The Incredibles (2004)
Directed by Brad Bird (x2)
Starring Craig T. Nelson (x2), Holly Hunter (x2), Jason Lee (x2), Samuel L. Jackson (x7), Sarah Vowell, Spencer Fox, Elizabeth Pena, Brad Bird, Wallace Shawn (x5), John Ratzenberger (x6), Dominique Louis, Teddy Newton
For a good number of years the gold standard in superhero cartoons, and really, superhero movies in general, The Incredibles came along at just the right time. The Spider-Man and X-Men films were in full swing, but we were still years away from the MCU and the great Nolan Bat pictures (Batman Begins, being a weird prequel to The Dark Knight, does not count), so Pixar jumped in and filled that cape-and-laser void with a terrific story of supers hiding in retirement, being dragged back to battle a new foe. Quick – top of your head – when is this movie set? It never casually occurs to me that it isn’t the modern day – just a really retro designed modern day – but no! It’s set in this alternate reality 1960s, obviously. There isn’t anything to necessarily throw you off from this idea, it just doesn’t stick with me for some reason.
It was designed as an homage to ’60s comic books, but the real debt here is owed to the James Bond films of that era. Sure, there is a lot of superhero-ing going on, but this is just a technologically advanced version of Dr. No or You Only Live Twice. You’ve got mystery and secret lairs and, while not exactly world domination, a nefarious plan of world acceptance in the hands of a madman who, if left unchecked, would likely lead to mass dominion over the rest of mankind. It’s an extraordinary achievement, balancing its terrific action sequences with the hilarious family struggle/public obfuscating/costume design issues that abound. As we started getting inundated with Pixar sequels in the ’00s and ’10s, a growing chorus demanding another Incredibles became pretty deafening – it was their only early film that logically should have a follow-up (Cars 2? Monsters University? Come on), and so we as a people shouted it into existence in 2018. And you know, it was still pretty great. Thanks, Pixar!
The odd thing that happened in the intervening years, though, is that we got buried in superheroing. As I think I mentioned somewhere previous, we’ve had the same number of superhero movies over the last fifteen years as we did in the forty before that combined. Because of this, I think The Incredibles was getting a little forgotten before the sequel came out – animated superheroes are still fairly rare, but that was starting to bleed into the public consciousness too. Everything they innovatively brought to the screen in 2004 has been done live-action multiple times over since, and people have a hard time giving credit where credit is due for filmmakers getting somewhere first. So, quality-wise but also financially I think there was legitimate worry that Incredibles 2 wouldn’t be anything special. What more is there really to do with superheroes?
Incredibles 2 ended up the highest grossing Pixar movie by a damn sight, grossing fully 233% more than the original – a movie that was no slouch as the fifth top grossing picture of 2004, and the second highest Pixar film at the time. Demand was that high! And again, the movie is pretty great! The animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse from 2018 is probably a better movie than either, but it took a really long time for something to climb over the Pixar costumery.
There are a ton of great options for movie MVP, including director Bird’s hilarious super suit designer Edna and Pixar staple Ratzenberger turning up as the sequel bridge villain the Underminer, but I’m going with everyone’s favorite Incredible – Violet. Oh, you never spent any time thinking about this? Well let’s walk through it – sure Bob and Helen are great, and they’re layered and have all manner of adult problems, and they’re likable, but are they lovable? Unless you’re in witness protection, I wouldn’t even say they’re relatable. So where does that leave us? Dash? Are you kidding? That kid’s an asshole! And yes, Jack-Jack is awesome, but has very little going on in the first movie. The cartoon included with the DVD about him driving the babysitter insane might’ve propelled him up the family standings had it been incorporated into the movie, but no, it’s Violet. Everyone can relate to Violet, everyone’s dealt with her issues at some point growing up, and her powers are cool as hell. If this was one of those Facebook quizzes “Which Incredible are You?” everyone would turn out to be Violet no matter what choices you made.
The Incredibles won Best Animated Feature and Best Sound Editing at the Academy Awards, where it also picked up the rare animated Screenplay nomination for new Two-Timer director Bird (having helmed #244 Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol). Superhero staple Samuel L. Jackson leads the acting wing, becoming the seventh Seven-Timer (#332 Phantom Menace, #224 The Avengers, #175 Patriot Games, #131 Jackie Brown, #172 Out of Sight, #123 Jurassic Park), while Pixar vets Ratzenberger (Toy Storys #137 I, #240 II, #152 III, Superman #305 I, #199 II) and Shawn (all Toy Storys and #237 The Princess Bride) advance to the Sixes and Fives, respectively! Spotlight!