I went out and saw The Incredibles again last night, just to catch all the little things I’d missed and enjoy all the little things I caught again. You really get a lot more little details on second viewings, when you’re free not to have to wonder what’s going to happen next and can let your eye wander. I’m still going to keep spoilers out, though I may let slip a minor little thing or two you may rather be surprised by so if in doubt, go see the movie first. In fact, go see it right now! What are you still reading this for?
Expanding on what I said last time, there is an extraordinary level of detail, one might even say clutter in this film. All this detail really helps to sell the idea that you’re living in a real world. Some of the items are real objects, or things very similar to real objects, that older viewers might recognize—such as a Brownie camera, or a sixties-vintage wall clock. The furniture, the patterns on flatware, television screens, cars, architecture…these should all be familiar from the 1960s.
And so is the family. One thing I didn’t really go into very much in my previous entry, but I’ve been thinking about especially since having seen the movie again, is that this family succeeds where a lot of movie and TV families don’t. Odd as it is to say about a totally computer-animated family, they just feel real—like a real, close-knit family whose members love each other very much. It’s there in the little things they say to each other, the way they protect and fight for each other, and when actions speak louder than words. Even in bizarre situations which only a family of superheroes could encounter, they still act like any normal family would in a pinch—and it only makes them seem all the more real. This is what I meant when I talked earlier about how the superheroing and family themes work together so well. This really is a family movie, in its purest sense: a movie about a family.
And the members of the family are all fully-realized characters, and believable. Brad Bird didn’t fall into the trap of making the big guy a dumb dufus that is common to so many superhero comedies (most notably The Tick). Mr. Incredible may be muscle (and fat) bound, and perhaps a bit naive from time to time, but he’s anything but a moron. Once he gets going, it’s easy to believe he earned his sobriquet. Likewise, Mrs. Parr, nee Elastigirl, is also extremely competent, both as a heroine and as a mother. As for the kids—odd as it is to say about kids with superpowers, they come across as completely normal. They have the usual adolescent problems that seem to be endemic to kids their ages, and their powers are both cause and expression of those problems.
In short, once you get past the concept of superheroes being real, and get used to the style of the animation, the way the characters are put together greatly helps the willing suspension of disbelief. Not only are the characters credible, they have obvious motivations and act on those motivations in believable ways. Never once does any character, including the villains, act counter to his own motivations, or come down with a case of plot-necessitated stupidity.
It’s ironic, in a way. In all the movies and things we see from day to day, we get so used to glossing over jarring notes, to coming up with our own explanations for plotholes or goofs or things the writers forgot, that when a movie like The Incredibles comes along that doesn’t have those things it seems amazingly good, when in fact it only does all the things right that other movies often do wrong, isn’t that what we ought to be able to expect from a movie in the first place?