The Defining Images of 2004’s ‘The Incredibles’
Brad Bird’s Incredibles 2 will finally, FINALLY, hit Irish/UK cinemas on Friday, and it’s no secret that its 2004 predecessor is one of the my favourite films of all time. Before my hopes are destroyed by a disappointing sequel and I grow to hate the Incredibles brand for the rest of my life, I’m going to take a quick spin through my favourite scenes and shots of the original movie to remind you — and myself — why this world was so special to begin with.
Brad Bird’s passion for 60s TV aesthetic was first evident when he recreated an episode of Jack Paar (hmm I wonder who the Incredibles were named after…) in 1999’s The Iron Giant. And so the movie begins with a montage of Bob, Helen and Lucius being interviewed by a journalist in their super personas, a magnificently nostalgic introduction to a film that bursts with the spirit of classic Hollywood adventure.
The best character in the movie appears for only 20 or 30 seconds: Bomb Voyage, the French mime artist bank robber Mr. Incredible accidentally catches mid-crime, then lets get away. You’ll never forget his frustrated cry of “Monsieur Incroyable!”.
The movie’s first fantastic twist: the two superheroes we’ve just seen flirting on a rooftop on a night of crime-fighting are in fact… about to wed. And so is born the greatest super-powered duo in cinema history.
Arguably the precise moment when it’s apparent The Incredibles is not, primarily, a film for children is when Mr. Incredible is sued for foiling a man’s suicide attempt.
And after this thrilling, action-packed opening, the movie plunges us into a world of grey cubicles and extortionate insurance. Short of The Apartment and Americans Beauty and Psycho, this is the most evocative depiction of office-bound monotony put to film, tragic all the more when contrasted so superbly with the excitement of Bob’s former life.
“I’m not happy, Bob. Not happy.”
Gilbert Huph, voiced by the incomparable Wallace Shawn, is the next of the film’s iconic scene-players. An impossibly tiny, shrill and obnoxious man, Gilbert’s greed and selfishness are rewarded with the spinal injury he quite probably deserves.
This is my favourite image of the film; it just captures so essentially the nostalgic spirit of lost heroism that the tone is built upon. It’s heartbreaking, especially after witnessing where this man is in his life (working for Huph etc.).
This is like a baroque painting. Stunning showcase of how animation can be used for pure aesthetic images (but, in Hollywood, so rarely is).
The same goes for this.
Now we get to meet one of the best characters in modern cinema: Edna Mode, the embodiment of classic Hollywood’s excess and extremity, voiced by Brad Bird himself. QUEEN.
The tension is turned up to 100 in this scene as Bob discovers the KRONOS scheme that’s killed so many of his old super-friends. Giacchino’s score is more sensational than ever here.
“It’ll be easy… like breaking a toothpick”
The maturity of the drama is at its most palpable when Mr Incredible uses Mirage, the women who Helen understandably thinks he’s been having an affair with, as a hostage against Syndrome. There’s a warped psychosexual energy at play that one does not expect in an animated Disney-funded film.
Dash’s little run through the island jungle is a grade A action set-piece, even by live-action standards. This is what got Bird the Ghost Protocol gig.
Frozone and Mrs Best’s “Where is my super suit?” argument has bizarrely become the movie’s most beloved scene on social media, possibly due to its great use of an endearing 90s sitcom joke structure that really doesn’t exist anymore.
Oh, Tony Rydinger, be still my heart.
The end of the movie. Brad Bird sets us up for a sequel that, on Friday morning, I’ll finally get to see.