Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Incredibles - Review and Expectations

I recently rewatched Brad Bird's The Incredibles, and was left with one impression: that this film was amazing when I first watched it ten years ago...and it's still amazing, if not more so. While in the midst of this revelation, lo and behold if a sequel wasn't announced, to my deep worry.

The thing is, the first film was so close to perfect. It remains one of my favorite Pixar films, a tightly-scripted, beautifully "shot" action movie that has so many truly human relationships that it puts the majority of live-action films to shame. True, it's not a very original premise - family with supernatural abilities attempt to negotiate ordinary life - but never has it been accomplished so convincingly.

It begins like any other superhero story, with excitement and one-liners and spectacular urban destruction. But fifteen years after this comic book world of heroes and villains, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible - alias Bob and Helen Parr - are living in a cramped suburb with three boisterous kids. Bob works for a sleazy insurance company; Helen changes diapers and wearily makes trips to the principal's office. The irony is thick, and extremely effective.

But besides all this lovely ordinary life, the film is extremely fun (I can't recommend it highly enough), encompassing a super-villain and a dastardly plot, along with some incredible action sequences and amazing voice talent. In his review, Steven Greydanus says the film "captures the rhythms of family life with more honesty and clarity than any other family film I can think of." If you want a review, his is excellent. As for myself, I find little purpose in repeating his very accurate praises (my rating at the bottom of this post), but I wish to express a few hopes for the sequel.

1. Brad Bird. I've heard he's writing, but he's got to direct too. Just a fact. The man is awesome. 

2. Because it's been so long, it would be nice to see that some time has passed in-universe - Jack-Jack could have grown into the Dash figure, with Dash himself being a teenager and Violet an adult.  

3. Edna. Edna is cool. 

4. The first film felt very self-contained, delivering a number of moral lessons effortlessly, and I'd like to see that same foundation of virtue which made the first one so good. Naturally, to continue heavily focusing on the same themes will seem redundant, so I'm curious to see if new ones are used. 

5. The same sense of danger. Peter Jackson's Hobbit films have sacrificed this to spectacular CGI and video-game-style fighting, excising whatever suspense remained. If the hero can survive a plummet to the bottom of a 1000 foot cliff, why should we worry when he has a knife to his throat? The Incredibles had a tangible sense of menace. It was quite dark for a children's film, including torture and an intense airplane scene, though without being overly gruesome. In fact, it strikes a good balance between fear and courage. Helen tells her children: "Remember the bad guys on the shows you used to watch on Saturday mornings? Well, these guys aren't like those guys. They won't exercise restraint because you are children. They will kill you if they get the chance. Do not give them that chance." Or as Chesterton said (more or less): "Fairy tales are more than true — not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten."

I was skeptical at first, given the perfect storm of the first film, but Brad Bird's The Iron Giant was pretty epic as well (and I've heard good things of his other films). We shall see.

In the meantime, NO CAPES, Dahling.

The Incredibles:
5/5 stars

Hannah Long


  1. Oh, Edna is my favorite character! I'm really hoping that, like you said, they are able to hold onto what made the first movie great for the sequel. I've been wanting a sequel for a long time--and I've definitely been wanting to see Jack Jack in action! One of my favorite Pixar movies--bu then, it's hard to play favorites. My utmost fav is Toy Story, but every single Pixar film I've seen has been incredible. I have a great respect for their storytelling ability.


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