Movie Review: The Incredibles – Pixar’s Dark Side

The Incredibles (8/10)

People will go to great lengths to defend Brad Bird’s The Incredibles as their favorite Pixar movie. It does have a lot of fantastic elements. Michael Giacchino’s score is inspired and exhilarating and the characters are each vivid and unique. But what I want to talk about is the overall message of the film and its construction.

Having recently watched the film, I can tell you that it opens with a grainy film “where were they then?” documentary type thing and then has the briefest of action sequences. After this prologue, the 30 minute long first act has NO ACTION. It basically sets this film up to be a family dramedy where the main characters just so happen to be super heroes. I actually do think this is noble, but it is not what people remember about the film. If you ask most people, they will surely only discuss things like Dash’s chase scene or the fights with the giant droid robot – things in Act two and three or the last 50 minutes. I am just impressed by the easily deletable memories of my friends and family who watch this (and myself to be quite honest) and forget that behind the core of an animated “action” movie, is a family drama.

And this family drama is quite complex. It deals with a daughter not being incapable of helping her mother and rising to the challenges, it deals with mother content with home-making reclaiming her former undomesticated self, a father through a mid-life crisis, and something of a coming of age tale about the son. I’m not kidding. This might as well be American Beauty.

Now here’s my real beef with The Incredibles. I don’t think this is what Brad Bird intended, but who cares about intentions any way? Basic film theory says the meaning of film is what you get out of it. So here’s what I get out of The Incredibles. Early on in the film, Mr. Incredibles rejects Buddy/Syndrome as a sidekick. Why? A combination of a) simply not needing help, b) it is dangerous work for a kid, c) Buddy doesn’t have superpowers and therefore can’t keep up. So the boy without powers, at this point, is supposed to be an obsessed fan boy. But isn’t he also just someone trying to help. To do what he can for the greater good. (P.S. Favorite line. When Frozone says that he’s trying to help the greater good and his wife responds, “The greater good? I am your wife. I am the greatest good you’ll ever get!”) So Buddy is just a normal person trying to help and Mr. Incredible rejects him.

Then Buddy takes a turn to the dark side, invents weapons, and becomes his own super hero/villain. Now to me, this just looks like someone with ambition accomplishing their dreams and overcoming an obstacle. So then he gets a little crazy and locks Mr. Incredible in an electrode cell thing. In his necessary evil villain monologue he says that he wants to give everyone super powers “so that when every one is super, no one is.” Now this is a very powerful quote about reducing what is special about our protagonists and their way of life. But I can’t help reading it that he is just upset that life dealt him a bad hand of cards by making him not a super hero and when he had to work hard to overcome it. Furthermore, all he wants to do is give everybody the same advantage that these other privileged superheroes get. Correct me if I’m wrong, but is this not the best message to be sending kids?

I strongly feel that the film is unintentionally sending the message that you have to be born special to achieve greatness. But that’s if if you focus on the super heroes and not the family drama as I’m sure Pixar put their energies. But does America? Probably not. But I also don’t think that small children pay too much attention to the subtle nuance of villainy.


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