Senior HTF Member
- Feb 24, 1999
Studio:Pixar (DVD via Buena Vista)Year:2004 RunTime:115 minutes Aspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 2.39:1 (OAR)Note: separate 1.33:1 "full screen" version also available...beware and give clear instructions for gift purchasing!Audio:5.1 DD EX English, French & Spanish SpecialFeatures:2 Feature Commentary tracks, "Jack-Jack Attack" Short, "Boundin'" Short, Deleted Scenes, Bloopers/Outtakes, Behind-the-scenes making-of documentary, "Mr. Incredible and Pals" original cartoon (must be seen to be believed), Character interviews, Sarah Vowell actress essay, Trailers, more...ReleaseDate:March 15, 2005
Something of a cross between True Lies, The X-Men, and Shrek, The Incredibles succeeds marvelously.
If you haven't seen The Incredibles, I'll start off by saying that in my opinion this is not a children's film. That's not to say that it contains anything inappropriate for kids. Nor do I mean that kids won't enjoy watching it--they will. But I mean to suggest that this movie is written, drawn, and acted as an action-comedy for teens and adults (much like Shrek); The fact that it's handled tactfully enough that kids can still enjoy it without parents having to keep a keen finger ready by the fast-forward control--an added bonus. I'll venture to say that out of the suite of computer-animated films put out thus far (including those by Pixar, Dreamworks, and Fox), The Incredibles is the most "adult" oriented of them all. Two themes stand out in particular for me in this regard: real-world marital issses and actual movie-violence.
The movie is really about the marriage between the two lead characters and ultimately how they relate to and support one another (and their children). Though subtle enough to pass over young children without cause for alarm, we're treated to a look inside this couple's world that deals rather candidly with real issues: infidelity, fighting, and sexual playfulness. Do I find any of this disagreeable? Not in the least; the folks at Pixar have tactfully and tastefully woven these points, intended for more mature audiences, into the fabric of the story such that only the audience members who should know what's going on are able to pick-up on it. Younger viewers watch the animation and enjoy the action completely unaware.
In my opinion, this sort of multi-level storytelling is the definition of sophisticated scripting and the mark of truly gifted artists. I'm not suggesting that the more a film pushes controversial topics the better it is, but I am suggesting that we're seeing a wonderful new genre of animated "family" feature films emerging that are designed with a great deal of intelligence to appeal to all members of a family without necessitate the feeling of compromise for any given group. The whole family watches. The whole family enjoys. Bravo. Another great accomplishment of the writing/acting team is how "real" the character-relationships and dialogue play off each other...it sounds like a conversation between a real husband and wife...who just happen to be animated super heros. The more times you watch this film, the more impressive it becomes. Bravo again.
One thing I will add is that the level of violence in this film is greater than what you might be accustomed to if you're letting Toy Story and Finding Nemo be your guide. Human characters appear to really get zapped from time to time in this film...and there's no "G.I. Joe after-school cartoon band aid" of having pilots parachute out of their cockpit a split second before the missile hits. Realistically, there's nothing more violent here than anything your kids have probably seen before, but I did take notice and think to myself on more than on occasion "hmmm...I think I just saw someone get boni-fide killed in a cartoon." Again, this is not a criticism, and I respect the film makers for taking a more realistic approach to some of these typically glossed-over issues of traditional animation. It just made an impression on me that seemed substantial enough to warrant a bit of discussion.
In an animation-genre that many feared would be the end of "art", it's wonderful to see such diversity of style. Pixar delights in giving each of its films a "look" that characterizes it. The Incredibles makes the most dramatic use of a codified visual language to date, and this is expressed in several ways. The first way that impressed me was the gloriously "1960's modern" theme of the material objects: architecture, automobiles, clothing, furniture, etc. The adherence to this theme is not literal--it's more impressionistic; Tapered-legged sofas sit contently next to 60" wall-mounted flat-screen monitors. Music plays on compact discs and computer keyboards clack away next to narrow-tie suits and fin-tailed cars. The way that the artists keep all of these things coexisting nicely is to re-invent post-60's icons of technology in a 1960's style. Those of you who enjoy this mid-60's era of American design as much as I do will have a lot to sink your teeth into in the visual world of The Incredibles.
