This week in the research log, we’re clocking Brad Bird’s incredible superhero film THE INCREDIBLES. We’ve used the Storyclock Notebook to visualize the film’s structure and plot points in the form of a clock. Now put on your supersuits and let’s go to work!
Let's Break It Down
- Opening: TV Interviews– supers are popular and keep the world safe.
- Normalcy: Mr. Incredible rescues a cat from a tree, a man from suicide, and a train from crashing. You know, superhero stuff.
- Normalcy Disrupted: The suicidal man sues Mr. Incredible. Superhero Relocation Program is put into place and supers are outlawed.
- Herald: 15 years later, Bob and family live “a normal life”. Mirage invites Bob to shut down an Omnidroid on a remote island, the perfect adventure for a former superhero who now works at an insurance company.
- Rational Approach: Bob thinks for mere seconds about not lying to his wife and taking the mission.
- Acceptance and Break Into Act 2: Bob lies to his wife and takes the mission.
- B Story Begins:
- Trailer Moments/Promise of the Premise: Bob travels to the island where he fights and defeats the Omnidroid. Trains at a railyard. Engages in a happy family life montage! He takes another superhero mission.
- Midpoint: Bob meets Syndrome, narrowly avoids being killed and escapes.
- Things Get Worse: Bob sneaks into the evil lair only to be captured by Syndrome.
- Hero's Last Resort: Helen saves Bob and the whole family fights Syndrome's goons together.
- Game Over: The whole family gets captured by Syndrome and are forced to watch his evil plan come to fruition. Complete with evil plan monologue!
- Breakthrough and Rebirth/Break Into Act 3: Bob apologizes for being a bad father, gives a “redemption speech”. Violet breaks the family free and, because Syndrome monologued his whole evil plan, they know exactly where to go.
- Hero Gains Upper Hand: The family races back home to take on Syndrome. Teaming with Frozone, they work together as a super family and defeat the giant Omnidroid.
- Shadow's Final Push: Syndrome poses as a relief babysitter and takes Jack-Jack hostage.
- Ultimate Breakthrough: Bob throws Helen into the air, she retrieves Jack-Jack, and Syndrome's hubris catches up with him when his cape gets him sucked into the jet engine.
- New Normalcy: Dash finally gets to use his powers in public, running on the track team. Violet has a newfound confidence. The family embraces their powers as the new normal.
- Final Image: The family stands together against a new threat! Superhero poses. Logo under shirt reveal. Giacchino time.
Stuff That Stood Out To Me
- I watched this for this blog post the other night, and even though I'd seen it at least five times already, the second it was done I immediately started it over and watched it again. It’s that perfect.
- Similar to Seth’s analysis of THE AVENGERS, this movie follows the “hero’s journey” almost to a T. But it never feels formulaic! That's what the pros call: writing.
- The Incredibles has an incredible (how many times can I use that word in this blog post) prologue. It introduces us to Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Frozone, and Incrediboy, who of course will one day turn into our antagonist. It immediately establishes our protagonist’s goal (longing for a super life/life of adventure) and acts as exposition for the rest of our story. When we see our “normalcy” 15 years later, we can jump right into it.
- The Midpoint of the story is almost exactly in the middle of the movie, which is incredibly satisfying.
- Brad Bird’s script doesn’t quite play as parody of the classic superhero film, but it definitely is a pastiche. I love how it takes things that we would typically predict in a story like this and it flips them on their head (like Dash interrupting Bob in the middle of his “bad dad apology speech” and Helen shh’ing him).
- Symmetrical Moment: Family disconnected/ argues at dinner table about using powers + Family battles together for the first time
- Symmetrical Moment: Bob and Helen argue + Bob and Helen reunite
- Symmetrical Moment: Incrediboy enters the story + Syndrome (Incrediboy) exits the story
- Symmetrical Moment: Supers are sued and the superhero relocation program is put into place + Bob rides with lawyer who says things are looking great for the future of supers
What I love about THE INCREDIBLES is that it’s not doing anything new with story structure. It’s the tried and true formula, but everything about the execution -- the script, the characters, putting a family of superheroes through the ringer -- it makes it feel fresh and exciting and fun. I can imagine grown men will be pushing and shoving children out of the way to get to the box office for the upcoming sequel. I can imagine they will be between the ages of 25 and 30, with glasses and an ironic mustache it's me Ryan Polly get out of my way kids
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