It’s Debate Day here on Trope & Dagger! Last week we covered the greatest Disney CG feature, so this week we thought we’d cover their counterpart, Pixar! Yep, we’re picking sides on the best Pixar film to date. To read up on Andy’s pick, go here: WALL-E: The Best Pixar Movie. Now, I’m gonna go ahead and let you know why The Incredibles, directed by one of my favorite directors, Brad Bird of The Iron Giant, is the greatest Pixar film, bar none.
Spoilers for The Incredibles ahead, obviously.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the superhero genre. The Batman films, Spider-man, Superman, X-Men, then the excellent Marvel Cinematic Universe are all movies that I would watch over and over again and love…most of them, warts and all. But were I to pick a superhero movie that stood above even all of those films, I would absolutely pick The Incredibles. That’s because aside from being an excellent action film, it is also an engaging, nuanced story full of colorful characters and powerfully emotional story arcs.
I could really go on and on for days about the animation in this film and the action scenes, but that’s not what makes this film the best Pixar movie out there. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least talk about those scenes a little bit, because they are truly glorious. From the very beginning scenes where we watch Mr. Incredible stop some thieves while saving a kitty from a tree to the final moments when he and his family are battling Syndrome’s Omnidroid, the action is and animation is truly top-notch. And then the scene where Dash is being chased by the velocipods is one of the most frightening and exciting scenes ever to feature a speedster. I mean, it’s worth a rewatch:
While X-Men: Days of Future Past did have an excellent scene starring Quicksilver, it was in a totally different manner than the one in The Incredibles. The Incredibles made you feel Dash’s speed, had you right there with him while he’s zooming across the water, laughing with him as he pushes himself to the limit for the first time and freaking out while these men are trying to kill him. Unlike Quicksilver, he isn’t ridiculously overpowered, either, so even though he can move at a tremendous speed, that won’t necessarily save him.
And again, when Violet first makes a force field to save her brother, you feel both of their wonder at her abilities as they work together to escape the velocipods. It’s such a superb scene, the kids on their own in the jungle, scrambling for their lives. And of course when the family are all fighting together both on the island and at the end of the film, it showcases how great the Fantastic Four film should have been. Like I said, I could go on and on about the action in this movie.
I could also go on and on about the comedy in this film, but I’ll try and keep it short. From simple gags like a French villain being named Bomb Voyage to more meta jokes where Syndrome laughs at himself for being caught monologuing, this movie has the funny in spades. It’s also full of memorable quotes:
-Dash: “We’re dead! We’re dead! We survived but we’re dead!”
-Bob: “Hey hey! ICE of you to drop by!” Lucius: “HA! (Unenthusiastically) Never heard that one before.”
-Syndrome: “You married Elastigirl? OH! And got BUS-Y!”
-Edna: “No capes!”
And the list could go on. Heck, Edna (voiced fabulously by the director himself) could be a section all to herself, she is so damn hilarious in this movie.
Also full of fantastic physical comedy, such as Helen grabbing her kids and having her arms pulled and knotted under the table as they fight, Frozone freezing the policeman and his bullet, or Jack Jack when he transforms several times to attack Syndrome. This movie knows how to hit that funny bone. But I digress, again.
So, comedy, animation, and action, best there is, undeniably. But once more, that’s not why this movie is the best Pixar film out there. They’re contributing factors, to be certain, and it’s all part of why, but the real reason that The Incredibles is the best there is is the heart in the film. At it’s core, The Incredibles is about family.
The Incredibles is about all the troubles that come with family and learning how to not only appreciate one another, but to overcome obstacles together. Bob and Helen were both superheroes at the top of their game, saving the day and being idolized by an adoring public. Bob sometimes wished to give it all up and have a family while Helen felt like settling down would be a horrible move for her. But they wind up getting married and surprise surprise, it isn’t the life that Bob thought it was and has trouble with his lot in life down the road. He doesn’t like his job, his car, his kids are a headache, and being a superhero has been outlawed thanks to frivolous lawsuits. He misses his glory days while Helen turns out to be the more adaptable one who takes on motherhood like a pro. She, however, is still frustrated with how her family behaves, her kids being uncooperative and her husband being very distant.
Then there are the kids. Dash is hyperactive and desperately looking for an outlet for his energy. Of course, with his natural advantage, going out for sports is unfortunately not an option for him. Violet, meanwhile, feels unimportant and invisible to the world. Jack-Jack is a baby who just wants to eat his nummies and hang out with mom. Each character in the movie has wants and desires and their own obstacles that they need to overcome. Fully formed, compelling characters.
