Directed by Brad Bird. USA. 2004.

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‘Super-heroes are in everyday life.  And I have been fascinated by the balance between the mundane and the fantastic.’ - Brad Bird.

Animation it seems always attempts to out-do what live action film cannot, here however the story of super-heroes (and the sheer number of them) matched with the device of computer-generated animation allows a larger world for these super-heroes to inhabit.  A drawback of Spider-Man for me has always been the constant restriction of New York as Peter Parker’s playground, whereas the X-Men and Hulk have other environments to act in.  While Finding Nemo had the world’s ocean, here we have a large green island sandwiching the action of Metroville which is drab and dull.   This dullness of the city - after the super-heroes are put in the relocation program - refers to the more closeted existence the supers must now endure, while the natural world/island with its lush green landscape and sunshine allows an alternative location for their powers to be put into full effect.  A notable example of this switch in stance can be seen in the costume that the Incredible Family wears.  While in Metroville during the prologue Mr. Incredible wears a dark blue suit fitting the state of night, while once it comes to the island he and the family are all wearing red suits that fit in the domain of the sun-lit island.

It is good to see that the problems all the supers encounter are when the secret identity and celebrity has been taken away from them, inverting many of the super-hero narrative.  Most of our heroes have domestic angst, workplace unhappiness and mood swings before they gain their powers, here these problems are thrust on to them by society’s wish to have them removed from the spotlight.  It poses questions about parenting and being a super-hero (a deleted scene shows Elastigirl standing up for mothers as heroes) and how heroes are worshipped but what happens when the revolt comes.

The amount of detail in sets, costumes, designs of characters and the exploration of the script from draft to the finished article.  The deleted scenes show how different the film could have been in its make-up.  Originally, Buddy/Syndrome was going to be a super-villain who invades the house at the start of the film, instead making him an admonished fan leant more to what is expected of supers.  I also like the prologue where the French villain dismisses Buddy in French as stupid; his enthusiasm is pushed aside as wide of the mark.

There is a script here full of wit that winks at past super-hero films (why supers do not wear capes), tied along with an over-reliant score which overworks the Bond theme too much for its own good and the over-hanging roof-top home of the villain on the island.  This all goes hand-in-hand with the perfectly cast group of voices.  Pixar have the tendency to correctly cast the voice that fits the role, unlike the DreamWorks procedure of getting out the chequebook and cast stars, it worked for Shrek but not for Shark Tale.  Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter are a good pair and have a good chemistry but also are probably the right age to play these roles, while Samuel L. Jackson (Frozone) in contrast is sadly under-used in comparison. Surprisingly his voice fits well into the comedy aspect of the film.

The film again pushes the envelope that Pixar have pushed far enough; each film is as good as and sometimes better than the last.  To where they can go they only know and we can only hope to be left amazed by the results.  And in Pixar’s hands they might have a suitable franchise here.  One word: Incredible.

Jamie Garwood
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