In terms of animation style, the design of the characters and environment seems to flow from the angular/curved lines of the mid-60's lounge furniture. Fine-object detail is not as richly textured as what you might be used to having watched Finding Nemo and Shrek 2 (especially Shrek 2 which really pushed the limits of computer-animated detail) as the Pixar animators are intentionally going for a more abstract, somewhat streamlined appearance. Hues and color tones are also generally subdued...reflecting the softer color palette of a post-1950's era.
Perhaps the most impressive visual-stylistic element of The Incredibles is the innovative and dramatic use of "the moving camera". In a digitally-modeled world, any angle, any movement of the "eye" of the camera is possible. The animators of The Incredibles make striking use of this freedom like no computer-animated film to date. The effect is bold and often awe-inspiring: Ridding through the evening jungle brush suspended beneath a speeding monorail car; running along a catwalk getting pelted from cannon fire from every possible angle; racing across the surface of the water through spirey pillars of rock--in each case the moment is made visceral, engaging, through the use of a moving "camera" eye able to do things and go places in the binary world of The Incredibles that no real camera ever could. The effect goes beyond raw action...subtle camera movements zooming in and slowly circling around the room add intensity to still and dramatic moments alike. In this brave new world of digital imagery, the rules of movie-telling are changing as animators and effects designers are set free from the physics of a boom and lens. The Incredibles takes us farther than we've gone before. Two thumbs up.
You want me to say it. You know I'm going to. You want a cliché? You've got one:
Yes, the image quality of The Incredibles is...INCREDIBLE...
However, I will not say that the picture of The Incredibles is "perfect" because I don't think that it is. Incredible...YES. Perfect...no.
Colors are exactly as they should appear. Soft and understated when appropriate. Bold and vivid when intended to be so. If your display is properly calibrated then however the colors of this DVD appear on your screen is how they were intended to look by the animators. In comparison to many other recent digitally animated features (Shrek 2/Nemo) the color palette of The Incredibles may at first appear a bit drab and understated. Don't be alarmed...watch how the colors change scene by scene, and vary widely throughout the various stages of the movie. When we meet our protagonist Bob, he's mired in a world of bureaucracy living a life out of Terry Gilliam's Brazil...and his world is correspondingly subdued with grays and soft tones. The effect is intentional. Contrast this during the montage of Bob's "glory days" playing with his kids and pinching his wife...golden hues of sunshine richly saturate a warm and green world suddenly lush with tonality. Every moment of this film, every place, has been carefully "lit" by the animators for the precise intended effect. And this DVD communicates those subtleties perfectly.
Shadow detail, contrast, and dynamic range are also stellar. There are many darkly-lit evening scenes (in the jungle) and the softly expressed image detail is never lost. Never a sign of MPEG noise that I can see (even in darker scenes which often challenge MPEG codecs) and the image always feels rock-solid and confident. Black level is "perfect" (for a guy who said that the image quality wasn't perfect...he's using that word an awful lot...well various aspects of the image do happen to be "perfect" in and of themselves...) as well. Normally I would effuse a bit more in this area for a transfer this well delivered. However, it's so good in regards to contrast/dynamic-range that it almost has the reverse-effect on my prose...what more can I say? Folks...for an image that is just as solid as it can get with "perfect" contrast and black level, here's your demo disc.
I've read a few other reports by some very well-respected reviewers about how utterly "perfect" the DVD transfer is and I have to say that this is where I slightly diverge. While I attest that the level of detail and perceived resolution is outstanding for the DVD format...I still can't help but feel that there is the slightest degree of filtering taking place. And I do mean slight. For some reason, to my eyes, the image just doesn't have that last nth-level degree of clarity that starts to push the "is it Hi-Def?" envelop for me. By comparison, a DVD that does do this for me is Shrek 2. In no way am I suggesting that the image looks "filtered" as I commonly complain about with Miramax titles. On the contrary...detail is outstanding and on my 106" screen the 2.39:1 (that's what it says) image looks grand. However, there's a 3-dimensionality that Shrek2 has to my eyes that The Incredibles just barely falls shy of attaining. There are three reasons why I don't think I'm making this up:
- When I first watched the feature-film straight through, I kept thinking to myself "it ought to look sharper..." without any A/B comparison to any other material of any kind (I never had that run through my mind watching Shrek 2).
