The Incredibles is one of my favorite movies, but I’d be lying if I said it was perfect. There’s a reason I thought Big Hero 6 was a better superhero movie. When you think about it, it’s basically Watchmen for kids, which means it has a similar precedent and takes shots at some of the classic superhero tropes but is lighter in tone and actually celebrates superheroes. So I like it better, but there are some big issues I have with the movie.
- Solely from a superhero fan perspective, its trashing of capes.
- The rather weak reason the supers went into hiding, which is an article on its own.
- Where did the superVILLAINS go during all this time they would have been opposed only by regular cops?
But I still love the movie. It’s got great character, great action, CG’s pretty good for the time, and it’s just a lot of fun. I really want to see the sequel but my funds are still nonexistent. However, did anyone actually think Syndrome is secretly the hero of the movie and not the villain? Besides Syndrome of course. I didn’t until Ryan Arey of Screen Crush put out the following video trying to prove his case. And it’s not like he’s coming off as explaining Syndrome’s point of view or going into what made him. He states the case as if he honestly believes Syndrome is the hero. It should be noted that I don’t think too many people in the comments agreed with him. And after just finishing re-watching the movie, neither do I.
Let’s first tackle the only thing he got right. Had Mr. Incredible better explained the situation to Buddy and worked with him Syndrome (or whatever name he would have ended up with) might have made a good superhero and wouldn’t have turned evil. According to Merriam-Webster “syndrome” is defined as:
I’m not even sure how that name applies to Buddy outside of how Omnidroid learns how to kill supers. It’s highly possible he just picked a word that sounded cool and went with it. Just because you’re a genius doesn’t mean you’re a smart guy. And Buddy’s problem was he thought it would be cool to be a hero but didn’t understand what that meant. Maybe Bob could have taught him, but Buddy came on way too strong. He immediately assumed he would immediately be accepted as Incrediboy simply because he was Mr. Incredible’s biggest fan and knew a lot of trivia. It’s like making the case for the little kid on the Power Wheels bike being a superhero. He was a large part of Bomb Voyage getting away. Had he not been there (or if Bob wasn’t running off to marry Helen) Bomb Voyage would have been in jail, the bomb wouldn’t have destroyed the train track, and maybe someone would have taken more time to talk the suicidal man out of suing anyone or committing suicide. (Why go for the lawsuit instead of trying again? See, that plot point has so many problems with it.) The case could be made that “Incrediboy” was partly responsible for the supers having to go into hiding.
As for the connection to Iron Man…there is a huge difference and this is where I start to wonder if Ryan has the same “love” of superheroes as Bill Maher. That’s confirmed in his next argument but unlike Tony. Buddy was plotting revenge on superheroes and specifically Mr. Incredible. He stated as much. Whether the Omnidroid was a government project he altered for his revenge or if this was one of those “good toys” he kept to himself, he was trying to become popular by the new standards, but it wasn’t enough. If he’s really going by movie Iron Man, Tony was operating out of a sense of guilt that his weapons were being used by the 10 Rings terror group to cause destruction by letting Stane run everything while he invented and partied. He didn’t come out as Iron Man until the end of the movie and didn’t even acknowledge Iron Man existed until events forced him to. Tony Stark and Buddy Nolastname are as different as night and day.
But Arey’s biggest failing is how he screws up the message of the movie as well as Bob’s character arc. He states that it’s about the “ubermench” and saying that you’re nothing unless you have cool powers. I think Fredric Wertham gained himself a protégé because we got totally different perspectives from this movie. What I saw was “don’t hide the gifts that make you special”. Both Syndrome and Dash are wrong about “when everyone is super nobody is super”. We’re all super in our own ways; our own gifts define what makes us special. I like Cirque Du Solei’s take better: “where everyone everyday is extraordinary”. Violet has to learn that she’s more powerful than she realizes. Dash…really doesn’t have a strong character arc except maybe self-control. Helen has to learn to overcome her own fears and tap into what made her Elastigirl, which is also part of the sequel. Note that only when they acknowledge who they are and accept their powers do they become happier AS normal people, so Violet is able to win the boy she likes and everyone seems happier by being who they really are. You’d think the LGBT community would be all over that. Wait, I think they were when it came out.
