I just heard from Dan Moran, that INCREDIBLES 2 kicks butt. I am SO happy to hear this, because the first movie was one of those “so close to perfect I can’t find anything serious to complain about” movies. In the running for “Best Superhero Movie” ever as well as “Best Family Comedy”, Brad Bird’s masterpiece just get almost everything right.
SPOILERS for the original film.
Let’s follow one plot thread to see an example of how it works beautifully. The core conceit is that Superheros (“Supers”) have triggered anger in the general population because of the collateral damage they cause in the midst of their heroics. The average person appreciates them, but is also a little wary of people who can do such extraordinary things…and sometimes color outside the lines.
As a result, they are forced to hide their abilities and pretend to be “normal”. All four members of the family who can talk frequently express their unhappiness with the situation: “Mr Incredible” Bob Parr (golf joke, there) is forced to work in an insurance company bossed around by Wallace Shawn (!) as his gut expands and he withdraws emotionally from his family. Elastigirl watches her hips expand and the passion seep out of her marriage one drab day at a time. (Ultra) Violet feels unseen and unable to access her beauty and power. “Dash” would love to compete in sports, but cannot–he will never be able to demonstrate HIS power to the world, and flirts with delinquency as a result. Only baby Jack-Jack is totally unneurotic, able to just be himself.
And in every case, the solution is in BOTH accepting that the family is not their prison but their salvation, the “greatest adventure”, and that in accepting that reality, and that discipline, they are ultimately able to express themselves more fully than ever before, heal their own hearts, heal their families, save the world and open the door for the Supers to return.
The Parr family, then, is a single protagonist with a single goal: to integrate their inner and outer, private and public worlds. And the entire movie is about the challenge that forces this. While Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl arguably hit their personal bests in performance, it is Violet and Dash who literally discover themselves. And Violet who, in a few key scenes, displays a seriously wide arc:
- From “Shrinking” (Ultra) Violet–shy, “invisible” and unable to access her full forcefield powers to
- Big Sister who must try to guide Dash to survival while actually being more frightened by the possibility their family might break up (losing Tribe is more terrifying than the possibility of Death!)
- To someone who can disappear to protect herself…
- To a girl who can access her full force-field powers..
- Note an important moment in Bob Parr’s journey, where he realizes that his own foolishness, his inability to grasp that his family was the greatest adventure of his life, and he is monologuing about it…is interrupted by Violet (symbolizing family) using her powers (an expression of the joint love of Mr Incredible and Elastigirl. They did indeed get “busy”. Incredibles features #2 and #3 favorite Disney sex joke. Number 1 is Tramp raising his eyebrow the morning after spending the night with “Lady”. #2 is “busy” and #3 is Elastigirl pulling Bob back into the house for a little Morning Delight. Yowsah!) to free them from capture so that, as a family now, they can go after Syndrome.
That was a quiet, lovely moment, earned in every way, and the doorway into the Parrs actually functioning as a family for the first time.
They own their emotions, their lives, their powers. Their “inside” matches their “outside”, and their “Public” personaes match their “Private”. They accept themselves, each other, their lives.
And…that is Mastery. Not fighting who we are. Finding a way for our true selves to serve the world, and each other…and ourselves. What a beautiful model of human existence. We ALL make sacrifices, compromises, as we move through life. NO ONE avoids this necessity. It is part of maturity. And if you can find a way to accept the things you have to do with joy, seeing how it all fits together in a mosaic of interlinked dependency and support, we glimpse not just the pattern of life but how our own potential and being is both from our individual potentials but what we can become when we have connection with family and friends and community.
We stop fighting, and embrace.
Man, I love that movie.
And whatever comes next…I just can’t wait. Only two weeks to go!