Posted February 14, 2011 by editor in Retrospectives

Pixar: The Incredibles

The Incredibles

I actually duped a friend into seeing The Incredibles at the cinema – “you get the drinks, I’ll get the tickets”. I promised the tickets would be for anything except the latest Disney Pixar, but the notion of a family of superheroes was just too tempting to dismiss. So, did it live up to my high expectations? Did it win over my too-cool-for-kid’s-films friend?

The action takes place in what appears to be a parallel universe where superheroes live among those of us without powers.  It’s a good platform for using CGI; there’s no call for the characters to look realistic – Mr. Incredible with his oversized jaw and Elastigirl with her impossible proportions (seriously, what is her waist-to-hip ratio?! I suppose technically she can choose it herself, as she can bend and reshape at will) certainly look the part. There’s also no call for the film’s events to be realistic, but the Incredibles is a gripping blend of the fantastic with the everyday. These ‘supers’ have to fit their personal lives around fighting crime – Elastigirl and Mr. Incredible just about have time to get hitched in the midst of some butt-kicking. Disney also manage to get in a bit of racial stereotyping in the form of French villain Bomb Voyage…admittedly I enjoy the pun, but the theme music and the exaggerated accent err on the side of racism!

In this world, supers are like celebrities, and the film opens with the two main heroes being interviewed. Elastigirl is fiercely independent and wilful. It’s hard to make your mark as a female superhero, but I’d argue that Mrs. Incredible is more interesting than the Invisible Woman and has more depth than Supergirl. She ends up a devoted mother and wife, after the decline of Superheroes. The quashing of a community considered ‘special’ could be taken as a comment on the dangers of intolerance and the potential for discrimination in the modern world, and it’s quite convincingly conveyed; tax payers are sick of the damage superheroes cause to public property, and Mr. Incredible is sued for saving someone who didn’t want to be saved. I know a few stick-in-the-muds in this universe who would probably share that distorted view…

Forced underground, Mrs. Incredible seems content with her domesticated new life and three children. I’m sure feminists would argue that it’s some kind of oppression; her husband goes off to work while she stays at home and gives up a career she once adored. But Mr. Incredible is deeply dissatisfied with his frustratingly ordinary existence, and encourages his children to embrace their powers – it’s his wife who is more reluctant to risk exposure. His adrenalin-fuelled return to saving the world is riddled with amusing details – such as contending with the spare tyre age has wrapped around his waist – and sees him face a very unusual supervillain. Syndrome, a blast from the past for Mr. Incredible (and a cleverly interwoven plot device), has no real superpowers (and he’s ginger). Like Iron Man, he’s designed a range of gadgets but, unlike Iron Man, he is determined to use them for evil and bring about the untimely demise of the Incredibles. Even his voice is annoying, and even though I actually felt a little bit sorry for him, it’s easy to forget that when he goes on a rampage that involves destroying two innocent children.

The family powers are a little generic in the superhero world – super strength, elasticity, invisibility and super speed – but Jack Jack’s hidden power is a nice twist (although does he only turn into a devil? Or can he morph into any form he likes?). The matching costumes – without capes, one of the many superhero traditions this movie pokes fun at – are also fairly standard, but the scene in which Mrs. Incredible is shown just how well-protected the family will be in their suits is very amusing and entirely justifies the designs. Their designer, Edna Mode is one of the many supporting characters in this film that make the Incredibles’ universe so rich and engaging, along with super cool Frozone – voiced by Samuel L. Jackson, how much cooler can you get? – and the strangely seductive Mirage, whose look is a little reminiscent of X-Men’s storm.


Ultimately, the message seems to be that you should always acknowledges what makes you special as it will help you reap the most rewards in life. Violet uses hers to help find some self confidence, while Dash learns not to use his for personal gain. My friend seemed suitably impressed; he bought me the DVD (with a view to watching it with me, I’d be willing to bet!) and it’s one of those films I always see something new in with every watch!

Lauren Felton




Lauren Felton