Please Note: The screengrabs used here are from the standard-definition DVD included in this set, not from the Blu-Ray.
In 2004, I took myself to see a matinee of The Incredibles on opening day. A big fan of both Pixar movies and of Brad Bird's previous animated feature, the cartoon classic The Iron Giant, I was more than a little excited for the pairing of these two powerful forces. Even with such high hopes, The Incredibles managed to exceed my expectations. I watched it with a mixture of awe and unbridled glee. So enraptured was I, I even sat through all of the closing credits. As the lights came on, a middle-aged man who had also stayed in the theater stood up, looked at me, and declared, "They should all be like that." Indeed, they should.
Some seven years and multiple viewings later, and The Incredibles has lost none of its considerable luster. It still manages to shock, surprise, thrill, delight, and even inspire a tear or two. It's the best superhero or "comic book" movie there is, despite not being based on any specific property. It is a cinematic funhouse, picking and choosing the best bits from a variety of pop culture sources and giving each piece its own specific spin. Brad Bird's masterpiece is proof that a special-effects movie can be artistically and visually astounding without having to sacrifice the story. Even in the Pixar canon, The Incredibles stands apart. There is nothing else like it.
The plot summary for those who need it: Once upon a time, America's streets were kept safe by superheroes in colorful costumes. Chief among them were Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), an adventuring duo who may have fought crime on their own, but who fell in love and married and tackled the adventure of life together. Eventually, however, the public turned against its costumed do-gooders and super heroics were outlawed. The caped and non-caped crusaders alike were relocated a la witness protection and given normal lives. Mr. and Mrs. Incredible became Bob and Helen Parr. He worked in insurance, she became a homemaker, and they had three kids: Violet (Sarah Vowel), Dash (Sebastian Fox), and baby Jack-Jack. The eldest kids develop superpowers--Violet can turn invisible, Dash can run fast--but for all intents and purposes, they must act like a normal family. This bores Bob to death.
Enter the mysterious and sexy Mirage (Elizabeth Pena), who offers Mr. Incredible a chance to don his tights again and perform covert operations for an unseen benefactor. Bob jumps at the opportunity, unaware that the benefactor is a former fan (Jason Lee) who he once offended. This deranged kid has taken to calling himself Syndrome, and he's been killing supers while perfecting the inventions that will make him the greatest "hero" of all time and allow him to get his revenge on the man who rejected him. Bob's disappearance draws his wife out of retirement, the kids stow along, and before you can say "shazam," the Incredibles are a genuine superteam, a crime-fighting family like no other.
The problem with so many superhero movies is that they get too hung up on living up to fanboy expectations and delivering on specific tropes, and they forget to just tell a good story. Do we, for instance, really need to see another superhero origin? The first Spider-Man movie spent a significant amount of time focusing on Peter Parker testing out his powers, while The Incredibles does the same thing in one short scene when little Dash is on the run from Syndrome's minions. It also does it better. Dash's excitement is far more palpable and more infectious than anything in any of the Spider-Man films, much less Peter Parker leaping from building to building. A digital creation has more emotive power than Tobey Maguire--no surprise there.
The difference is, Brad Bird spends the appropriate amount of time on a sequence that is required, yet achingly familiar, and he works it into a much larger story. Whereas other comic book films might tell the equivalent of three issues of a regular serial, Bird gives us an entire story arc, complete with origins, make-ups and break-ups, several action sequences, character growth, conflicts and resolutions--you name it, it's in The Incredibles. Every character in the movie is real, and no scene is wasted. It's a movie that runs over several peaks and valleys, while still building to one big bang at the finish.
It's also a visual and technical delight. The characters look fantastic and move in ways computer effects can't quite do with real actors, no matter how many ping-pong balls you attach to their green leotards. In fact, Bird and his team are able to avoid the fundamental problem that most superhero costumes look ridiculous in real life because they have no need to ground their narrative in reality--a place where these kinds of adventures will never be comfortable. This is fantasy, baby, a pure and exciting strain of fantasy.
For as far as computer animation in general and Pixar specifically has advanced in the seven years since The Incredibles was released, it's still amazing to see how far ahead of their competitors the studio was when The Incredibles came out. This is the level at which most other animation outfits are operating at today--if they are lucky--and even if their tech is up to the job, their art department has nowhere near the attention to detail that Pixar's does. There isn't an inch of any single frame of The Incredibles that hasn't been carefully considered. The illusion is airtight.
I could keep going for a long time. I have barely begun to use up the hyperbole I have in reserve for The Incredibles. You don't need it. All you need to know is that this movie is the real deal. It will make you laugh, it will make you cheer, it will pull you to the edge of your seat. There's very little it doesn't do, really. It's an all-ages adventure for the young and old, a cinematic virtuoso, technically dazzling and dramatically fulfilling.
They should all be like this.
The first Blu-Ray release of The Incredibles gets it right straight out of the gate. Disney gives us a 1080p, 2.39:1 presentation that is gorgeous, enhancing the original vision of the Pixar animators by giving it a format that is worthy of their technological achievement. It's practically as if they have been waiting for the delivery system that would catch up with what they are delivering.
