June 27, 2018
It’s also one of the most auteurist films. Although Bird was quickly recognized as one of the best in the animation business, he didn’t get to direct a movie until in his 40s: 1999’s The Iron Giant. His frustrations at being a staffer—such as his long service as a visual consultant on the ultimate anti-auteur enterprise, The Simpsons—fed into the bitterness of The Incredibles at the talented being tied down by the mediocre.
Bird’s The Incredibles is quite a bit like Bryan Singer’s X-Men franchise, which is also about mutants with superpowers who are persecuted by politicians. But X-Men reflects today’s minority supremacism. The vastly successful Singer often explains how his being a gay Jew makes him an outsider so that he can empathize with the plight of his persecuted mutants. In contrast, Bird’s mutants are ordinary Americans with ordinary lifestyles, who just happen to be better at their jobs than everybody else.
Fourteen years later, Bird finally delivers The Incredibles 2. Did he use the long layoff to take his magnum opus in a radical new direction?
No. His new movie is a highly serviceable but unoriginal sequel to the old one, taking up exactly where the original ended with the attack of the Underminer, a mole man riding a giant oil drill bit. Soon the Incredibles have smashed up the city again and are dumped back in the government’s covert superhero protection program.
This time, Mrs. Incredible goes off to work while her hubby stays home to try to take care of the kids. Awkward dad comedy ensues.
The sequel features one great new idea: a villain named Screenslaver who hypnotizes citizens with the screens that are just beginning to pop up everywhere in the movie’s futuristic version of 1964. Soon the family is back in action, of which Bird remains a master.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes in his new book, Skin in the Game:
Society likes saints and moral heroes to be celibate so they do not have family pressures and be forced into dilemmas of needing to compromise their sense of ethics to feed their children.
Thus, much of the intensity of the two Incredibles movies comes from the family’s frenetic juggling of their profession versus their need to protect their children, especially baby Jack-Jack (who turns out to be well-equipped to take care of himself).