So Bob is desperately looking to reclaim at least part of his old life by going out and adventuring at night with Lucius, which leads him to being brought to Nomanisan Island by the mysterious Mirage. It’s a problem that has been explored countless times in media: the middle-age man suffering a mid-life crisis. It’s something that many men have gone through, and understandably so. Your role seems to change from that of a human being with wants and dreams and aspirations, and suddenly you are nothing more than an ATM, thankslessly working hours and hours doing something you hate for people who don’t seem to appreciate you. Helen handles it much better than Bob, but come on, she’s Elastigirl, she’s flexible. She, of course, catches on to Bob and an argument ensues. The kids are not unknowing in all of this, naturally, hearing their fighting and doing their own investigating.
It’s quite possibly the best portrayal of a family I’ve ever seen. The kids aren’t oblivious to what’s going on, as kids rarely are. They know that their parents are fighting and it’s causing tension, which is never good for a family. Mom and dad try to smooth it over, but no one walks away from the incident happy, as is bound to happen in a home. There is love in the home, but sometimes it seems like more frustration than anything.
So this whole adventures is kicked off by a mid-life crisis, and something less superhuman I would have a hard time thinking of. It’s about Bob’s weakness as a man, in spite of all his strength. Helen then does some snooping because she has become insecure in her marriage. She sees Bob working out, acting with renewed vigor, buying fancier things, and going on business trips, and she becomes suspicious. Again, a very human emotion. Of course, after talking to Edna, she finds out that Bob has been heroing again and goes to bring him back home.
This leads to one of the most heartbreaking moments in any film that I can remember. Helen heads towards the island and the kids stowaway on her plane. As she approaches with them, Syndrome fires missiles at them, even though Helen is informing them that there are children aboard. There are so many moments that get me every time in this scene, and it’s absolutely one of my favorites: Bob shouting “No!” after realizing his kids are on board, Violet frantically trying to shield the plane but failing, Dash giving a meek, frightened “Mom?” when seeing the missile outside his window, Helen leaping to save her children, then Bob threatening to kill Mirage, being unwilling to, then sobbing when he thinks his family has perished. So many moments thrown at you so quickly you hardly have time to process them, but each one so telling of the character and each one pulled off so perfectly.
The next amazing moment is between Helen and the kids. They make it to the island in one piece after being shot down in the ocean and set up a camp for the kids so Helen can go save Bob. She tells them that if they are attacked, it won’t be like the cartoons they watch, the men here will try to kill them even though they’re kids. You can see Dash’s face drop when he realizes what his mom is telling them. She tells them to keep each other safe and Violet stops her, apologizing for not being able to save the plane. Helen reassures her, because she is an awesome mom, and heads out. These moments are great because the kids are starting to see that their parents aren’t just their parents, and that life is more complex than the world they’d been living in so far. It’s dangerous out here and their parents have lived in it before. It’s also Helen trusting them to look after one another and protect each other without her, which is an important step in their growth.
The reunion of Helen and Bob is a great moment, too, as she is pissed, seeing him hugging another woman and he’s just overjoyed that his family is alive. She keeps trying to start a fight but he’s just too happy she’s not dead to even engage! So cute. Then the family reunites and the kids see their parents really kicking some ass and are amazed, seeing their parents in a new light. We’ve all been there, the moment that we realize that our parents are more than just our parents, but are in fact people with skills and amazing insights and abilities.
Then the cherry on top of their familial evolution is the moment they arrive in the city to fight the Omnidroid. Bob is insistent on fighting it alone as Helen is insistent that they are in it together. Bob keeps telling them no over and over again while Helen pushes him to accept their help, eventually causing him to admit that he can’t lose them again. He had suffered so much, thinking he’s lost his family that he doesn’t even want to risk the possibility of them being hurt. He says that he’s not strong enough to lose them again, and she says that if they work together, he doesn’t have to be.
Bam, talk about a punch to the emotional gut! It gets me every time, seeing this strong man admit his weakness, and his amazing family propping him back up again. This whole movie is about family and how, when everyone helps one another, then each person can realize their full potential. By the end, everyone is happier, stronger, and more confident than they ever have been. It’s for these reasons and more that I don’t even have time to get into (I’ve rattled on long enough, but… Underminer, lava pathway, Syndrome’s cape, Gazerbeam, greater good, “when everyone’s super…no one is”, Helen’s butt, the entire Omnidroid fight, the awesome art style, the utterly beautiful music) that The Incredibles is far and away the best Pixar movie ever made.
So what do you think? Am I on the money or is Andy? Sound off in our poll below!