The image resolution on The Incredibles is as close to perfect as you are likely to get. Minor details are given a new boost in clarity, you will notice sparkle and dust and other finely rendered touches that you probably didn't even see in cinemas or on previous DVDs. Colors pack a lot of punch, including a proper distinction between hot and cold--literally. Compare the lava of Syndrome's lair to Frozone's ice slides, and see how they glow in entirely different ways. Also look at the individual embers and icicles--you can really see how this movie is animated on a near-molecular level. Other fine details--hair, water, expression--get their due, as well. The Incredibles simply looks marvelous.
A newly created DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix on the original soundtrack also pulls more out of The Incredibles. The movie fills all the speakers, creating an entirely immersive atmosphere, complete with between-speaker effects on all levels of the audio--music, foley, and dialogue. Subtle details ping between channels while the big moments boom with the full force of the entire system. The Incredibles deserves to be turned up loud.
French and Spanish dubs also get the 5.1 treatment, and both languages get subtitles. There is also an English subtitle track for the deaf and hearing-impaired.
The Incredibles BD is a four-disc release, packaged in a basic multi-tray case with an outer slipcover featuring embossed artwork. Disc 3 is a standard DVD copy of the movie, along with the two short subject cartoons, and Disc 4 is a digital copy.
Disc 1 is the movie, and it comes with two feature-length commentaries, one with director Brad Bird and producer John Walker and the other with two groups of animators, edited together to jump between the two separate sessions. The track with Bird is naturally more focused, but if you're remotely interested in the process behind animated movies, the other is well worth your time. Both of these are carry-overs from the earlier DVD release.
Also carried over are two short films: "Boundin'," the cartoon that played before the movie in its theatrical run, and "Jack-Jack Attack," created for the original DVD edition. Both have optional commentaries, though the one for "Jack-Jack Attack" is chosen as its own feature due to its picture-in-picture enhancement, showcasing storyboards and other developmental stages, as well as connecting scenes in the short to the corresponding scenes in the main movie. (This feature is new to the Blu-Ray.)
Disc 1 also has an exclusive-to-BD twenty-minute roundtable retrospective, "The Incredibles Revisited," featuring Bird, Walker, supervising animator Tony Fucile, story supervisor Mark Andrews, character designer Teddy Newton, technical director Rick Sayre, and production designer Lou Romano talking over the experience of making this film, though now looking back several years. It's a great discussion, an excellent upgrade to the Incredibles home video package. One of the most interesting aspects is why Bird decided to limit the characters' powers and abilities, fearing that if they were too powerful, there'd be no discernible obstacles that could stop them.
Disc 2 is given over entirely to supplemental features. It has a bunch of returning bonuses and new bonuses alike. If you're worried about whether or not to hang on to your old disc, fret no more, everything is here. There is a Classic Content section that includes the near half-hour making of and over an hour of individual featurettes (more behind-the-scenes stuff, bits on Sarah Vowell and Bud Luckey, the "Mr. Incredible & Pals" parody complete with character commentary, etc.) and an extensive art gallery, as well as a collection of the old disc's Easter Eggs (now also including the "Incredi-blunders" blooper reel). No need to dig around for them this time--my old copy still had a list I printed out telling me where to go--they are all in one, convenient basket. These are all still in Standard-Def.
Also carried over, but upgraded to HD for the first time, are the deleted scenes and alternate opening (over half an hour), complete with explanations from Bird and Mark Andrews (most of these scenes are storyboards and rough dialogue) and the Incredibles teaser, a scene not in the film, released as an announcement for the feature. It's a great little gag, so happy to see it here!
New material for the Blu-Ray is generally short and to the point, picking new and specific areas to cover:
* Paths to Pixar: Story Artists (5 mins., 53 seconds): A profile of the storyboarding/story polishing team, detailing this part of the film development. It also includes animators sharing how they broke in to the business.
* Studio Stories: Gary's Birthday (1:24): A funny anecdote from production, animated as storyboards.
* Ending with a Bang: Making the End Credits (1:35): Pretty much what it sounds like.
* The New Nomanisan: A Top Secret Redevelopment Plan (3:30): A new gag feature, using limited animation to show how Syndrome's Island has been made into a resort, including an interactive map with its different features.
Finally, there is a "publicity" section with over six-minutes of character interviews (the characters on a press junket, included in SD) and trailers for the film. There is also a Cars 2 trailer on disc 1. If you are a Disney Rewards Member, you should find a redeemable code/voucher for a ticket to see Cars 2 in the theatres inside the case.
The Incredibles is one of a Pixar's best, a one-of-a-kind animated superhero adventure from the mind of Brad Bird. Disney releases their film on Blu-Ray for the first time as a multi-disc set with new and old features, extra copies, and a stellar audio/video presentation. One of my favorite action movies presented in a way befitting its quality. Is there any reason not to be excited? DVD Talk Collector Series.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with JoŽlle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent project is the comedy series Spell Checkers, again with Jones and artist Nicolas Hitori de. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.