- There is some extremely low-level edge-enhancement in the image in the vertical domain...affecting very (very) mild ringing along strong horizontal lines. This can be seen as a slight white halo immediately in the image running along the lower letterboxing bar of the 2.39:1 image, for instance. Moving closer than 1.3 screen widths I can also see some very (very) minor ringing at other times...over the tops of the staircase descending into Edna's laboratory for instance. Relax...do not be alarmed...the ringing I'm talking about is so minimal that it would not be detected by anyone seated at any sane viewing distance...and Standard-def DVD source material cannot be properly viewed close than 1.5 screen-widths IMO no matter how perfectly mastered it may be, and the fact that I need to move up to about 1.3 screen-widths away to discern any ringing makes the "problem" of EE a moot point. However...it does lead me to suspect that some very (very) mild filtering may have taken place...as usually a bit of EE goes hand in hand with HF filtering.
- When I view many of the scenes from the feature film in the bonus material on Disc 2 (16x9 OAR!!!)...I'm suddenly hit with "WOW! That's the razor-sharp 3-dimensional image I was waiting for!!"
Jason has a HTPC (Home Theater P.C.) at his place and if we're able to connect soon I'd love to do some better A/B comparing of the sequences that caught my eye from the feature film that are contained in the bonus material. It's difficult on my set-up to get a good, objective impression because the discs take so long to load up you're forced to wait quite a while between the "A" and "B" image. Also, the human eye tends to auto-calibrate its perceptions to the baseline of the average data taken in...and so (on disc 2) after watching long segments of blurry video-cam Pixar interviews and suddenly "BAM!" you're hit with a pristine 16x9 direct-digital image from the final rendered feature film the effect it may have on your perception may be that it's much "sharper" than it really is because of the stark contrast with what your eye was used to...whereas a whole movie of the same clarity can cause your perception to auto-adjust to be less "wowed" by the experience. To be really sure that my impressions are on the money, I'm going to find a way to do some real A/B comparison. Hopefully Jason and myself will be able to coordinate soon to do some screen-captures at full resolution and do just that.
But it really does look INCREDIBLE!
Putting everything into perspective folks, the image really is amazing. Colors exactly as they should be, contrast and gray-scale tracking to set the standard, and a very satisfyingly detailed image free from all "electronic" artifacts like MPEG noise or EE from anything greater than 1.3 screen-widths distance. I can't imaging anyone being disappointed, and despite my hypothesis that some very, very, very minor filtering/EE may be taking place...even on a 106" diagonal screen viewed from 1.6 screen widths distance, the image is by all accounts a reference picture. Shaving off just a sliver of a point until I'm able to verify or disprove my questions about that nth degree of image detail that the DVD format might have been able to provide...
Picture Quality: 4.9 / 5
:star: :star: :star: :star: :star:
WARNING!: a separate 4x3 "full frame" p/s version of The Incredibles is available as well. Shoppers beware and double-check before you rip that shrink-wrap off the cover! Be sure to give clear and unthwartable "widescreen" directions to any gift-purchasers--wouldn't want little Johny to unwrap a P/S DVD for his birthday...now would we?...
In the past I think I've been too ambiguous with my scoring or at least haven't applied it consistently from title to title, so I've endeavored to define my rating system more clearly to help make the scoring more meaningful (for all titles reviewed December 2004 and later):
SCORE Description 1-2 An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch. Think "Outland" or MGM's R1 "Jean De Florette" (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl, MPEG or PAL-NTSC conversion artifacts)-- truly horrid. 2-3 Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Cold Mountain or (the non-anamorphic) The Abyss 3-4 Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think Phantom Menace (great except for filtering and EE) the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring (also decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos) 4-5 A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW". Think The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the King, Shrek 2, or the Fifth Element Superbit (full “5” would be sans any edge-halo on 5th E.).
