Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Film Yap: Pixar Talk - The Incredibles

Every week Austin is going to have a chat with Victoria Disque about a Pixar film. This is all leading up to a speech Austin will be giving about Pixar at the E.B. and Bertha C. Ball Center in Muncie on December 9th. Victoria is a producer of The Reel Deal and is currently majoring in telecommunications at Ball State University.

Austin: So for the first time in our Pixar set we have a different writer/director, someone who hasn’t worked on any of the previous films. Could you tell a difference between “The Incredibles” and the other ones so far?

Victoria: I think so, especially with the subject matter. The storyline was more about the adults. I felt the biggest story was about their marriage and being superheroes came second, which was the best way to go.

Austin: That doesn’t sound too much different from “Finding Nemo” but it sure felt different. “Nemo” had Marlin loving his son so much and trying to get him back. This film dealt with having a day job, going to seminars, dealing with parent-teacher conferences. It’s more of a family relationship we recognize more than aquatic life.

I was really impressed by this movie. I always liked “The Iron Giant”, Brad Bird’s first film, but this was more complex in its story. It starts off with those great interviews.

Victoria: I love how they made those look so old.

Austin: It was a great way to introduce the world while still being funny. Also it was a break in formula. It doesn’t feel like the same sort of Pixar story especially with a long flashback scene that jumps ahead 15 years later. It feels like a different type of movie, but still within the Pixar brand.

Victoria: I like how they catch us up without overdoing what happened in those 15 years. It was very easy to understand.

Austin: It felt really organic. They didn’t’ have a cheesy shot going through all the picture frames to show they had kids. They just show the kids. We can put the pieces together that the married couple ended up having kids.

I also really like the subject matter of depressed superheroes, which isn’t played for humor.

Victoria: It’s not exactly depression but how a lot of marriages play out. They grow old and bored while dealing with monotony all the time. You can definitely tell it took its toll on Bob. I think it affects males more. I like how they showed Helen was still “with it”. It takes awhile for the woman to reach that really really depressed point.

Austin: “Cartoonishly depressed” isn’t the right phrase, but it’s also the most literal phrase. His face just looks dead for a good part of the movie, when he’s at the table not responding.

Victoria: When he’s at his job…

Austin: Absolutely. It’s the grayest place in the world. The cubicles never seem to end.

Victoria: His boss is gray.

Austin: Exactly. They have so much fun with size in this movie. Bob is such a giant man while his boss is so tiny.

Victoria: His boss is like a fourth of him.

Austin: Yes, but has the authority over him. I like how his wife is shorter than Bob—because everyone is shorter than him—but since she’s elastic, she often rises up to his eyeline. That’s such a great visual touch.

Victoria: I like how you can tell how much fun coming up with the powers. Some aren’t the most original like how Mr. Incredible is the strongest guy ever. That said, I want to be Elastigirl. She can make herself a parachute! She can make herself into a speed boat! That was my favorite scene. The baby was full of powers. I didn’t like it when he turned into a little devil. I thought it was funny when he burst into flames or pure metal, but when he became the spawn of Satan I was put off.

Austin: I think you just had the same arc as the babysitter. “Oh this is entertaining…oh this is no longer entertaining.” People often compare the family to the Fantastic Four, which they should. Yet unlike the Fantastic Four films, this is good. It really did use their powers in a fun visual way, but it does subtly speak towards the characters as well. Bob wants to keep the house safe and together. The mom has to do everything at once so she can grab kids from other rooms.

Victoria: The daughter turning invisible is so emo with the hair across the eye. Dash is completely cocky and ADD so he can take off.

Austin: Then there’s their friend played by Samuel L. Jackson who is the coolest guy in the room so that was also fitting.

Victoria: Once again, all the voices are perfect. I can’t believe Pixar knows how to match them up so perfectly. Craig T. Nelson was amazing in this. I love his voice. I didn’t realize how much I loved his voice until he wasn’t on screen.

