by John Hawkins | November 22, 2004 12:02 am
Although there was a good buzz around the film, I must admit that I wasn’t intending to go see “The Incredibles” until I read what Stuart Klawans had to say about the film in The Nation,
“The reason, according to (Brad) Bird, is that the Parrs’ strange talents are rooted in normal family traits. Fathers are supposed to be strong, so Bob can bench-press a freight engine. Mothers are always being pulled ten ways at once, so Helen is elastic. Young Violet can become invisible, as teenage girls sometimes want to do, and Dash is just a wonderfully energetic little boy, ratcheted up to 200 mph.
Bird’s biggest achievement in The Incredibles is to have inflated family stereotypes to parade-balloon size. His failing is that, in so doing, he also confirmed these stereotypes, and worse. Helen mouths one or two semi-feminist wisecracks but readily gives up her career for a house and kids; women are like that. Bob’s buddy Frozone, the main nonwhite character in the movie, can instantly create ice; black people are cool. The super-heroes are in hiding because greedy trial lawyers sued them into retirement; and, while concealed, they chafe at their confinement, like Ayn Rand railing against enforced mediocrity.
The family is the foundation of our society. Freedom is on the march.”
Klawans wasn’t the only person to see conservatism and visions of Ayn Rand dancing in his head as he watched the movie and I figured if it’s a kid’s movie that liberals don’t like, I’m there!
However, I must admit that I was a bit surprised that anyone looked at this movie and thought it to be conservative or even political at all.
Admittedly, the movie does start with lawyers suing all the super-heroes out of business, but let’s face it, that’s exactly what would happen in these days and times. I mean let’s say a monster from the planet Quaglar is trying to destroy New York City and Superman shows up to save the day. But, in the process of defeating the monster, he tosses it through a building. Well, thanks for saving us Superman, but somebody still has to pay for the building, right? And who are you going to send the bill to, the monster? He doesn’t even live on this planet!
On the other hand, Superman shows up for work at the Hall of Justice. You know where he is and let’s not forget we’re talking about a guy who can literally squeeze chunks of coal until they turn into diamonds, so he has the money right? That’s why if Superman were real, he wouldn’t be able to foil a bank robbery without getting served with a half-dozen subpoenas.
In this case, Mr. Incredible is sued by a man he saves from committing suicide as well as a number of train passengers who were injured when Mr. Incredible suddenly stopped their train from plunging off a damaged trestle. Is that supposed to represent some sort of anti-lawyer sentiment? Personally, I don’t think so. It’s just an accurate reflection of what trial lawyers do in these days and times.
There were also a few Randian echoes in the movie as the Incredibles complained about being forced by society to be mediocre, but that’s to be expected given that they were forced to hide their abilities. And if you REALLY want to stretch it, you could also note that the Incredibles are a nuclear family with a work-at-home mom, a dad who supports the family, and three kids, none of whom is smarter than or more enlightened than their parents.
So was the movie “conservative”? Not overtly so, but one must wonder if all super-heros are conservative in days and times where Yasser Arafat is a “hero” and George W. Bush is “another Hitler”.
Consider that in these movies, you have “good guys” and you have “bad guys”. The good guys don’t look at the bad guys and go, “gee it’s society’s fault that they are the way they are” or “they probably had a rough childhood,” they stop them from harming other people. And how do they stop them you ask? Via a “summit” or an “arbitration hearing”? No, they meet them in combat and usually — although it of course depends on the super hero — violently beat them into submission without getting permission from any “controlling legal authority” before they do. That’s not exactly something Jacques Chirac and Kofi Annan would approve of, is it?
In any case, that’s enough time spent on that issue, let’s get to the mini-review.
This was a gripping, fun, movie with an intelligent plot that kept me interested for the entire hour and fifty-five minutes. The characters were easy to relate to and while the pacing of the movie wasn’t perfect, they did a reasonably good job of keep things moving.
Furthermore, as a I alluded to earlier, the characters in many respects have very normal, ordinary lives. Mom and dad debate over how to handle the kids, dad is frustrated with his job and wants to relive his glory days, mom worries needlessly that dad might be interested in another woman. Meanwhile, their young son Dash wants to play sports at school and Violet is attracted to a boy at school but is too unsure of herself to talk to him. They may be super-heroes but their problems are so common that you almost feel as if, “I know these people”.
That’s part of the reason why the action scenes were particularly effective, because the film makers were so good at conveying a constant sense of danger to these people that you like. The bad guys go for the throat in this movie and not only are they quite dangerous and capable of killing the good guys, they actually do kill several super heroes in the course of the movie. So you always feel as if one of the characters could buy it during any of the fight scenes. That’s not something that happens in most super-hero movies.
All in all, it made for an excellent movie where you can feel very comfortable taking the entire family. Personally, I’d give the movie a thumbs up, even if you’re an adult without any kids…
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