Well judging from the growing popularity in superhero movies that swept the world at the start of the new millennium with the likes of X-Men, Spider Man and of course the reboot of the Batman franchise, it was only a matter of time before Pixar decided to get in on the action and make a superhero film of their own. Speaking of Pixar, I believe this is the first of their films to make my list. I am a little shocked at that considering they are an animation studio who has so far only made one genuinely bad film (Cars 2) and most of their projects are nice to watch. I should of course state that this is one of my favourite Pixar films and indeed one of my all-time favourite superhero movies. And without further ado...
We have three superheroes Mr Incredible (super strength), Elastigirl (super flexibility) and Frozone (ice powers) who live in an age where superheroes are celebrities, saving the world from numerous villains and threats but still maintaining their secret identities. Sadly for them, the public eventually gets fed up of all the random property damage that goes with having a superhero around and the Supers are banned, forced to assume their secret identities permanently and hang up their tights. Fifteen years later Mr Incredible and Elastigirl are married and now called Bob and Helen Parr living in a normal suburban neighbourhood with their three children Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack (yes they have powers too). Bob of course hates his job and constantly longs for the Glory Days, often listening to the police scanners trying to find some hero work to do. One day he gets a message from a woman called Mirage who has a way for him to resume his old hero duties...
For those who don’t know, this was actually the first Pixar film to have humans as the main characters. As such the animation for it was incredibly difficult since they would have to work on animating details such as clothes and hair. While they had experience with that from doing Monsters Inc, this was something that had never been done by Pixar up until that point. There was even talk about making it live action instead but I feel personally that it works much better as an animated film. Whatever problems they had, they certainly got past them. Violet’s long hair was of course the most difficult thing to animate but it looks perfect on screen, right up there with the technical marvels that are the hair of Dr Aki Ross and Rapunzel. The characters in this film do seem as a bit of a cross between comic book drawings and Pixar’s own unique spin on human anatomies. If we’re talking about the sets themselves then I loved the entire design of the island with the base on it, especially all the business with the volcano. Edna’s home is also a nice art piece though that is to be expected given it is the home of a rich fashion designer.
Speaking of Edna, she was my favourite character. Voiced by the film’s creator Brad Bird, all her scenes are brilliant with her kooky and zany attitude, almost as a parody of the famous snotty fashion designers. Her rant about the superheroes’ capes is particularly reminiscent of a fashion designer obsessing about whether or not polka dots are “in” right now. Craig T Nelson whom I saw in the flesh in Poltergeist is playing Mr Incredible though I didn’t immediately recognise his voice. The character is pretty interesting since he wants to do the right thing all the time but he always ends up acting selfishly by doing the right thing since it usually means exposing himself and his family will have to be uprooted and move to another place. His wife Helen is a nice little insight into what a superhero might be like if said heroine was also a mother. The kids are pretty entertaining and if I may get all profound on you, Dash reminds me a bit of myself at a younger age (though of course I’m still that age inside) and Violet is a sweet girl, if a little introverted. We also have a small role from Samuel L Jackson and the woman playing his wife is never on screen yet remains memorable – “honey, where’s my super suit!”
As the Big Bad of the piece we also have Jason Lee, someone I never thought would actually appear in two movies on my list. I won’t spoil what the villain’s situation is or his motivation but I will say that Jason Lee doesn’t do a half-bad job playing a comic book villain and I’m surprised and impressed that he doesn’t ham it up completely. Okay he hams it up a little but no more than any of the modern Disney villains.
The film has a perfect blend of action and comedy that prevents it from being too cartoonish like say The Other Guys in that there’s not much slapstick, just the sort of more subtle humour that Pixar is known for. There’s a pretty hilarious scene where Helen is sneaking into the bad guy’s secret hideout (yes I used those words) and ends up stretching herself through three sets of automatic doors, getting comically stuck in the process. Just the look on the guards’ faces when they see the leg sticking out of the door. Going back to Edna, the scene where she shows Helen her designs for her entire family’s costumes is hysterical, the look on Helen’s face being the icing on the cake. As far as the action scenes go, the fight on the island is pretty epic. If I had been younger when this film came out, it would have been my Saturday morning entertainment for many weeks. The shot of Dash literally running across the water while being chased by the guards in hover crafts should definitely go in the inevitable Pixar tribute video that plays at an Oscars ceremony in the future.
The other fight scene in the city is cool as well, though I really did prefer the one on the island. The part where all the family members team up to take out the guards is just so cool to watch and it harkens back to the good old days of superhero cartoons whenever you’d get chills watching the heroes team up to take out the bad guys. There’s another scene that’s less action-packed and more dramatic which is where Helen is flying a jet towards the island and the villain has sent missiles after her. She calls in on the PA system that her children are on the jet. The look on Mirage’s face is incredibly powerful at that moment. And of course I already mentioned the one-scene-wonder that is Frozone’s wife who thinks her special dinner is more important than the fate of the city. Priorities honey.
And so I squeezed another superhero film on the list. I’ve put in a few deconstructions of certain genres but this is probably the first reconstruction I have on it though of course it has elements of soft satire and retro-pastiche and it’s almost similar to Watchmen, though not as dark and gritty. It has a pretty high body count for a family film, like Pirates of the Caribbean and Prince Caspian with the villains getting very family unfriendly deaths. I’m actually astonished there hasn’t been a sequel yet since nearly every superhero film ever made has gotten one – even the Fantastic Four. Come on, Pixar, make it happen. I’m sure I’ll end up seeing it at least a few times. Well anyway that’s all we have time for today and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.