Austin: I really liked him as well too. Sometimes he’s not the most energetic actor, which isn’t easy for an animated performance. He fits it so well with his sincerity. Especially during the jungle sequences and he thinks his family is dead, really strong work.

What did you think of the villain?

Victoria: I’m not really sure. I thought he was entertaining. I felt that he was both funny and not a threat to the characters, but then he would do something that made me think he was too tough as a villain for a kid’s movie. He’s totally okay with his assistant being broken in half by Mr. Incredible. He’s capturing the kids with his lasers. Other than that, I never thought he was a threat especially against a family of superheroes.

Austin: I’m right there with you. That’s my only big problem with the film, which I have liked more and more with every viewing. I love the idea of someone who doesn’t have any powers, but he always seems petty. He’s just repeating the same point over and over again. Like we knew where Hopper was coming from and he didn’t have to remind us his position.

Victoria: He just kept repeating how Mr. Incredible wasn’t there for him and how he wants to be a superhero.

Austin: Every line! It’s a lot of interesting themes, but they didn’t gel as a character. It’s too bad because he’s voiced by Jason Lee who is a great underused actor. He’s so talented and funny while still pulling off the drama. He plays up the menacing factor at times, but he’s let down by the rest of the character. He always feels like the kid from the beginning of the film.

You know, this is a really good film, not just a good superhero film. We’re in this ageo of a superhero film every other month. They all become very familiar. I think this one is up there in the same recognition of “The Dark Knight” where it is a really good story first that happens to have superhero characters in it.

Victoria: There were a lot of times when I was reminded of other superhero movies. When Bob gets the call and goes on his early missions, it felt very James Bond and Mission Impossible. The robots reminded me a lot of “War of the Worlds”. When he does find out it’s a trap, the computer reminded me of “X-Men”. When the robots turned into balls, that was like Indiana Jones.

Austin: I think those are homages. Much like the Tarantino method of blending all the things you love to make something original. The basic concept of the government going against superheroes was a lot like “Watchmen”. Some critics thought it was too much like “Watchmen”, but I liked it because they explored it in a new way. Instead of treating the heroes like sociopaths, they saw them as “normal” people. So sure the bad guy’s lair reminded me a lot of “Dr. No” but they never directly referenced anything I don’t think. I’m probably missing something…

You know, this movie makes the argument that superhero films should only be animated. I was thinking during the past couple of X-Men films that they should be using their powers all the time. Every little mundane task should have your powers because that’s how their life works. Yet that costs millions of dollars in CGI to do that. In an animated film—I know I’m simplifying—it’s up to their imagination of what they can do. In a small scene Mr. Incredible can lift the couch while ElastiGirl extends her arm with the vacuum cleaner. You miss those moments in superhero films because the powers have to be saved for the action scenes.

Victoria: Also it was a relief they skipped over the idea of the kids not knowing and all of that annoying drama. I get tired of the kids being clueless of all the weird things happening around them.

Austin: That was really nice. It was a bit annoying when the daughter kept repeating “But you said we can’t use our powers!” when their plane was being attacked. If they said it once it would have been fine, but three or four times when there are MISSILES around you seemed a bit much.

Victoria: That was a bit dumb. Yet it’s made up for how creative the rest of the movie was. Every time, Pixar takes it one step forward. I loved when Dash is about to be attacked and Violet makes a forcefield and he runs within it to make a boulder. That was awesome.

Austin: Exactly. And it makes it feel like it was lived in. It’s a great mixture of what they can do.

Victoria: Again, the speedboat thing is really impressive.

Austin: I love ElasiGirl’s spy scene where she keeps getting caught in the doors. So much fun. You know, this is the first PG Pixar film. I realized during the movie that a lot of those nameless, faceless goons die during the movie. In fact, a lot of people die in the movie including the villain.

Victoria: Also in that cape montage, all of those heroes die.

