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The Incredibles


Really the first thing I need to say about this movie is that if this thing had come out when I was 12, oh boy, I’d have been walking on air. I still left the theater kind of buzzed and I’m 23 now. It’s really full of stuff that I know I’d have positively flipped over (and I’m sure many kids today are currently flipping over). I mean, the little Incredible kids fucking kill people; I’d have gone entirely apeshit in the theater and declared it Greatest Film in History without hesitation based on that alone. It was really a fine balancing act between appealing to kids and adults, and never in a lazy pop-culture jokes sort of way. It was a truly successful all-ages film. Great soundtrack, lots of swell lounge-style tunes. Excellent action; the whole sequence with Elasti-Girl trying to sneak into the base was beautifully handled, with great attention paid to the subtle ways in which an elastic person would have to move.

But you’ve heard all of this before, from a thousand other reviews, so I think I’ll just address things about the film that sort of bothered me, or annoyed me a bit, since that’ll be a good deal easier (and perhaps more informative) than sentence after sentence of praise:

*It’s pretty obvious that the film is supposed to have some sort of theme about individuality or ‘being special’ or something, but I don’t think it ever came across as clear as it should have. Looking around online I can find all sorts of differing philosophic or (wheeeeee) political readings of the film, and I honestly don’t think that the story was intended to be that divisive. I just don’t believe the implications of some of the film’s ideas were totally thought through. Like, the Incredibles have to maintain a secret identity. There’s the cute bit with the ridiculous tiny masks successfully serving to hide their true selves. So they have to expect some sort of level of conformity in their lives; merely having a secret identity suggests that totally enjoying your special abilities all the time is impossible. There’s always going to be a level of pretend. So it seems to me that a lot of the grousing about school graduations reinforcing mediocrity and the whole thing with little Incredible Boy (sorry, can’t remember his name) not being able to use his powers to participate in track meets is kind of forced, even nonsensical. At the end of the movie the kid still has to hold himself back, he still has to deny his true potential to prevent blowing his family’s secret, so really he’s only won the opportunity to compromise himself and his ‘specialness’ in a different way, and yet everyone‘s utterly delighted with the outcome. I guess you can say that it’s better that now they’re deciding whether to hold themselves back rather than the anti-superhero climate of society, and that they'll no longer go to jail and stuff if they're found out. But won't they have to pick up and move at the end of the film if they're found out anyway? Uprooting his family seems to be Mr. Incredible's concern throughout much of the film, and nothing has been done by the end to really change that. It’s like the mutants/homosexuals thing. It sounds nice at first, until you realize that yeah, people who can explode skyscrapers with their thoughts and halt the Earth’s rotation with amazing powers are frankly a vastly more understandable area of public concern than people who have sex with persons of the same gender. There’s just a whole lot more implications on the superhero side of the comparison that complicate everything.

*While I’m on the topic of society’s climate, I found the set-up of the film to be kind of unbelievable, and that’s after granting my belief in the basics of superpowers, etc. I mean, if Mr. Incredible’s wall at home is totally covered with all of these validations and he’s saved all of these lives, I‘m not sure that public opinion could so drastically turn against all superheroes that anti-superhero legislation would be hustled through Congress at such speed. We hear a little about Superhero rights lawyers and stuff, but really the movie just characterizes most of the people Mr. Incredible saves as thankless assholes at worst and image-driven sheep at best. A whole nation of waffling swing-voters if you will. I guess I’d buy all of this more easily if all the superheroes were fighting was common human crooks, but supervillains (or at least science-villains) appear to be inside the equation, and since they’re all criminals anyway and probably wouldn’t adhere to government regulation, wouldn’t a whole lot of the public get kind of nervous that they’re being left open to super-attack? Even the cops in the opening sequence seem heavily reliant on Mr. Incredible helping them out with their jobs. Of course, by the end of the film public opinion swings back into super-favor because they save the world and all, but it was awfully considerate of the world’s supervillains to not try anything for the whole five years when superheroes wouldn’t be any problem. But hey, they’re dumb supervillains (I loved the running gag about monologues). It’s the sort of set-up you can stomach and still enjoy the film; you just can’t really think about it. Hell, while I’m on a roll, don’t most states have statutes protecting ‘rescuers’ from legal action if they reasonably believe a person is in danger and cause injury while saving them? And isn’t throwing yourself off a building a pretty solid instance of ‘contributory’ negligence, which would greatly limit your recovery in a lawsuit? I’m sensing a oncoming wave of Incredibles-themed exam questions in first-year Torts classes around the country…

*The movie clearly doesn’t have anything against science per se. But it plainly prefers science as augmented with natural superior ability. But one thing I couldn’t get out of my head: why the hell isn’t the evil fanboy kid’s intelligence a superpower? I mean, he’s plainly better at creating gadgets than anyone else on the planet; all of these nations will doubtlessly line up to buy his stuff. The implication is that eventually everyone will have artificial technological-enhanced superpowers, which I’m sure is bad because it would result in chaos and destruction. Yet how is the evil fanboy kid artificially boosting himself by inventing a shitload of things that nobody else could? It seems to me that the movie considers obvious physical superiority to be a superpower deserving of freedom while mental superiority is just a means of ‘cheating’, of fooling the good people (whom we don’t like anyway, however, because they’re thankless mediocre sheep) through dirty cunning! But hey, the costume designer person seems to be wildly intelligent too, and she’s suffered just like the rest of the superheroes, so I’m sure much of this isn’t intentional on the part of the filmmakers. But still, I get that the fanboy kid is evil because he killed a lot of people, but the movie seems to think he’s a super-poseur too, and I don’t really buy that.

*Honestly, Incredible Boy was annoying. Little brat. Sorry, no analysis here. He just got kind of grating. He got punched in the face a lot near the end, which is something you almost never see in these movies (not even kids being put in danger), so that was ok.

I really really had fun with “The Incredibles” though, even if some parts of it don’t hold much water upon later analysis. It was a fun, energetic movie, with excellent superhero action.

The trailers were awful though, as much as I enjoyed hearing a Spin Doctors song in the new Winnie the Poo preview. Do the Spin Doctors still possess kid appeal? I got the new Star Wars teaser too, and the big scary shot of what’s-his-name turning around with the Evil Contact Lenses in his eyes made me giggle, the most powerful emotion evoked. Some awful-looking Tim Allen Christmas movie. Already a trailer for Pixar’s new one, “Cars”, which doesn’t hold a lot of appeal for me.

The pre-movie short was pretty decent though, a very old-school song-and-dance thing, even if the message seems to be about blissfully accepting the abuse of others without struggle… NO! I’M… DOING IT… AGAIN…