For the past ten or fifteen years, it is undeniable how popular CG animated toons have been; the Toy Story franchise, Shrek, How to train your Dragon, Cars, Madagascar, etc, etc. In that same span of time, it is similarly clear that this is also the age of the super hero; The Batman and Dark Knight films, Spider-Man, X-Men and Wolverine, Iron Man, Captain America, etc. So, in 2004, Disney teamed with Pixar to release what would seemingly be the perfect storm collaboration: The Incredibles, a CG animated film about super heroes. Seven years later, the package is ready for home viewing on the highest of definitions, Blu-ray, asking us the question “how was it?” In a ridiculously cliched description; Incredible.
The Incredibles was Pixar’s sixth film, after Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo, and just before Cars. Written and directed by Brad Bird, of Simpsons fame, the basic concept was a family of super heroic characters, where every one had their own ability. But there was so much more intrigue and depth to the story, really never before seen from an animated film. This wasn’t just a typical “kids cartoon” nor was it even “just” the perfect balance of a “kid/adult toon” that Pixar had become famous for. This was something new.
The most immediate comparisons to the concept were drawn to Marvel’s Fantastic Four – and at the time, Disney did not own the comic book company, which lead to a bit of a rivalry, at least between the fans. But those comparisons are only surface deep; recognizing a tight nit group of four super heroes. The actual story “behind the mask” is much more, which has drawn comparisons to The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, MARVELS, and other iconic graphic novels.
The characters each have their own amazing depth, completely rounded out with flaws and strengths, taking a “real world” approach to a super hero movie, and being more successful than most of the live action super hero films to date.
Essentially, the world as we know it has a small group of superhuman people, which the press dubs “supers.” The most famous of these (the “Superman” of the bunch) is Mr. Incredible, an amazingly strong giant of a man. Incredible has legions of press following him, with millions of adoring fans, like Buddy, who hopes to one day be Mr. Incredible’s sidekick (the “Robin” of the bunch).
However, Mr. Incredible’s favorite fan is another superhero, Elastigirl, who can stretch her body into almost any shape or size. Despite his strict policy to reject assistance and to work alone, Mr. Incredible makes a few …exceptions for Elastigirl, as their relationship develops into a love. This spills from their super heroic life to their secret identity life, where their married names are Bob and Helen Parr.
But soon enough, the days of superheroing are over, as legal and political action takes shape from a public backlash. People are getting hurt during hero and villain battles, suing for millions of dollars, while politicians wage wars against the vigilantes through the newspapers. And, before long, all superheroes are forced to stop saving lives.
Fast forward fifteen years, and Bob Parr is no longer Mr. Incredible, he’s a husband, a father, and a regular office employee, with a bit of a gut and a receding hairline – far from the super hero world. Similarly, Elastigirl is now a wife and a mother, tasked with driving the couple’s two kids, Violet and Dash, to school, soccer practice, the mall, etc., then cooking dinner for the family in their suburban household, deep in the city of Metroville.
As normal as they are, there are still the occasional issues with their super powers. Bob might smash through a wall after having a bad day at work. Helen might occasionally stretch to set the dining room table from the kitchen. And, not surprisingly, their kids have also inherited some meta abilities: Dash can run at amazing speeds, while Violet can create fields that either protect her, or outright turn her invisible. But because of the government’s Superhero Relocation Program, and the various Acts against super human abilities, the family is forced to hide their skills and appear as normal as possible.
After their third child Jack Jack is born, Bob begins feeling a void in his superhero-less life. His insurance office job is mundane, his family life has too many things to remember, etc. One of the only thrills he has is to occasionally sneak out with his fellow superhero-in-hiding friend Frozone, to secretly fight crime and save the day.
But just when things seem their bleakest, and their “normalest”, Bob discovers a message for help from a woman named Mirage. There’s a monstrous robot running rampant on a distant island, and only someone with Mr. Incredible’s skills can save the day. After a quick, and secretive, trip to super hero costume designer Edna Mode, Bob is on his way to being Mr. Incredible again. Unfortunately for Bob, Mr. Incredible’s meta ability is strength, not stealth. Helen learns of his excursions and follows him. But like her husband, Elastigirl also unwittingly brought along Dash and Violet, who followed their mom hoping for an adventure of their own.
Soon enough, the four are united, each wearing their new Edna-customized suit, and flexing their super hero muscles against hundreds of guards, dozens of killer robots, and a new, imposing super villain named Syndrome. It’s an all out superhero vs. super villain war, where the entire planet is at stake, and the only chance we have is the family we’ve come to know and love, the Incredibles. Now we’re talking!
Visually, the film is awesome. The scenes are intense, bright with comic-book-style colors and non stop action. The sound is equally impressive, keeping up with the top-notch dialog between flurries of bullets, buildings toppling, and monster robots roaring. The partnership of 1080p/AVC and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, has The Incredibles looking and sounding fantastic.
The movie itself aside, this four-disc set is packed with features and bonuses. All of the earlier special edition DVD bonuses are back (from commentary to featurettes) and now Pixar offers new bits on ever disc. A roundtable discussion with the filmmakers, the animated short Boundin, Jack-Jack Attack Exploded, The New Nomanism, deleted scenes, stills gallery, and more.
The ToonBarn Bottom Line? Own this. Watch this. Love this. The Incredibles is an amazing film. Whether you’re watching it on a light level during a slow Sunday afternoon, or really getting into the intricacies of the plot, there’s so much to enjoy about this movie.