Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Incredibles lives up to its title
Review by Sombrero Grande

It’s no secret that I, Sombrero Grande, have been a huge fan of Pixar ever since my first viewing of Toy Story on its opening night, but after watching The Incredibles, something has changed. I no longer consider the filmmakers in Emeryville, CA to be my personal creative heroes...I consider them my gods. I kneel at an altar to John Lasseter and give thanks for Incredibles writer/director Brad Bird, character designers Tony Fucile and Teddy Newton and everyone else listed in the credits--from the executive producer to the Pixar security guards--and pray that the good deeds I perform in life will make me worthy of witnessing the greatness they bequeath to the world.

So...yeah...I loved The Incredibles.

I LOVE the character designs in this movie. While other CGI animation houses try to create photo-realistic humans, Pixar designers Fucile and Newton have unleashed beautifully stylized and cartooned people with expressive, visually striking visages. The result is that instead of being creeped out by corpse-like husks, I want to live in the world of The Incredibles and see these people everyday. I could stare for hours at the lines in Bob Parr’s lawyer’s face or watch the movements of the characters’ facial expressions as if they were glittering fish in an aquarium or glowing blobs in a lava lamp.

I LOVE the world that is presented in The Incredibles of superheroes with real-life problems. If you enjoyed Spider-Man or X-Men, get ready for an even more in-depth analyzing of the issues that come with possessing superpowers. Lawsuits, fan-boys and fatal “wardrobe malfunctions” involving capes--oh my! What happens when superheroes accidentally injure people during the course of saving them...or save people who don’t want to be saved? Eventually the U.S. government tires of constantly footing the bill for increasingly numerous lawsuits against superheroes and so bans the heroes from practicing altogether. Superheroes are driven into hiding, obligated to conceal their abilities and afraid to let their true identities be shown.

I LOVE the fact that Pixar doesn’t play it safe. Just as they seem to be forming a pattern, Pixar breaks from it--for example, dropping Randy Newman as composer and the “outtakes” after Monsters, Inc.--and moving in new directions. The Incredibles is their biggest shift yet. The brainchild of Pixar-newcomer Bird, The Incredibles is a markedly more adult presentation than the company is known for. The good news is Pixar has done its usual, remarkable job of crafting a thoroughly entertaining and imaginative story in a new type of movie for them; the “bad” news is you’ll probably want to leave the really little ones at home this time as there’re some pretty startling, intense action moments. Perhaps this will pave the way for even bigger moves into new territory for Pixar?

I LOVE the action and adventure present in this film. This isn’t a cutesy A Bug’s Life or Monsters, Inc. The Incredibles is Pixar’s first foray into PG storytelling--and it’s not for the reasons other studios often have used for tipping the content past being G-acceptable. There’s no foul language, bathroom humor, etc.; instead, The Incredibles utilizes its PG rating to craft a story reminiscent of James Bond, Indiana Jones and Superman all molded together with enough tension, adventure and--yes--violence to warrant a more than “I’ll watch it with the kids” level of attention from adults. At the screening I attended, the theater was full and yet there were only a handful of kids in attendance. That’s not to say that kids won’t enjoy The Incredibles--it was certainly made with them taken into consideration (I can easily see kids going home with minds racing over which superhero they’d most like to be or which superpower they’d most want to have)--but it’s a far cry from a big, blue, spotted Sully coddling a little girl. After all, with scenes where evil soldiers are shooting bullets at children with the clear intent to kill them, it’s no wonder Elastigirl says that these are not the kinds of villains kids normally find in Saturday morning cartoons. These are bad, BAD guys.

I LOVE the fact that the main villain is a fan-boy. What better post-modern super villain could there be than disillusioned Comic Con fodder? I mean, you’ve got someone already obsessed with superheroes, slapped in the face and hopes dashed by the very icon he’s obsessed with...how great is that for the perpetrator of a sinister revenge plot?

I could go on and on about what I love about this film, but there are better things to do in life...like, for example, going to see The Incredibles again. The ingenuity, intelligence, creativity, imagination and sheer genius that continues to pour from Pixar’s work is simply staggering to me. You can tell from the fact that two onlookers during the final battle are obvious caricatures of two of Disney’s greatest classic animators, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, that these are filmmakers who value the emotion and storytelling craft of animation above flashy names, flash-in-the-pan gimmicks or decisions based on potential product sales. Pixar is made up of artists, unlike other animation studios which have become little more than soulless corporate tools.

I really want to see another outing with these characters, another plot to foil, another foe to fight, another adventure for the Incredible family...but it breaks my heart to know that it probably wont come from Pixar. You see, Disney currently owns the rights to produce cheap, off-the-shelf, direct-to-suck sequels to ALL of Pixar’s feature films to date, and with Steve Jobs and Michael Eisner locked in an ego-propelled standoff, it’s not likely that that will change. It steams me off something fierce to know that The Incredibles 2 will most likely be churned out without even so much as an iota of input from Brad Bird or Pixar and instead will be penned by some Marketing school dropout or friend of whatever spoiled pop diva Disney’s currently preening. Where’s Roy Disney with those rifles he “joked” about at that SaveDisney rally?


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