Shiny Shelf

The Incredibles

By Stephen Lavington on 11 December 2004

Pixar have worked their magic with toys, insects, monsters, fish and now turn at last to human beings. Or, to be accurate, super-human beings who populate the world of ‘The Incredibles’. As with other Pixar flicks, there are depths to the story, giving it the appeal to adults that has now come to be expected from films nominally aimed at children. Indeed, it is more the case with this movie than any of their previous efforts, so much so that it risks alienating some younger viewers.

This is especially true in the first half of the film. A storming introduction sequence introduces the super-strong Mr Incredible and Elastigirl – the soon to be Mrs Incredible. It also establishes the setting, a strangely retro-contemporary environment which comes close to being a 1960s period piece. This cheery world of gung-ho heroes, ludicrous villains and cats stuck in trees is shattered by a succession of lawsuits that force costumed supermen (and women) into hiding, their vigilante actions (previously backed by the government) now declared illegal.

It is here that the movie comes closest to sagging, as it looks into the family life of Mr and Mrs Incredible, as well as their children whose super-powers have to remain hidden. There is a degree of ‘it’s good to be different’ preaching but strangely the film seems more inclined to treat its superheroes as Alan Moore did his ‘Watchmen’; in both cases the real interest is in seeing super-powered individuals as characters in relationships rather than as allegories of real life problems. This extends to the movie’s villain whose motivation is rooted in the actions of superheroes and whose scheme is slightly more complex than your average megalomaniac’s desire to destroy the world.

The look of the movie is gorgeous, and owes as much to vintage Connery Bond films and the work of production designer Ken Adams as it does comic-book superheroes, lots of chrome, primary colours and some lush tropical settings fill out the movie’s backdrop. Against this run a cast of gorgeously animated characters – the CG is used to perfection to show off their powers – with a nice range of talent (Holly Hunter, Jason Lee, Samuel L Jackson) giving them voices.

So another Pixar triumph? Despite some slight pacing issues, yes. Taking comic-book heroes seriously is flavour of the month at the moment, and ‘The Incredibles’ does a good job of applying this idea to a younger viewing audience in such a way as to be of interest to older geeks. Though less friendly to the very young as previous Pixar outings, this is one of their best efforts so far both in terms of the visuals and the way a clever and witty script plays with conventions without becoming geekily inaccessible.

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By Stephen Lavington

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