters. They have emotions, flaws, hopes, love, and sadness. And then powers get tossed on them. Even these powers don’t get overused. One of my favorite sections is watching Mr. Incredible use stealth, timing, and his brain to infiltrate the enemy headquarters. It would have been simple to let him just go smashing around, but watching him operate in this fashion clearly shows why he was one of the greatest of superheroes.

It could also be said that this film is exactly what the Fantastic Four movie should have been. In fact three of the four main characters have powers identical to the F4. The fourth character (Dash, a speedster) mostly retains temperament, with Sam Jackson (Frozone, with ice powers) being the energy controller of the group. This seems slightly derivative but is also part of what makes this movie good. The powers are iconic and visual, there is little to no reason to explain these powers; this lets the movie move forward with the plot and avoid explaining any crazy powers.

On the negative side of things I will say this movie runs a bit long, just five minutes shy of two hours. It also has a slow middle act. Neither of these actually bothers me, but to be fair this was created as a kid’s movie. Expecting them to sit through family drama for nearly an hour is a bit much.  

That one complaint however in no way detracts from this movie for me. I consider this to be my third favorite movie of all time and give it a 5/5.


One thought on “A Discussion of The Incredibles

  1. The most poignant moment in the film, for me, occurs when Mr. Incredible is speaking with his wife, trying to convince her to stay behind over what initially looks like misplaced chauvenism — his wife is every bit as super as he — but what is quickly revealed to be out of crushing fear that he wouldn’t be strong enough to save her yet again.

    Some people have taken exception to what might be seen as a bizarre moral to this story: in opposing Syndrome’s plan, and in the mantra “If everyone is special, no one is,” there’s this weird message that encourages conserving your powerbase and making certain you have a monopoly on the special.

    Rather, I think it has more to do with doing good for goodness’ sake, rather than fame or glory.

    Though I disagree on the length; I didn’t notice it at all.

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