Incredibles

I finally got to see The Incredibles last night and it was absolutely fantastic. If you’ve seen it, click through for more, if not, I’d say stop reading at this point and go see it.

The movie was just about perfect in all aspects. The story was great, the visuals were amazing, the action was good, and the family stuff was touching. There didn’t seem to be any scenes tacked on just to show off the advances in CG work (well, maybe the dialogue between the mom and kids in the water was just there to say “look at us! we can program wet hair now! w00t!”).

If I had to point out things that kept it from being a 100 out of 100 film, and keep in mind I’m really reaching here, it’d be this one thing:

The final robot fight scene felt too short to me. The first Robot vs. Bob scene was good and the Family vs. The Guards fight scene was longer and much more exciting. It felt like when the family finally got to the city to destroy the robot that it would be the longest and most dramatic fight scene, since it meant the climax of the film, but it was over with fairly soon. When they showed the long shot of the hole through the robot, I was almost 100% sure that it would patch itself, ala Terminator 2, and there would be another minute or two of tense fighting before the final defeat. I expected it since this was supposed to be a new revised robot, sharper than the last one we saw get in a fight, but no go on self-healing armor. So the fight was just over as quickly as it started.

Maybe prolonging the scene introduced the unfortunate knowledge that the robot was hurting actual people in the city. All the cars thrown and buildings smashed meant dead folks, so maybe the director felt the actual carnage had to be kept low, so the robot fight was shortened.

Also on the city fight scene, I felt it was a little weird that the camera followed a mysterious black plane heading towards what looked like NYC, when the bad guy launches the robot attack. It was a little too sept 11th to me and felt kind of unsettling. That the Family took a second plane directly towards the city was also weird, but I’m probably reading too much into it and am still too 9/11 sensitive about that kind of imagery.

As for the things I loved about the film, they are numerous, but here are some personal highlights:

- I loved all the mid-century modern buildings and furnishings throughout, especially at their home. The Family lived in what appeared to be an Eichler Home, the furniture looked like it was designed by Ray and Charles Eames. The rug prints and kitchen decor were all period perfect. Even his new car looked like a mix between beautiful old jaguars and volvos.

- I loved all the little bits that served as an homage to Star Wars. The Guards vs. Family chases scenes in the forest were right out of Return of the Jedi. The change over to a desert area turned into a episode 1 Pod Race homage. The Guards all looked like stormtroopers, and all the garage/bay areas and hallways were similar to stuff in Star Wars. I also loved the little transports on the island, being similar to Disneyland’s Monorail/PeopleMover/Doom Buggies.

- The film was equally touching and funny. There was plenty to laugh at, and it was well timed so that there was always some point of relief after a long spat of worry. Whenever the Family characters worked together, and got to be superheros I almost had to fight back tears of joy before I realized a silly superhero film done a computer shouldn’t make me feel so much. The voice acting was fantastic, and the rendered actors fit the delivery. I often wonder if you can get better performances out of actors doing voice-only work, since they can let go of any nagging feelings of how they might look on stage/screen. I’m not an actor and haven’t worked with many, so I don’t know if it’s true, but it seems like I would personally have an eaiser time delivering a scene if I was confined to the recording booth, vs. having to do it on set with 50 crewmembers staring at me.

Overall, a fantastic film, better than any Pixar has done. I’ll definitely see it again, and probably own it on DVD. I’m not sure if it’s as kid friendly as their past films, it was definitely more of an action film, without much carnage, so maybe it’ll still be a hit with the kids.

I’d also recommend this great interview with Brad Bird (the director) about how studios are going ga-ga over CG now that Pixar has proved you can make a killing doing it, but he stresses that storytelling and acting are what make Pixar films great, not just how big their rendering farm is. I hear story development at Pixar takes at least five years and that they refine each and every scene, something other studios rarely do.