This was the first film since moving into my new apartment that prompted my upstairs neighbor to stop by and introduce herself...and ask me to please turn down the stereo. That should give you a good idea of what to expect.
Sound quality is exemplary: a crisp, highly directional mix that's authoritative, involving, and will give your amp a real workout. The Incredibles manages to do all of this and at the same time remain listenable--never getting harsh or overly-bright in the top end. Low-level detail is also outstanding, and many soft passages are rife with subtle acoustic information that reveals some real sensitivity on the part of the mixing engineers...every opportunity is taken to simulate the acoustic environment of the on-screen action...not just pummel the listener with overblown effects. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and sounds natural and full-bodied. Directional dialogue also evinced itself when appropriate (like an actor moving off-screen to one side or the other) which is a welcome treat in an age of modern movie mixing that tends to just toss all spoken dialogue into the center channel without any regard for context (Personally, large-screen RP and front-projection systems become more and more commonplace, I hope that directional dialogue begins to have a resurgence in home-theater mixes. The reason that most HT 5.1 mixes are so center-heavy on spoken dialogue is that the studio is expecting you to be watching the movie on a 27" TV screen with your center speaker placed neatly above it with your L/R front mains far off to each side.)
Bass. Hmmmm. This is the area of the sound that most impressed me (and my upstairs neighbor
I should also note that despite my best intentions for my last "Lord of the Rings" parties a few weeks back, I have not managed to figure out how to mount a center-rear speaker array for ES/EX mixes. My sofa is pushed flat up against the back wall of my living room so any "rear" effects would have to be mounted directly above the listening area (I'm using side-wall mounted dipole surrounds at present). If any of you have any suggestions on the best way to make this work let me know. In any case, I feel compelled to tell you that the "rear center" EX effect is something that I can't comment on directly given the current configuration of my audio system. However, I do hope to remedy that in the not-too-distant future. In any case, I'll try to pay special attention to the rear channel in this evening's screening. Since the center-rear information of a DD 5.1 EX track is extracted via the sum of the two rear channels, it shouldn't be to hard to extrapolate what sounds might go there.
When the movie ended and the credits were rolling after my first viewing, I suddenly thought to myself "hmmm...I don't remember any surround effects". Upon my second viewing of the film (having pre-warned my upstairs neighbor to secure a good time when it wouldn't cause a disturbance...
There are indeed a few notable instances where "rear effects" can be clearly heard...when Bob yells to his wife from within the house "I'll get it!" when the phone rings etc. But most of the surround information is so seamlessly woven into overall mix that it just blends beautifully without standing out and trying to assert its own separate identity. Remember the days of early ProLogic surround when we watched (***shudder***) Hi-Fi VHS (well, maybe *you* watched VHS but *I* was watching laserdisc...
Sound Quality: 5 / 5
:star: :star: :star: :star: :star:
This is the part of the review that I dread. Not because I don't like the special feature content but just because it's so challenging to write write write about it! I'll start off by saying that the bonus content on this DVD set is absolutely as reference as the image and sound...fans will not be disappointed and many of the features go beyond the usual plethora of commentary and documentaries...we've got some nice bonus shorts (16x9 OAR) that are show-pieces all on their own. And we've even got some 16x9 OAR movie trailers for the feature film. In fact, one thing worth mentioning apart from the individual elements is that most of the special feature content on this disc is 16x9 encoded. Yes folks...try to stay calm as you read onward...
Note: Many of these bonus features contain 16x9 2.39:1 OAR snippets from the feature film and I couldn't help but feel that the level of detail and depth I'm seeing in those final-film shots here on Disc 2 look sharper and more detailed than what I'm seeing in the feature film on Disc 1 (which I mentioned in my PQ review section earlier). I'll be doing some critical A/B evaluation to try to discern that this isn't just my imagination and I'll update the results here when I do.