Austin: That’s such a great scene. It’s darkly funny. I always love it when you have something like “Scream” or “Behind the Mask” when they are taking criticizing the genre in a very loving way. There were two major things here: the “No-Capes” scene and the word “monloguing.” That’s such a great idea.

Victoria: The creators of this really pay attention to any sort of genre. We all do it where we point out the clich├ęs, but they go the step forward by putting a twist on it.

Austin: Okay we have to talk about Edna Mode, the one who stole the whole show. She’s the one everybody loves. It’s her voice, it’s her size. It’s the voice of Brad Bird, who just has too much talent that he decided to do some voice work as well.

Victoria: Also it’s her stubbornness and not hearing no for answer. She won’t just do a patchwork.

Austin: I love that scene where she’s showing the new suits and the mom is horrified—as she should be. They have this symbol of her baby BURNING and being shot at. It’s clearly not the baby, but that’s what the character is imagining. Same for when it’s her suit and the suit is being twisted and shot at. Absolutely hilarious. Also they are watching the whole process on a set designed for Edna. So the chairs and table are really low to the ground on this platform that races across the room.

Victoria: I especially liked when she had to scan to get into her building, all of the steps. Then a gun pops out and points at the mom so Edna has to clarify “And guest.” Then the gun disappears.

Austin: Everybody complains nowadays about too many sequels. This is on the short list of a movie people actually want a sequel to.

Victoria: I want a sequel because I know it’ll be in good hands. There are too many films like “The Hangover” that didn’t need a sequel and then they made one and it was terrible. Pixar has a good track record for sequels.

Austin: Aside from “Cars 2”! We’ll get to that in a few weeks… Back to this, there is an excitement with superhero films sequels. “Batman Begins” set up the world and then they were able to have a proper adventure with “The Dark Knight”. No more origin stories. Superhero characters have been around for thousands of issues; they aren’t just origin stories. Give me a new scenario to challenge these characters.

Victoria: I did like “X-Men: First Class”.

Austin: Me too! But it was still an origin story. The best one in that series is “X2” which is where they can all be together for a really tight story and didn’t have to introduce everyone. I’m tired of “I just want a normal life!” and “What are these new powers I have?!?!”. These guys are all together now and I want another story. If only to see what they will explore next in the family dynamic.

Victoria: This one is definitely in my top three Pixar films.

Austin: I think you’ve said that every week so far.

Victoria: No I haven’t! It’s Toy Story, Monsters Inc, and then The Incredibles. Finding Nemo used to be up there, but dropped recently.

Austin: Since the last time we’ve done this there have been three Pixar announcements. Finding Nemo is finally coming to Blu-Ray. I’m going to say because of our article.

Victoria: Safe to say.

Austin: Thanks to the giant success of “The Lion King 3D”, Disney realized they can make even more money. So they are going to rerelease “Beauty and the Beast”, “Finding Nemo”, “Monsters Inc”, and “The Little Mermaid” in the next two years in 3D. Of those, just see the Pixar films in 3D if you have to go. They are all great films but 2D animation looks very awkward in 3D.

Victoria: I’m not a fan of 3D in general. I get a really bad headache when I have to watch it for 90 minutes. I’m probably not going to see any of them. I almost saw “The Lion King” in 2D then I realized…I know people who own it.

Austin: Then finally, Steve Jobs died this week. He’s an incredibly impressive man for so many ways. He contributed so much to Pixar. Not just for the basic design layout for half of “WALL-E”, but for the first several years he gave them so much money. Pixar was around for many years before “Toy Story” as they were developing the technology and making shorts. For years, Jobs lost a ton of money by investing in Pixar before knowing how much it would pay off. He knew when there was talent, he let them do their thing and he gave them helpful advice along the way. Steve Jobs was one of the most important men of Pixar and he’ll be missed.

Previous Pixar Talks

Finding Nemo

Monsters Inc

Toy Story 2

A Bug’s Life

Toy Story


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