RogerBW's Blog

The Incredibles 30 May 2023

2004 animated superheroics, dir. Brad Bird, Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter; IMDb / allmovie. What does a superhero do when superheroes are illegal?

This feels a lot like a midlife crisis film. Sure, Mr Incredible has moved from superhero to lousy office worker because superheroics have been banned rather than because he got old, but an awful lot of the feel of this film is pointing up the boringness of responsible adult life versus the fun of independent youth. (Brad Bird was 36 when he got the idea for the core plot, trying to juggle family with a filmmaking career going through a bit of a slump, and 47 when the film was released.)

Watching now it's important to remember that this was 2004 and every second film wasn't about superheroes; it wasn't quite such a tired and overdone idea as it looks to me from here in 2023. In fact what we get here feels very much like the same sort of delay one often sees with SF moving from book to film: someone falls in love with a particular author or story concept as a teenager, spends the next thirty years working his (almost always his) way up the film production hierarchy until he can finally get some say in what's made, and what he wants made is the thing he remembers from when he was a kid and could still get excited about stuff. What we have here is a Silver Age comics sensibility, in which we can have great big energetic battles and people complain about property damage but nobody gets hurt. (Except bad guys, some of whom very clearly die but nobody cares.)

(From a technical perspective this was a film that pushed the limits of what Pixar could do – that's another thing that's largely lost watching it now, unless you take an interest in the history of computer animation.)

Bird quotes sixties spy-jinks as one of his inspirations, and I confess that I don't see it. Yeah, villain with a secret island lair I guess, but the ethos is much more modern that you'd see in James Bond or The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. Still, John Barry was invited to contribute a score in the classic style… and pointed out that he had actually moved on musically in the last forty years.

It does what it does. It has its moments (along with everyone else I'll praise Edna Mode). I think I expected a bit more from a film that people raved about at the time.

I talk about this film further on Ribbon of Memes.

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