Are We There Yet?
Once upon a time there was an animation studio who made great G rated films. After many successful versions of a similar story structure – the buddy film – it came time for them to start to grow up. Thankfully this didn’t involve seaweed moustaches.
Who’d have thought that Pixar would make a PG film? How much faith and guts did they have to hire an outside writer/director and give him creative control? How well does it pay off?
Pixar’s latest venture is the start of a new lease of life. I think it is fitting that the last Disney/Pixar co-production should be the one that leads Pixar to a new place.
The Incredibles is just as the title describes. It abandons the shtick that we’ve come to love for a family and all the relationships therein. It ventures places the other films daren’t go; mentioning things like divorces and marital issues, discontentment at work and death. Not that anyone major dies, they’re not that grown up yet. Lots of nameless henchmen get blown up while flying dangerous gizmos and fallen Heros who have cape issues.
The rise in classification also addsthe exclusion of some audiences. It is unlikely that the under 8s are going to last the 2 hours (the first film to break the 90 minute barrier). There simply isn’t enough colour and movement to keep their attention in the first half of the film. There were numerous fidgeting children in the session last week. I also think the action sequences could be too much for younger ones as well. The small girl beside me jumped a number of times during some of the more intense sequences.
Enough about outside things.
The Incredibles is about the Parr family. Robert and Helen are Superheros, Mr Incredible and Elastigirl. When Mr Incredible saves a jumper, he is sued for the injuries sustained from the rescue. All of the Superheros are forced into retirement, and the ‘normal’ life.
Mr Incredible’s large bulging shoulders have migrated into a large bulging stomach and Elastigirl has the signs of bearing three children on her thighs. The daily battles they now fight are homework, bathing rituals, and keeping food on the table for a growing family.
The Incredibles delves into suburban life and shows the same issues and the same concerns that affect everyone, even if you can lift trucks. This is where Shrek 2 failed. This film doesn’t drive every conversation toward a punch line. Sure, it’s very funny, but by spending the time with this family in their home the audience already has an emotional involvement and cares when there are real problems to be dealt with.
Each character’s powers are an extension of themselves. Mr Incredible is very strong as most father’s have to be; Elastigirl is flexible beyond belief as any mother is; Violet is shy and very self conscious so, naturally, she can become invisible; Dash is a young boy who is always on the go with boundless energy so he’s able to run extremely fast; the baby is a mystery, not showing any sign of having superpowers. Yet.
There is so much to look at, like any Pixar piece, that I enjoyed this movie more the second time. Even though I knew all of the big jokes and scares I still felt the thrill.
The concern with human computer animations is the realism. There is a certain sense of unease while watching a photorealistic human character speak. For example, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is a beautiful film, but I found the characters just a little creepy to watch. Pixar understands this. They achieve photorealism in many of their productions, but it is always stylised. If The Incredibles were realistic, then it would have failed. How unbelievable a woman being stretched to extremes would be. By stylising the characters we are more likely to identify with them. Which is just plain weird.
The Incredibles design looks to be inspired by every superhero and spy flick of the 60s and 70s. Lots of curves and odd angles accentuate the world and provokes memories of James Bond, but also Batman. The contrasts between the domestic, normal world and the Super world are dramatic. Emphasising this difference is what the film is about. No matter what the setting, family and relationships are still important.
I loved the score. All original music incorporating the same sense of style as the sets. Very spy flick, exciting and emotional as well. A good CD to get energised with I would imagine.
Animation can have a bad reputation about being not very cinematic. Everything is so extensively planned and thought through that it can sometime lack the spontaneity that live action freely gives. The Incredibles couldn’t be accused of not being cinematic. The Dash chase would be ‘the’ special effects sequence of a live action, but the computer takes this and pushes it further. I’ve rarely felt that much excitement and laughed so much in so short a time. Loved the bugs!
I really could go on for pages about individual characters. Loved Edna Mode. And Syndrome was a very worthy nemesis.
I’ll definitely be adding it to my Pixar DVD collection.