It's been a good period for comic book fans who also like to go to the movies: the Raimi Spider-Mans, the Singer X-Men films - and a bunch of other flicks that received mixed reviews, but nevertheless found a whole bunch of people to love them.
Then there is The Incredibles, the Pixar CGI superhero movie that everyone loves, and which did no less than break practically every rule of animation (classic and computer), but like a talented athlete or performer, also made it look easy.
The superheroes of The Incredibles, sidelined by an all-too-realistic chain of events, now exist in a sort of Hero Protection Program, relocated to new towns, living in new identities, working in mundane jobs. Some have made the transition well, like Elastigirl (Holly Hunter). Not so her husband, Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) chafing under the weight of his former glory, and the grinding misery of his cover as an insurance adjuster. Leaping at the chance to clandestinely reclaim his action-packed salad days, Incredible takes on a series of tasks which actually play into a shadowy figure's agenda, and which will eventually involve his wife and their super-powered children.
The Incredibles marks a series of firsts for Pixar, and what is thought of as family-friendly animation in general: its characters are exclusively human, the subject matter is often quite dark and adult - and then there's that running time of almost two hours.
But a long-standing trademark of Pixar is also there: compelling characters and honest, genuine emotion. In their review of the rather -um - horrid Roger Corman production of The Fantastic Four, our sister site Stomp Tokyo laments, "Why is it that the rest of Hollywood seems to be losing ground to Pixar in every aspect of filmmaking?"
There are many, many answers to that, not the least of which is giving an animation director the caliber of Brad Bird (The Iron Giant) his head - but such discussions aside, all that really matters is that we have The Incredibles to enjoy and cherish, as a picture of such quality allows us to all unashamedly become six years old once again and enjoy that brand new funny book under a shade tree.
The transfer comes from the original digital files and is as fine a reproduction as you're likely to find. The THX approved soundtrack will kill your sound system if you're not careful. That THX opimizer comes in very handy.
Disc One begins with the usual Disney assortment of previews, skippable with a judicious press of the Menu button. This time out, it's the upcoming Pixar production Cars, Chicken Little and Cinderella. Besides the feature film, the first disc also hosts two commentary tracks: one by writer/director Brad Bird and producer John Walker, and another by a host of animators, too numerous to be listed here. Both tracks are informative and engrossing, especially if you are at all interested in the field of animation.
Disc Two, therefore, holds all the other extras, and it will take you a while to wade through them. We'll begin with Jack-Jack Attack, a short that premieres with the disc. A sort of sidebar to the major storyline of the feature, it details what happens when the pre-teen girl babysitting the youngest member of the Incredible family discovers her charge suddenly has an array of disturbing super powers.
Deleted Scenes gives us 35 minutes of storyboards and discussion by Bird and Story Supervisor Mark Andrews about the whys and wherefores of story evolution.
Behind the Scenes provides us with Making of The Inctredibles, a half-hour mix of interview and verite video footage, and More Making of The Incredibles, 40 minutes of in-depth featurettes on aspects of digital filmmaking like modeling, character design and software tools. There are Incrediblunders, a reel of rendering errors, and Vowellet, an odd video essay by writer (and voice of Invisible Girl clone --) Sarah Vowell. A gallery of production art and publicity materials rounds out this section.
Top Secret is my favorite section, simply because it is so obviously stuff the Pixar folks wanted to do, and by golly, they did it. First is Mr. Incredible and Friends, a supposed relic of the 60s: a cartoon featuring Mr. Incredible, Frozone, and a bespectacled bunny named Mr. Skipperdoo. It's a pitch-perfect parody of the anti-animated cartoon Clutch Cargo, right down to the Synchro-Vox process, which superimposes human mouths on flat art to bizarre, creepy effect. Icing on this already rich cake is provided by optional commentary by Craig T. Nelson and Samuel L. Jackson, in character as Mr. Incredible and Frozone ("What th-? They made me white?" "Well, black -ish...")NSA Files contains information - including interview sound bites - on the incidental heroes only mentioned in the feature.
Disney's usual practice is to put out a perfectly acceptable disc of a movie, only to follow it with a more feature-laden "Special Edition" within a year. However, it is hard to predict exactly how they could improve on this package, which is - dare I day it? Super.
There. I said it.
Dr. Freex, 4/25/2005