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Avengers Redux, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Try the Theater

It may sound odd, but I haven’t been to a theater in about four years. The last movie I remember seeing was Wall*E, back when Jena was too young to really enjoy or remember it, shortly afterwards we ran into some major money troubles and have only recently gotten to the point where I think we’ve just about fully recovered. I was originally going to title this blog “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Theater” so that should give you a little preview of how things went. We went down to the local AMC twelve screen, the only theater in our relatively small midwest town outside of a single screen theater that shows mostly independent movies so we could watch the Avengers.

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Sky High

Sky High 2004

I had seen both Sky High and Zoom several years ago and in my memory I had enjoyed Zoom a little bit better. When I watched Zoom again, it still made me laugh just as much as it did the first time, but when I wrote about it I realized a lot of flaws with the plot and the characters. I felt almost the exact opposite about Sky High, it had a much stronger plot and characters, but it just didn’t make me laugh nearly as often. It drew a lot of smiles and a couple chuckles, but no flat out laughter. Jena enjoyed it somewhat, but it couldn’t hold her attention for the entirety of the movie so she tuned out about an hour in. But even without any full fledged laughs out of me, Sky High is a pretty impressive movie for what it is.

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The Incredibles

The Incredibles 2004

It’s Friday evening and I’ve been looking forward to watching The Incredibles again. This has got to be one of the best superhero movies that I’ve ever seen, and next to Batman this is one of Jena’s favorite superheroes as well and she loved the movie from start to finish. While the Incredibles aren’t based on any existing comic books, they epitomize the classic Superhero types and of course they are very strongly inspired by the Fantastic Four. Some people even go so far as to say they almost directly copied them. Instead of Mr. Fantastic Reed Richards, there is Elastigirl Helen Parr. The Invisible Woman Sue Storm is replaced by the daughter Violet. Those two are pretty much direct copies, especially Violet since I’ve never heard of any other superhero that pairs invisibility with forcefields. The baby Jack Jack has a brief touch of the Human Torch’s powers and Dash has a little bit of the Torch’s personality. And Mr. Incredible is the brawn of the team as is The Thing, but those connections are a bit more of a stretch. And it’s not like one can’t count dozens of superheroes from different publishers that are essentially the same. I personally don’t think it’s a big detraction of the movie and I’m not even sure many people other than a few fanboys on message boards. In fact I think it’s kind of funny when I read that parts of the Fantastic Four script was changed because it was too close to this movie.

The movie starts off in the past, with an interview of all the heroes talking about what they would like out of life, and it turns out later on that later in life they all end up wanting the opposite of what they want at that moment in time. Like Mr. Incredible says that he’d like to take a break from heroing, and yet fifteen years later, all he wants to do is to be a hero again. It also shows the heroes in their prime with a great action setpiece filled with a lot of funny bits like the obligatory cat in the tree and of course there’s the standard superhero rescues like a bank robbery, a train disaster, and the kid sidekick. And yet there’s enough of a twist for all of these to make them feel fresh, even the kid fan that goes on to screw things up. I noticed this especially with the train scene and there’s that quick moment where Mr. Incredible braces himself for the train impact. It’s not the typical steeling himself that usually accompanies these moments where the hero grits his teeth and prepares for impact, but instead he turns his head and closes his eyes. He’s prepared for it, but in a much more realistic way. I also really like the subtle nod to one of my favorite films when Mr. Incredible is trying to remember Incrediboy’s real name and starts off by calling him Brody, which was the name of Jason Lee’s character in Mallrats, he also happens to voice Incrediboy and later Syndrome. And it ends with the wedding of Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl.

It then goes on to touch upon the public’s distrust of superheroes and their love for litigation, which causes the government to discontinue their superhero program and place all of the current heroes into basically the superhero protection program. Jump fifteen years into the future and Mr. Incredible is a pencil pusher who’s gained a lot of weight and Elastigirl is now a happy homemaker with three children. Violet who is the shy, unsure of herself teenager who can become invisible, Dash is the hyper troublemaker with superspeed. The powers feel in this context feel a lot more symbolic than just being copies of the Fantastic Four. The introduction of both of the kid’s powers feel pretty organic, interesting, and funny.

Throughout this movie, there is what feels like a great blend of drama, humor, and action. The emotional scenes feel earned, and the action scenes are all exciting. My favorite of the action scenes are the two infiltration scenes with Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl alternately breaking into Syndrome’s inner lair. It’s not too often that someone with Mr. Incredible’s power sneaks in through the back rather than going into a frontal assault through the front doors. It’s also rare to see a hero get to where it feels like he’s truly been defeated. It’s a very subtle, yet fantastic moment after Mr. Incredible thinks that his family is dead and you can just hear him quietly sobbing in the background.

I can go on and on about what this movie does right, from the hilarious Edna Mode, to the great voicework of the kid actor playing Dash. I especially love the amount of joy and enthusiasm he has when he first gets to let loose with his superpowers on the volcanic island. Even the subplot of Mirage turning against Syndrome to help Mr. Incredible. And I’ve been thinking about it for a while, there’s just not much that this movie does wrong. My only question is that the interim fifteen years are rather glossed over. There seemed to be an awful lot of superheroes out there, and once they all go away, things just carry on as normal? Were there any supervillain uprisings, or did the supervillains pretty much go away too with no superheroes to pit themselves against? And if things were perfectly calm during those times, then does the world really need the superheroes to return? And even though I’ve heard a lot of people clamoring for a sequel, especially more than a sequel to Cars or Monsters Inc., but I’m honestly not sure what kind of story they could tell in a sequel and have it come out as complete as this movie. I get the feeling if they tried to create a sequel, it would end up just being much more of an action setpiece. Maybe if they set the movie several years in the future again and have the children ready to set out on their own, but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen anytime soon, if ever. Regardless, this is a fantastic movie and will be one of my favorites for a long time. This was a movie that I devoured when I got it on DVD. In fact, I believe several of my favorite moments talked about in the film’s commentary or special features. Which is something I don’t explore as much as I used to. I was even able to get Jena to talk about this movie for a little while, check it out right below. This Tuesday has a special bonus review of Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths instead of my usual blog, keep an eye out for it. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.