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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Incredibles Blu-ray Review

Quite possibly my favorite Pixar movie to date, The Incredibles is finally on Blu-ray! After making The Iron Giant, which was a critical but not commercial success, Brad Bird joined Pixar to make their first movie with humans as the lead characters. Initially, Disney wanted to make it a live action movie but that idea was turned down by John Lasseter. As Bird said later, “Basically, I came into a wonderful studio, frightened a lot of people with how many presents I wanted for Christmas, and then got almost everything I asked for.”



Film (5 out of 5 stars)

The Incredibles is a brilliant hybrid of a superhero family combined with a James Bond vibe thanks to the Ken Adam inspired production design and a soundtrack from Michael Giacchino, that brilliantly pays homage to John Barry. (Barry was Bird’s first choice to do the score and Pixar even showed Barry the trailer for the movie scored to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but he refused the job because he didn’t want to duplicate his past efforts).
The movie opens with some newsreel clips that set up the world for the viewers and explains that there are super-humans (or supers as they are nicknamed) among us who can do amazing things. One of them is Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) who can perform extraordinary feats of strength. Another one is the lovely Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) who can stretch her body into just about any shape. The two heroes like to flirt with each other while they fight crime but while Mr. Incredible talks about taking it easy and settling down, Elastigirl claims to have no interest in doing so since she feels she is at the top of her game.
Or so she says, because right away (after foiling some more crimes), Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl get married. Well at least their alter egos do. Despite their dangerous profession newlyweds Bob and Helen Parr continue to fight crime, even though times are changing and it’s become harder to be a superhero. First Mr. Incredible has to deal with a fan/stalker named Buddy (Jason Lee) who is a young kid who wants to be his sidekick. Although Buddy doesn’t have any powers, he is an impressive inventor but Mr. Incredible rejects him because he likes to work alone. Things get even worse for Mr. Incredible when he saves a man jumping to his death and later a train full of people that almost derailed, when he is sued by the very people he saved. Due to all of the lawsuits, the Federal government starts the Superhero Relocation Program, that forces the supers into basically a witness protection program where they are no longer allowed so exhibit their powers in public.
Fifteen years later, and Bob Parr is working in a soul-crushing environment for an insurance company. It’s a dead end job that offers no creativity and more importantly for Bob, no chance to to feel like he’s making a difference and helping people. He does what he can to help people, whether it’s approving claims or helping an old lady circumvent the deliberately unmanageable bureaucracy that the insurance company uses to foil claims. Of course, Bob’s actions don’t go unnoticed, and he soon is chastised by his boss Mr. Huph (Wallace Shawn) and eventually loses his job when he finally loses his temper when throws his boss through several walls because he wasn’t allowed to stop a crime that happened during the lecture. Feeling frustrated and despondent at what his life has become, Bob doesn’t tell his family about the loss of his job and doesn’t accept a chance to relocate the family again since they just finished unpacking their current house. His only release is his weekly get together with his buddy Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) when they listen to the police scanner so they can relive the old days.
That little bit of excitement keeps him going but he’s unhappy and unsatisfied with how his life has turned out. When he discovers a a hidden message from a woman named Mirage (Elizabeth Pena) offering a top secret job that will pay a lot of money for him to use his superpowers, Bob jumps at the chance. His first job is to travel to a remote island to stop an OmniDroid 9000 which is a rampaging killer robot that has adaptive learning which makes it a high level threat. Putting on his old uniform (which doesn’t fit that well anymore), Mr. Incredible goes into action once again and manages to stop the robot. Thanks to the success of that mission, Mr. Incredible continues to get new jobs from the mysterious Mirage. Now that he’s finally being allowed to do what he loves, Bob changes his attitude towards his life. He starts working out, spending more time with his kids, and it also improves his relationship with Helen as well.
Armed with a new uniform from Edna (a pint size costume designer/dictator), Mr. Incredible returns to the island again for a meeting with Mirage that turns into a deadly ambush with the new and improved OmniDroid. Mr. Incredible is quickly beaten by the robot and discovers he had been duped the entire time since the robot was improved upon based on the lessons learned from the earlier fight. The entire plan was hatched by a new villain named Syndrome who has a personal interest in destroying Mr. Incredible. Defeated, depressed, and imprisoned on the island by Syndrome, Mr. Incredible’s only chance of rescue is from his own family.
I love this movie for many things. One is just because it’s so much fun and it perfectly captures everything I love about superheroes and I also loved the James Bond nods. As much fun as this movie is though, there are a lot of underlying messages as well that I like too. The idea of how you treat people can come back to haunt you is a relevant one and one that Mr. Incredible learns the hard way. Whether it’s people you don’t know or even more important people you do know such as family members, how you interact with them can have serious ramifications. Bird also makes it clear that he detests society’s need to say that everyone is special in their own way, because when he is told by his mother that everyone is special Dash replies, “Which is another way of saying no one is.” Bob also rails against the practice of calling a move from the 4th grade to the 5th grade a graduation ceremony saying, “It’s psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional…” they will have to hide it much like the Parr family does.
For a movie based in such fantastic superhero environment as this, it was a smart move to make it as grounded as possible with a realistic family dynamic. They may be superheroes but they have the same worries, fights, issues, and loves as the rest of us. Bob and Helen don’t agree on the necessity of keeping the powers hidden and unused. Helen in quite a reversal now seems to be content to quit fighting crime and happy to raise her family while Bob goes to a regular job. For Bob, at one point, settling down for a family life seemed like a good idea, but he’s discovered that as much as he loves his family, his suppression of he he really is and what he wants to do with his life weighs heavily on him. Dash and Violet fight with each other like kids do, but when faced with real danger don’t hesitate to join forces. For a family movie from Pixar, there’s a lot of adult themes included in this movie which adds another layer of enjoyment for parents to appreciate while their kids just enjoy the action and humor. This is a fantastic movie that the whole family will love!

