The Incredibles premiered in November 2004 and instantly earned its status as a beloved animated classic. Written and directed by Brad Bird (director of The Iron Giant, Ratatouille), the film also has Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson and Samuel L. Jackson lending their voices to the central characters. Most twenty-somethings today can recall their first viewing of The Incredibles with joy and nostalgia, but as with so many Pixar films there was a lot of hard work and expertise which ensures that The Incredibles’ heartfelt exploration of familial love and loyalty appeals to young adults as well as children.
The Incredibles has withstood the test of time for so many reasons. The animation is visually imaginative. The angular design and brassy soundtrack establishes the film’s aesthetic as something simultaneously retro and modern. This artistic decision captures the conflict at the heart of the film. Bob Parr, or Mr. Incredible, is faced with a super-sized midlife crisis, both drawn to the past by his desire to relive the glory days and forced to accept the reality of drab days in the office providing for his family. The retro and futuristic combine to establish the desirability of the past alongside the prospect of the future.
The voice acting in the film is also especially impressive. Samuel L. Jackson’s scene-stealing performance as Frozone has led to countless teenagers re-enacting Frozone’s infamous fight with his wife. Sarah Vowell is equally whiny and insecure in her portrayal of the pre-teen Violet. Brad Bird’s depiction of the fashionista Edna Mode carefully treads the line between being hilariously ridiculous and a tongue in cheek personification of the fashion industry’s stereotypes. Ultimately it is Holly Hunter’s Elastigirl which wins me over upon every re-watch. Helen is both desperate to keep her family together and determined to defeat the villainous Syndrome. Her feminism is not the central tenant of her character, yet it underlines every decision she makes as she endeavours to be both a mother and a career woman.
Yet the most charming element of The Incredibles is the fact that this superhero film doubles as a compelling family drama. The arguments between Bob and Helen are rooted in reality, the insults hurled between Violet and Dash are recognisable to anyone with a sibling. The Parr’s family life may be elevated by their superpowers, but each of their powers are a reflection of their roles in the family. Helen is the mother stretched in every direction; Bob is the father who feels the need to appear strong and uphold his family; Dash is the energetic, young boy who runs circles around everyone else; Violet is the shy daughter who would rather remain invisible; Jack-Jack is a baby, unpredictable but filled with potential. The Incredibles accomplishes what all good superhero films manage- it uses the supernatural elements of the genre to tell a relatable, human story.
I will be queuing up outside the cinema on July 13th with all the other eager millennials who have waited for the sequel to the The Incredibles since 2004. Regardless of the success of The Incredibles 2, I think it is worth treating yourself with a trip to the cinema. In a blockbuster landscape overstuffed with superhero films that present tortured protagonists riddled with self-loathing amidst scenes of mass destruction, why would you not want to watch something so relentlessly life-affirming?