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So I love the Incredibles, but I disagree with a lot of the interpretations, and I kind of want to address them. For starters, Bob's obsession with his glory days is presented as a character flaw which makes him easily manipulated by Syndrome and endangers him and his family, and his arc is realizing and apologizing for his selfishness.
As for Syndrome, people have this rose tinted narrative of Syndrome as some unfairly
maligned underdog or sympathetic anti-villain who was the victim of elitist gate keeping. Acting as if it was a bad idea for Bob to refuse to take a prepubescent kid they barely know into a hostile combat situation, or unfairly maligned because he dared to rise above his station and make everyone equal; that they deliberately ignore all the actual crimes he commits like murder, attempted murder of woman and children and child abduction.
While I stand by my belief that Incredibles isn't Objectivist. I do think the strongest parallel is to compare Syndrome to Gail Wynand from the Fountainhead. In that they both illustrate the man who could have been. They both had the drive, talent and resources to be great,but fail because they don't understand what each works protagonists do. Syndromes villainy isn't born from his lack of superpowers, but his lack of empathy, his narcissism and his obsession with petty vengeance. Whereas Bob constantly goes out of his way to help people as a hero and in his desk job. Syndrome was more focused on being "Super" than being "Heroic" and saw being a superhero as a venue for his own self-aggrandizement.
As for his "If everyone is super, no one is." Line. Is that really an empirical fact or just his conjecture from someone more focused on petty vengeance than thinking through his own actions? Because "everyone" means groups like rogue nations, terror cells and crime syndicates. Compared to other superhero movies and works that actually are about Objectivism. Syndromes plan is the same as that of Frank Fontaine in Bioshock, and the bad guys in all three Iron Man movies, the first Ant-man, and Spider-man Homecoming.
Honest Trailers jokingly referred to him as "Phony Stark" and I think that accurately describes him. He's basically someone with the brilliance and ego of Tony Stark, but never undergoes the character growth Tony does. If Syndrome had just sold his inventions through proper channels, the only real obstacle would be governments with the legitimate point of making sure they're all safe and kept out of the hands of more malevolent folks.
If Syndrome really wanted to be a hero he could have sold his inventions above the board and used the money to change the law the way Winston Deavor did. What ultimately makes Bob a hero and Syndrome a villain isn't whether their abilities are natural or artificial, but having the empathy to do things like act to protect society, and realize and admit when they made mistakes.
All right, let's acknowledge the elephant in the room. (No, not Francine.) This movie has one of the most unfortunate cases Accidental Aesop I've ever seen: "If everybody is special, then nobody is — so if you're not among the lucky who are born special, you have no right to try and better yourself."
Of course that wasn't the intended message. The intended message was probably about family and how working together is better than trying to go at it alone.
But the problem is that those stated words — even though they're said respectively by a little kid and the movie's villain — are never actually contradicted, and furthermore they keep being underlined by the movie itself:
All the heroes have "natural" superpowers, all the villains are tech-based. And, as if to really point out how special and much better the supers are, all the civilians are either useless or in some way antagonistic.
If the movie had just included one scene where the incredible tech was shown to have a positive effect... or one scene where the civilians came together and aided the supers in some way... or, hell, even just one line of dialogue from Bob refuting Syndrome's villain speech, it would have changed everything,
"Buddy, you've made all these amazing machines. You could have helped so many people with them. You would have been celebrated and cheered. Instead... what have you accomplished? Killing off superheroes just so you can pretend to be one yourself? That doesn't make you special, that makes you a psycopath."
Okay, maybe a little Anvilicious, but I think it would have been better than the big wad of nothing we actually got.
That said... The Incredibles is by no means a bad film. It's actually a very good film — it has a solid plot, good characters, nice visuals and really great action scenes —it's just a very good film that gets soured for many by an unfortunate Accidental Aesop.
...And perhaps because it thinks it's a little more innovative and groundbreaking than it really is. Looking at some of the behind-the-scenes interviews and commentary, they're talking as if "superpowers that reflect the characters' personalities" and "superheroics contra personal lives" were some new and revolutionary ideas for superhero stories. Come on, The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man were doing this in the 1960s.