[*]Feature Commentary: There are two commentary tracks on this disc. The first is with Director Bar Bird (who also did The Iron Giant as well as the voice of "Edna" in The Incredibles) and Producer John Walker. The second Commentary track features discussion between several key animators. I very much enjoyed both of these commentary tracks though I tended to favor the first with Director Bird and Producer Walker. These guys are very creative and they approach their work as artists. Their commentary style is also professional without sounding stuffy, and each insight that they offered genuinely interested me. The discussion between the animators on the second commentary track was also interesting, but I found the more jovial banter between the group members distracting. Both commentary tracks do cover both artistic and technical areas of interest for fans of the film so be sure to check them both out and not dismiss either one until you've given it a go. As with most Buena Vista DVDs, toggling audio tracks...including commentary (and DTS when available) is a simple matter of hitting the audio button on your remote...so no need to head back to the main menu if you feel like momentarily switching from the feature film soundtrack to the commentary etc.[/list]
That's it for Disc 1! Seems that Pixar/Disney decided to take more of a "Super-bit" approach to the feature film which is fine-by-me...
Oh...one thing I should add (and don't choke when you hear me say this) is that you should be sure and check out the movie-previews on Disc 1...because there is a gorgeous 16x9 OAR trailer for Pixar's next feature film "Cars" that you'll want to see. To whom it may concern at Disney...please make an effort to properly present trailers (when applicable) in 16x9 WS like this. It really gives home-theater enthusiasts a reason to actually watch them (when the production, image, and sound quality are that impressive) rather than spring their wrists trying to reach for the menu-button to avoid them altogether...
[*]Jack-Jack Attack: Though touted as "short film" this is really more of a "deleted scene" that details the babysitting episode of the Incredibles' baby "Jack-Jack" while the rest of the family is off saving the world. When Helen is checking her phone messages riding home in the limo after a long day stretching her super-hero legs, we get a hint of this short's content during the feature film. This sequence really had no place to "fit" into the flow of the film but it's great to have here as a bonus feature and is a natural companion to the feature film. In fact, I'd suggest watching it immediately after the feature film is over while folks are still in the "movie" mode. Think of it like the dance-party break-down number at the end of the credits on Shrek...it's really an addendum to the feature film that folks should stick around and watch before turning the lights back on and breaking the spell.
This feature is about 5 minutes long, is 16x9 encoded (1.78:1), and has a nice 5.1 DD soundtrack. The animators deviated from the 2.39:1 aspect ratio of the feature film but this doesn't bother me, and in fact I like seeing the 16x9 screen filled with all that Pixar beauty... Picture quality is outstanding and looks as good or better than the feature film in terms of clarity and DVD encoding. Enjoy!!!
[*]Deleted Scenes: There are six (if I counted right) deleted scenes and alternate-story concept scenes here totaling about 30 minutes of content. We have some very nice introductions from Director Bird for each sequence and his comments are very insightful for fans interested more than just the usual "what scenes did they leave out" objective. For the most part, these are not finished, digitally-rendered sequences ala the feature film; They comprise storyboarding and occasionally partially-animated digital imagery, but that's not a criticism...the effect is marvelous and it's remarkable to see just how effective a story-telling tool that storyboarding can be...especially when accompanied by an audio track as all of these scenes are. One very thought-provoking sequence (and the longest...over 10 minutes long) is an alternate opening for the film which has the Incredibles trying their luck at a neighborhood cookout (with a bent on "home-making" as a valid career choice which I really enjoyed and would have appreciated showing up somewhere in the feature film even if in some other form). It also introduces the antagonist character in an entirely different way from what we see in the finished film.
There are two scenes in particular I would have liked to see incorporated back into the film: Bob in traffic and the "Vipers" scene after the jet crashes into the ocean.
All of these scenes...storyboards included...are 16x9 encoded and presented in 2.39:1 OAR...just wonderful. There are also some finished-film snippets included briefly here during Bird's introductions that seem to look "sharper" and more dimensional to my eyes than the same segments in the feature film on Disc 1 (Bob in traffic, for instance).
