I’ve long held the belief that the folks at Pixar are really just children who have refused to grow up. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have to deal with the realities that adulthood thrust upon each of us. I’m sure they have families and are responsible citizens and parents. They consistently make movies, that while there is certainly appeal for children, are obviously intended for adults, adults like them, who have decided to never grow up. If you ever required proof of that concept, The Incredibles should prove the point quite nicely. Brad Bird and his team weren’t writing about superheroes. They decided to do a movie about themselves. Finally out in high-definition Blu-ray the team now calls all of us like-minded souls to join the fold. This Blu-ray serves as our membership card and absolutely grants all of the privileges of membership right from your most comfortable home theatre seat. Count me in.
Bob Parr (Nelson) has a secret identity. He’s in reality Mr. Incredible. He is a superhero who has dedicated his life to fighting crime. He has super strength and other abilities. He’s not the only one. There is his best friend Lucius (Jackson) better known as the cool hero Frozone. There’s also Helen (Hunter) who protects the city as Elastigirl. She has the same powers that The Fantastic Four’s Mr. Fantastic has to stretch her body. Bob and Helen get married and join their superpowers with two super kids. Dash (Fox) has super speed and Violet (Vowell) has the abilities of The Fantastic Four’s Susan Storm. She can become invisible and create powerful force fields. Unfortunately, the world has had enough of masked heroes. Lawsuits cause the heroes to turn in their capes, and they are put into a sort of witness protection program where they must swear off crime fighting. That’s been hard for Bob and Lucius who do a little rescue work on the side while their wives think they’re out bowling. It’s a good thing, too. A new super-villain has emerged, and now it will be up to the Parr family to save the world from Syndrome (Lee), a one-time stalker fan who has decided to get revenge on the hero who once spurned his advances to join him.
In the last decade or so comic book heroes have been quite plentiful on the big and little screen. Some have been quite good while others appear to disappoint on a regular basis. Along comes Pixar with a bold plan to enter the comic hero fray with a story that seemed downright impossible, at least the Disney brass thought so. Credit Brad Bird who came up with the concept for never letting the discouraging remarks keep him from pushing forward. His super power appears to be perseverance. He’s also not too bad at cracking the whip. His uncanny resemblance to a certain super-villain is entirely intentional by his staff. Like the comic heroes they admired, the team pushed through the negativity and created one of Pixar’s most standout films. That’s a pretty hefty statement when you consider most of their films have been standouts. This one is likely more adult-oriented than any Pixar film until Wall-E. While the subject is fantastical, I’m not sure I’ve seen the subject presented in such a realistic fashion. These heroes have more than bad guys and runaway robots to deal with. They have the usual mundane, but just as challenging, details of family life to cope with.
That’s where Brad Bird has always been best. It’s the characters that make this movie. There is such development here that the powers are really just extensions of who they really are. Bob wants to be the strong father, and he has super strength. Helen feels the need for flexibility in her life as mother and wife, and she has the ability to stretch. Dash is impatient and always in a hurry, hence the speed. Finally, Violet is shy and insecure about her looks, and she can fade away. She can also create force fields to keep the rest of the world away. It’s brilliant when you think about it. The characters appear so totally natural you buy into them with very little setup. They are also each vulnerable enough to allow you to care about what might happen to them. Bad guys never really think they’re bad guys, and that’s reflected wonderfully in Syndrome who is really just trying to fit in. He thinks he’s doing the world a service.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Pixar film without some of the best computer animation ever seen. The Incredibles broke new ground with wonderful textures. Humans are still the Holy Grail of computer animation, and these still have flaws, but it’s getting better all the time. The suits have wonderfully reflective properties and they get dirty throughout. More important, these marks remain consistent and affect reflectivity and surface texture. Objects exist in reliable lighting and movements are fluid and lifelike. The voice cast are once again perfectly placed. I remember not thinking highly of using Craig T. Nelson as a superhero voice, but that shows why I’m here writing about the movies and not making them. Samuel L. Jackson is a little odd without the normal language color, but this is a family film after all. About the best I can say is that you soon forget who the voice actors are at all. Naturally, you didn’t need me to tell you this, but in case you were waiting for it: buy this one for sure.
The Incredibles is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 30-35 mbps. The high-definition image presentation looks just spectacular. Colors are bright and texture detail really brings out the quality of the animation. Black levels are a bit better than average, providing fine shadow definition. You’ll find the image up to your Pixar expectations. It beats the old DVD image by considerable lengths, particularly on the subtle details.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 works on all levels. There is nice dynamic range that brings out the superior Michael Giacchino score. You’ll find yourself immersed in every detail of the movie. Dialog sounds quite natural. The surrounds bring out a ton of ambient effects that serve to suck you in deeper and deeper as you go along.
There are four discs in all here. You get a DVD copy as well as a Digital Copy. There are also 2 Blu-ray discs. The first is where you’ll find the film and the following extras:
Boundin’: (4:42) HD This is the short that accompanied the film at the box office. There is an optional commentary here.
Jack-Jack Attack: (4:40) HD This was created for the DVD release. It has an optional PIP commentary. The film shows what happened with Jack-Jack and the babysitter.
Round Table: (22:09) HD This is a great piece. Brad Bird and many of the crew from the film gather informally to talk about the project. You’ll get plenty of insight, but there’s a lot more. The conversation is frank, and they do share more than a few laughs. A must see.
Paths To Pixar – Story Artists: (5:55) HD This is part of an ongoing series of spotlights on particular jobs at Pixar. There’s good advice for anyone wanting to get into the biz.
Ending With A Bang: (1:35) A look at how the animated end credits were made.
Deleted Scenes: There are six, mostly told through animated storyboards.
Easter Eggs: The hidden features from the DVD are easy to find here.
Classic Content: All of the rest of the DVD stuff in standard definition.
What’s more important is that seven years have passed since the film was released. Pixar has come a long way since then. Still, this movie looks state-of-the-art. Because of the emphasis on character and story, it hasn’t lost any of its charm or appeal. You’re going to love this movie as much now as you did watching it at the box office in 2004, maybe even more so. This is not a rental or Netflix situation. This is the kind of Blu-ray that needs to stay on the shelf because you never know when the urge is going to resurface, and trust me, it will. “Reliving the glory days is better than pretending they didn’t happen.”