Video (5 out of 5 stars)

In a move that wasn’t a surprise at all to me, Disney has once again offered a pristine 1080p (2.39:1) transfer that continues the studio’s stellar record. This has a sharp detailed picture that helps you notice the little things as well as textures so lifelike you feel as if you could touch them. Colors are vibrant which is a must for a superhero movie and they just pop with their many hues especially on the island’s jungle who lushness is something to behold. Black levels are nice and inky and the contrast is excellent. This is an absolutely gorgeous transfer!

Audio (5 out of 5 stars)

The film’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is just as superb as the video quality if not better. Every channel is put to good use and it adds an extra level of life to an already fantastic movie. Action swirls around the room, not to mention the ambiance as well. The rumble from the island’s lava or the departure of a rocket, to Frozone’s ice slides, it all sounds amazing. (I was going to say incredible but that would be a pretty feeble joke). Dialogue is crystal clear, and the cross channel panning is perfection personified. Michael Giacchino’s score gets me every time and I especially love the night time infiltration of Syndrome’s base that sounds like it was lifted directly from the score fromGoldfinger. All in all, this excellent track gets another perfect score for Disney!

Special Features (5 out of 5 stars) 

Disney didn’t skimp on this area either since this not only includes all of the Classic DVD extras (with most of them upgraded to HD) but there’s also a lot of all new material as well!
  • Audio Commentaries – Two feature length commentaries are available with the first one starring Director Brad Bird and producer John Walker talk about the ideas behind the movie, the cast, the animation, and more. Thoroughly engaging and informative, it is the track I preferred the most. The second track is just as informative but it is the more technical of the two. Supervising animators Tony Fucile, Steven Hunter and Alan Barillaro along with animators Gini Santos, David DeVan, Jureha Yokoo, Dave Mullins, John Kahrs, Robert Russ, Angus MacLane, Travis Hathaway, Doug Frankel and Peter Sohn join together to provide a overloaded group commentary. As great as the commentaries are, it’s frustrating that you never know who is talking at the time. They should have taken a page out of the Lord of the Rings commentaries and labeled whoever the current speaker is throughout.
  • The Incredibles Revisited – An exclusive to Blu-ray round-table discussion with Writer/Director Brad Bird, Producer John Walker, Story Supervisor Mark Andrews, Supervising Technical Director Rick Sayre, Production Designer Lou Romano, Character Designer Teddy Newton, and Supervising Animator Tony Fucile. This is a candid and very funny discussion that covers the genesis of the movie and the characters and the choices they made for the movie. This is a great addition to the set and so good that people that claim to not like special features will even enjoy this. I just wish it was longer!
  • Paths To Pixar: Story Artists – Continuing the popular bonus feature series that viewers have seen on many other Disney-Pixar releases, this exciting new feature showcases multiple Pixar story artists giving viewers exciting insight into their work, their inspiration and the personal paths that eventually led them to a career at Pixar. This adds a nice personal touch and it makes the Pixar crew relatable.
  • Boundin’ with Optional Commentary – You can either watch the animated short that played before the movie theatrically or watch it with commentary by the one man show Bud Luckey who wrote it, voiced it, directed it, provided music for it, and did the production design for it. The short offers a nice messages to try to accept yourself for however you look and enjoy life.