People have named The Incredibles as "the best Fantastic Four movie in existence" and... well, that's a pretty good sum-up, actually.
The Incredibles is one of these movies, along with Kingsman: The Secret Service, that everyone loves but I find just "meh". Don't get me wrong, the movie hardly is bad; the animation, though not my style (I don't really like CGI animation), is pretty good, the humor is decent, it has a good balance of comedy and drama. Overall, it's pretty well-done. However, my problem with it is that, frankly, as far as superhero stories go... it brings nothing new to the table.
I have been a superhero fan since I was a kid, making me well-versed in superhero tropes. And as such, I can say without a doubt that for all the talk about how ground-breaking this movie is, everything in it has been done before. This movie is almost entirely made of superhero cliché that already were outdated even when the movie came out. Not even of the fun kind; Syndrome is your typical former fanboy turned supervillain, a concept that keeps being done no matter how ludicrous and cheesy it feels, for reasons that ellude me. His origin incorporate the classic "you have no power so you are worthless" argument, which I always found laughably invalid, seeing how one of the first two and most popular superheroes in the world never had power. Superheroes retiring to deal with their family only to come back later isn't anything new either, nor is the idea to make a superhero family. Even design-wise, the movie feels somewhat generic; the heroes all wear the same costumes, and the design is kinda uncreative.
Maybe I don't get it. Maybe there is some kind of brillance in this movie that just elluded me. But as far as I saw, this is just an average (if enjoyable) movie, and doesn't really live up to its hype.
The Incredibles has a lot going for it. The animation is fantastic and still holds up almost a decade later (although this is Pixar, what else can you expect?), the vocal performances are good (Jason Lee as Syndrome was a good mixture of funny and evil) and its got quite a few very funny moments ("Honey, where's my supersuit?").
So why don't I consider it one of Pixar's best? It mostly comes down to one element - there was a strong stench of cynicism underneath the movie. The message of the movie seems to be "some people are just better than others and you have to put up with that." While there may be a grain of truth to that, that is not a good lesson to teach kids. And kids will watch this movie, despite what us adult nerds may think. Kids movies should teach children to enrich or try their best to better themselves as a person, not teach them to lie down and accept that there is always going to be someone better than you. It's horribly cynical and it just didn't sit right with me. I'm not sure if this was intentional, but its still a very unfortunate Accidental Aesop.
It's still a good movie but this one element somewhat spoiled it for me. Oh, and Edna Mode was awesome.
Oh boy, where to start. Well, I saw The Incredibles when it came out, when I was but a wee lass (har har)and I liked it. The jokes were funny, the action was awesome and it entertained me thoroughly.
Then I watched it again as a teen and this time...I LOVED it. Holy moley, did Brad Bird do well. The visuals are amazing each time I see them and watching the behind the scenes makes this movie seem all the more special to me. I could go on about the animation and music and style (and Samuel L. Jackson, squee!) but what caught my attention the most was the characters. In a family of five, we have middle-aged public servant Bob, his home-maker wife Helen who can hold her own and their three kids; the shrinking Violet (again, har har) the slightly obnoxious Dash and the baby, Jack Jack. At first glance, they're a family and I have to give kudos for how right and realistic they were made. Their problems were realistic, their bond and moments together were realistic. Every aspect of their relationship is done to perfection.
For example, Bob is a man (thirties, forties?) who is questioning his seemingly dull life. His job sucks and all he wants to do is go back to the glory days. Sure, not every man is a superhero but this is a very common situation in real life. And they don't just stop with Bob's character development, no, they go onto Helen's worries of a possible affair and keeping the family together. Young Violet is feeling invisible at school whilst having a crush on a boy. Dash wants to show off his talent and potential but is being held back by his parents (for good reason, but held back nonetheless). During the movie, all four of these colourful characters go through changes, some straight-forward and other more subtle moments. This is one of the movie's strongest points, in my opinion, because I bet in theaters families would see this movie with their children and relate. Except for the whole, ya know, powers thing.
I won't comment much on the moral of the movie as it's up for debate but in my opinion it's about family sticking together no matter what comes their way, to trust and love despite all doubt. And when I grow up and have my own family, this will definitely be one of the movies that I, along with my kids, will whole-heartedly enjoy.
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