[*]Incredi-blunders (Bloopers and Outtakes): These are not "fabricated" bloopers like on a Bug's Life...these are rendering and animation errors for the most part and the segment is assembled into a montage that plays through like a mini-featurette. It's just a few minutes long and cute but not anything life-changing. If you're pressed for time skip this one and come back later.
[*]Top Secret Files on all the Supers: This area contains an interesting layout of characters and groupings that you can select and read about in more detail. Fans may enjoy exploring this area in detail...there's quite a bit here.
[*]The Making of The Incredibles: 16x9 encoded and lasting about half an hour...this is a marvelous feature rich with content. You can skip from section to section or watch the entire feature through. While this area does deal with technical and artistic matters behind the animation, it tends to focus on the artists and actors themselves...with lots of behind-the-scenes touring of Pixar studios. You'll really feel like you're getting to know these people after watching this very worthwhile feature.
[*]MORE Making of The Incredibles: 16x9 encoded and lasting about 20 minutes...this feature tends to focus more heavily on the technical and artistic challenges behind the animation and may actually be of greater interest to animation fans than the first "Making of" documentary. This is another Disc 2 bonus item that had lots of scenes from the finished feature film appearing here (16x9 2.39:1 OAR) and I kept finding myself scratching my head thinking "wow...I think they look better here on Disc 2...". The scene with Edna standing on the kitchen counter looked so three-dimensional I almost thought it was HD (I did not have that same impression watching the feature film on Disc 1). I'll be doing more critical A/B eval and post back.
[*]Mr. Incredible and Pals: This must be seen to be believed. It's a 4x3 OAR (16mm?) original cartoon featuring the characters of Mr. Incredible and Frozone...and a rabbit?!? Put on your Science-Fiction-Theater-3000 cap and sit back and *howl*. You can listen to the original audio or the commentary of Characters Bob Incredible and Frozone. I recommend you listen to their commentary the first time through. It's truly brilliant, and bound to make your guests laugh out-loud.
[*]Vowellet - An essay by Sarah Vowell: This is the gal who performs the voice of Violet (Incredible daughter) in the feature film. She's quite a character in real-life, and quite a historian. I admired her unabashed geekinees and passion for history, assassinated presidents, and their memorabilia. This feature was a lot of fun and I give Sarah two thumbs up for her own self-defined sense of coolness... Sarah, if you're ever out in D.C. let me know and we'll hang and tour the sites and you can educate me about American History.
[*]Boundin': A nice short...16x9 1.78:1...about a sheep and a Jackalope and what it means to be comfortable with who you are and not get distracted by the crap life throws your way. Story, script, style, and execution are all first-rate. This short is awesome in my humble opinion, and I'm giving it a thumbs up. There is also a separate feature called "Who is Bud Luckey" about one of Pixar's animator legends who created the Boundin' short.
[*]Publicity: We get some nice "Character interviews" which are fun though not as well developed as I would have liked. But what most fans will be coming here for are the two trailers for the feature film. Both are 16x9 OAR 2.39:1 and both are gorgous. Bravo to Pixar/Buena Vista for putting them here. Oh, in case you missed it earlier...one of the very few times I'll ever say something like this...be sure to check out the sneak previews on Disc 1 for the trailer for Pixar's next full-length feature film "Cars"...16x9 OAR and oh-so-pretty...[/list]
Yes...it's all that and a bucket of cherries. The Incredibles is a great story...sort of a digitally animated fusion of the X-Men and True Lies. This is definitely the most adult-audience-oriented film to come out of Pixar thus far, but it is still family-friendly and all ages can enjoy watching it (though I suspect that parents and teens may actually enjoy this one more than the kids). Stylistically, The Incredibles really defines itself, and the technical brilliance of the DVD is reference-setting in both picture and sound. Bonus materials are substantial in quantity and quality...and several of them (such as the "Jack-Jack" short) I recommend you consider as "part of" the feature film and watch immediately afterwards while others (Boundin') are easily stand-alone features all their own. Put it all together and you have a 2-disc SE set that needs to be on your shelf when it's not spinning away in your DVD transport.
Yes...that cliché is headin' your way...