  • Jack-Jack Attack with Optional Visual Commentary – Another short cartoon that shows exactly what happened with Jack-Jack and his babysitter during the movie’s events. Bird, Andrews, character designer Teddy Newton and animator Bret Parker talk about the short in the option visual commentary.
  • Deleted Scenes, Now in HD! – Five deleted are shown as animated storyboards offer an alternate opening to the movie and a finished fifteen-minute alternate opening, and a collection of others give you a different look at what the movie could have been.
  • Studio Stories: Gary’s Birthday – Trying to make a movie when there are not enough work days and too many birthday parties? This feature showcases how The Incredibles crew solved that problem. A short but funny look at some of the behind the scenes hi-jinks.
  • Ending With A Bang: Making The End Credits – A talk with Director of Photography Andy Jimenez and Character Designer Teddy Newton about the process of creating the end credits for the film. An interesting look at the whiz bang graphics used for the final credits.
  • The New Nomanisan: A Top Secret Redevelopment Plan – A guided tour of Nomanisan Island, post-Syndrome, pitching the island as a vacation resort paradise. This is a short but funny cartoon that shows how Syndrome’s island and Omnidroids could be put to use after the fortress is converted to a resort.
  • Making of The Incredibles – This has been ported over from the previous DVD release but it offers a nice behind the scenes look at the making of the film. At almost 30 minutes long, it packs a pretty good wallop but like usual just leave me wanting more.
  • Other Classic DVD Content – This includes featurettes devoted to covering: “Story,” “Character Design,” “E-Volution,” “Building Humans,” “Building Extras,” “Set Design,” “Sound,” “Music,” “Lighting,” “Tools,” a “Mr. Incredible and Pals” animated cartoon with an optional commentary with Mr. Incredible and Frozone, “NSA Audio Files and Stills,” “Vowellett – An Essay by Sarah Vowell,” and finally “Who is Bud Luckey?”
  • Easter Eggs – What was once hidden on the previous DVD is now conveniently bundled together in one spot here. The hidden goodies include: “Incredibles Socks,” “Dancing Bob,” “Cake,” “Buttons and Doors,” “Victor’s Guards,” “H3A – Classroom,” “Angus’ Guards,” “Incrediblunders,” “Frank & Ollie,” “Ball & Scooter” and “Markisms.”
  • Publicity – A series of character interviews as if they are on a publicity junket and some trailers and TV spots.
  • Interactive Art Gallery – A ton of production images that are divided into six galleries: Character Design, Collages, Color Scripts, Lighting, Set Design, and Storyboards.
  • Incredibles Teaser – The first Incredibles trailer in high definition.
  • Maximize Your Home Theater – When I told a friend of mine that I was reviewing this movie, he told me that he hoped that this tool would be available on the Blu-ray just like it was on the DVD. He will be happy to know that it is! This is a simple but very handy video/audio calibration tool.
  • Movie Voucher for Cars 2 – As if you needed another reason to buy this movie, Disney is also generously giving a free movie voucher for Cars 2.
DVD Features:
The DVD in the 4-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack Includes:
  • The Incredibles feature film
  • The original short film Jack-Jack Attack
  • Pixar’s Academy Award-nominated short film Boundin’ (2003 Best Animated Short)


Final Thoughts (5 out of 5 stars)

Without a doubt, The Incredibles is one of the best (if not the best) movies that Pixar has made. It’s funny and loaded with action and heart, and it’s a rare family film that actually appeals to all members of the family. This stellar set offers brilliant video and audio quality and the extensive special features will keep you happy and busy for a long time. Buy this movie now and you won’t regret it!
The Incredibles comes out on Blu-ray April 12,2011 so pre-order your copy now!

The Incredibles Blu-ray Trailer

Come to Nomanisan Island: A Getaway from The Incredibles

Mr. Incredible vs. The Robot



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