Quick-Thoughts, Again: Brad Bird’s The Incredibles

Screened at The Frida Cinema

“You have more power than you realize.”

It’s been almost twenty years, and I genuinely still think no superhero action sequence has topped the 100-mile Dash. Brad Bird’s scenario scheming in this is just consistently exciting and playful.

Right from the gecko, The Incredibles does better than what superhero movies such as Synder’s Man of Steel (2013) or The Russos’ Captain America: Civil War (2016) tried to do virtually a decade later. The damages that their protagonists end up creating (in this animated feature’s case, a suicide save, a mileage of broken bones, and some serious city damages) are met with punishment: suppress your talent and do the morally righteous thing and conform to the comforts of a safer environment; embrace “mediocrity.” A superhero, someone with the ambition to pressure their ideals onto others, either has to become a slave to capitalistic corporations or a nobody. This is why we can become unhappy enough to just let ourselves go if we fall towards the latter. 

Syndrome is the exploiter of false heroes who backs up the all too powerful corporations, but more importantly, he is the jealousy that comes from not having instantaneous approval for your talent, ridding genuine heroes so that you can control your own, and his ploy to deceive a nation feels very post-9/11 with all the conspiracy theories people had and still have. Though, my only complaint with his character is that if you read this movie in the most literal sense possible, he’s the one person not born of privilege here who is villainized, and while his “working hard to gain corrupt power” story does admittedly happen in the real world, the filmmakers just sort of overlook the fact that he’s the only main representative of a non-super besides Edna. Then again, if you look at the whole “born with powers” hunch as just learning to fulfill your potential, this dilemma can easily be resolved, which is obviously Bird’s intention; don’t go thinking you’re special, just go knowing you can be special if you really make an effort and choose to break out of the zone of living supervised by the ones in power. Also, Mr. Incredible works to become incredible again, and Syndrome works to become not so incredible, so at least there’s that ethical contrast in play as well. Ambition (Supers) is (are) for better or worse; it is what it is.

I love how the cape sequence though constitutes commercializing your heroism, and the unfaithful nature of it biting you in the back. It’s no surprise that we’ve come to worship supermodels more than we do superheroes in this climate. Some stuff here also about suppressing from the public the chaotic nature of divorce, of a family falling apart, chasing the high of being young and successful still, jeopardizing the family relationship. Lying, having an affair, we gain power, right or wrong, ugh! “Men Robert’s age are prone to weakness” so let there be power? Almost every scene in The Incredibles really does introduce a new topic to enhance the realism of desired heroes actually existing in our world, and how their ideals can evolve. It opened up countless concepts to be explored that this genre has subsequently taken on one by one over the near two decades since its release. To me, Amazon Prime’s The Boys is the closest we’ve gotten cinematically to matching its status, expanding on how heroes can become villains from capital corruption.

It’s really strange to think of this movie as Bird living in a fantasy, but if it helped heal him somehow in the process, then that’s what’s important. His guilt and depression from potentially losing a family is so obviously felt here.

Verdict Change: A —> A-

All-Time Favorites, The Best Animated Films, Brad Bird Ranked, Pixar Ranked

“The Incredibles” is now available to stream on Disney+.

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