Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Incredibles Directed by Brad Bird

Apparently Walt Disney Pictures is planning to release sequels to Monsters Inc., A Bug’s Life, and Finding Nemo. They will also have rights to the current Pixar Studios release, The Incredibles, and the next release, Cars; I imagine we can expect solo Disney production sequels for those films as well. My point is that while Disney is rehashing old territory and failing to progress, Pixar is pushing the animated family picture forward. Case in point: The Incredibles.

Don’t get me wrong – I thoroughly enjoyed Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc., and Finding Nemo, but I adored The Incredibles. It is the first Pixar film, and the first animated film released since I was nine, that I can say I enjoyed without any further qualification. With every animated feature post-Aladdin, I have had to supplement my adulation for the film with a “but.” Finding Nemo was good, but a little too sappy. The Lion King was good, but tread on some awfully familiar territory. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was good, but, wait, no, no – it wasn’t that good, was it? The Incredibles, on the other hand, is a good film without any buts.

Whereas the former Pixar releases, excepting parts of A Bug’s Life and Monsters Inc., were mostly attempts at realism, The Incredibles is a highly stylized picture. It seems that the creative minds at Pixar are finally comfortable enough with their ability to create images exactly as they look that they can now branch out and create visuals that are stylistic exaggerations. Echoing Film Noir, sci-fi, and the 50’s in general, the set design is an example of this stylistic bent. Shadows slant jaggedly across the screen, traces of Star Trek can be found in the sliding doors, and the quaintness of familial life – or the appearance of – can be found virtually everywhere. The best word to describe the movie would be organic; the style is subtle, but far more natural than the nigh sterile environ of former Pixar films.

The true hallmark of The Incredibles is the writing. The primary characters are filled out, offering a complete personality rather than one that is monodimensional. This has been a thorn in the side for animated films, where a children’s film, nearly without exception, implies a childish film. That is, a film that plays to only one audience, with characters tailored to one specific modality. (It should be noted that Pixar has been better than most in this category.) In The Incredibles, characters are fully formed, running a gamut of emotions and situations. We see Mr. Incredible at both the top and bottom of his game, we see him as a father, we see him as an employee, and we see him as his own individual entity. He is a complex character who obviously had a lot of thought put into him. In my opinion, the pinnacle of the film is the set pieces. They’re so much fun that I would hardly be doing anyone a favor by revealing them. Suffice it to say that they are the most entertaining and creative set pieces I have seen since 2003’s Intacto.

Built on the foundation of the family film, The Incredibles is far more than its genre. It (hopefully) foretells a future in which a family film can appeal to a larger demographic while still holding fast to its roots.

Opens Nationwide November 5th.


Blogger Quack Corleone said...

I like your blog (even though I'm jealous 'cause you get to watch all the film I wanna watch!)

Nevertheless, I have a bit of a beef with the point you raised about animated films aiming for just a children's audience. You praise 'The Incredibles' for expanding its intended demographic, and you express hope for more family films to follow its lead. You imply that aiming for a "niche" audience is somehow worse than having mass appeal.

To me, Pixar's decision is a purely financial one. The more people in theatres, the more money they make. It's not motivated by art, or the need to tell the best possible story. Like many of the blockbusters of the late 1970's and 1980's, it's an attempt to appeal to everyone without fully satisfying anyone.

I think it's praiseworthy when a film doesn't try to appeal to every demographic. Films aimed just at children just seem more innocent. Sure, they still want to make money. But, somehow, maybe there's a spark of sincerity left in them. Or maybe I'm just naive.

Now, I haven't seen 'The Incredibles', but from your review it seems like a coolly calculated product. I don't think products should be praised as art.

26 October, 2004 13:30  

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