Sunday, November 07, 2004

The League Reviews: The Incredibles

I feel terrible for the cast and crew working on Fantastic Four. Really. I feel awful for those people.

The Incredibles is not only an homage to the Fantastic Four, it also directly lifts powers and characters most closely identified with Fantastic Four. And it does it well. Incredibly well. So well, in fact, that I imagine that right now the producers and directors of the FF movie are probably having a meeting at this moment, trying to figure out how to salvage their very expensive movie.

Bottom line, this isn't so much a review as a suggestion you go check this movie out.

I was a tremendous fan of The Incredibles director/ writer Brad Bird's feature film "The Iron Giant", and, dammit, I still get a little weepy whenever I watch that movie. Iron Giant (returning to DVD on November 16thish) had some nice nods to superherodom, as well as working as a 1950's "Day the Earth Stood Still" type sci-fi homage. Anyway, check it out.

The Incredibles manages to take a concept which, even five years ago, might have been done with much, much more of a wink and a nod. It would have been a family movie with super-heroing deeds with lots of silly superhero jokes making fun of the genre tossed in (Mystery Men, I am looking at you). This movie manages to be a great superhero movie, while still keeping it a family movie at the core. But, make no mistake... this is a superhero movie with some of the most imaginative uses and visualizations of superpowers ever seen on film, TV. And I think it even outstrips the budgetless world of most comic books to some degree.

Most impressive to me were Elastigirl (NOT Rita Farr, Doom Patrollers) and Dash, who, for once, made stretching powers and superspeed look GOOD. And Mr. Incredible is no slouch, himself.

The character design is excellent, and seems to hearken back to late 50's - early 60's clip art. The look of the sets is a sort of vague post-WWII USA, mixed with AIM/ Bond-Villain style headquarters. Edna Mode's house/ HQ is amazing. The backgrounds are as lifelike as any of those utilized for the Star Wars films, giving the wonder of the Incredibles using their powers all the more "wow" factor.

The story itself is largely recycled material, but material which works well to make characters resonate a bit better for the adults in the audience. Hell, one could almost say this is the Dark Knight Returns of Mr. Incredible. Similar stories have been done with the JSA, and, coincidentally, the FF gets sued every few years, just to shake things up. There's also a hyper seven year-old, a wife unsure of what her husband is up to, and a shy teen-age girl who needs to learn how to shine to pick up the boy. All familiar, but all somehow work fairly well.

But, hey... how many of you REALLY expect to see brand new stories when you go to the megaplex? If you're like me, you're looking for the method of execution of those stories, and that's where The Incredibles really catches on fire.

I'd also say, if Disney and even Dreamworks want to learn something from the success of this movie, here's my recommendation. Note how may writers and directors were responsible for this movie. Even if it's not entirely true, Brad Bird is listed as THE writer and director of this movie, not a list of writers as long as your arm. This movie wasn't written by a committee, nor was it created by polling focus groups or trying to create characters which emulate "X-TREME!!!!" characters from soda commercials as Disney has been trying to do since Tarzan.

The story isn't 80 minutes, a length believed by Disney Execs to be the duration a kid can sit through a movie (and given how I felt about the last few Disney flicks, the length I wanted to sit through it). There are no cheesey musical numbers, there are no wise-cracking anthropomorphic side-kicks, there is no attempt at Robin Williams-style rapid fire delivery. However the heck they got this flick past the suits, they got it past the suits without that kind of repetitive fluff being tucked in, and that alone is worthy of praise.

Anyway, enough.

Is it obvious I enjoyed the movie?

I'd love to see it again a few times before it's condensed down to fitting on my TV.

Some other things I liked, a quick list.

1) The Edith Head of super hero costuming
2) Vehicle design was really inspired
3) Background design in all areas incredibly well thought out. Wait for Edna Mode's "living room"
4) Voice casting is perfect. Holly Hunter as Elastigirl, Craig T. Nelson as Mr. Incredible, Sarah Vowell (inspired, that) as Violet, and Elizabeth Pena as Mirage.
5) Not shying away from real action

Anyway, cool movie. Go check it out.

Oh, and the opening short, "Boundin'" was great. And it looked like they used North Phoenix for reference.

My only real complaint? I quit watching the UT/OSU game half-way thru to catch dinner and the movie. I left at half-time believing UT was going to get stomped. Ugh. Apparently I missed the best game all season. 49 unanswered points, was it? So unfair.

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