Meanwhile, Bob’s character arc is almost the opposite. He was always trying to be special and use his powers like Syndrome was with proving he could be a super. He thought it was all about being a superhero, that it was the only important thing about him. That’s what leads to the whole “celebrating mediocrity” commentary when it came to Dash’s graduation from fourth grade. (I did that too. We went from elementary to middle school. We also had one from middle to high school. I wonder what he’d think nowadays, when you get a trophy for showing up or “hey, you tried”.) As Helen and Violet had to learn to accept their super side and Dash had to learn control Bob had to learn that there was nothing wrong with the normal side of his life. We do see him becoming a better father and more romantic husband after he starts going on missions for Mirage. He feels like his old self again and even starts working out and everything. But it wasn’t until he realized how important his family was to him that he reached his character arc. Yes, in the golden age he talked about working alone, but that’s not his character arc; it’s just part of Syndrome’s motivation to kill him (also possibly why he named his headquarters “Nomanisa Island”, based on the only reason Mr. Incredible gave while not putting a rookie in danger while he’s trying to fight crime AND get to the church on time, which he also doesn’t do thanks to Incrediboy) and later to kidnap Jack-Jack. (Who names their kid “Jack-Jack”? Wasn’t “Jack” enough?)
But what really gets me beyond this one is how he tries to handwave Syndrome MURDERING A BUNCH OF SUPERS AFTER PROBABLY GIVING THEM THE SAME BULL HE DID MR. INCREDIBLE ABOUT A “SECRET MISSION” AND RESPECTING SUPERS JUST SO HE COULD CREATE A ROBOT NONE OF THEM CAN BEAT SO HE CAN BE TRICK PEOPLE INTO CHEERING HIM AS A SUPERHERO TO RUB IT IN MR. INCREDBILE’S FACE LATER! There is no excuse for killing innocent people. While in his secret identity Gazer Beam is trying to work to get the anti-super rules taken down. Nobody likes superheroes until the Omnidroid shows up. Syndrome didn’t do this out of some “greater good”, he did it to show up Mr. Incredible and become what he thought a superhero was. No, he’s not fake because he lacks superpowers. Bob calls him fake because he isn’t a hero, not because he isn’t super. Superheroes do not or should not kill other superheroes. (Insert Marvel Universe joke here.) And yet Syndrome killed a whole bunch of superheroes. That’s what supervillains do. THAT is why Syndrome isn’t a real hero. Apparently non-superpowered heroes exist in the Incredibles universe. Buddy even mentions that. They may also have been supersmart like Buddy, or had superior training, or everything else that works for superheroes without superpowers. Arey is making the same mistake that Syndrome makes, looking only at the super and not the hero.
And do you really think that Syndrome’s reason for taking Jack-Jack is because he doesn’t want the kid to be ignored for lack of powers? (By the way, how does Syndrome know this when the computer and Syndrome’s own comments show he didn’t even know Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl were married or who she really was or they had kids until at most maybe a day ago?) Look at his expression. This is part of his further revenge, the revenge of a kid too smart to realize how dumb he is; a kid who pushed his hero-worship too far, was rejected, and opted for revenge to “show him who the real super is”. There is nothing noble in Syndrome’s plans or his actions. Even if Buddy thinks there is, and I’m not even convinced of that, the only thing he’s after is revenge for his rejection of forcing himself into being Mr. Incredible’s sidekick.
So all but one part of this video is hogwash. Buddy Nolastname isn’t some oppressed non-super whose high-tech genius is ignored because he can’t bench press Rhode Island. It’s the actions of an angry man-child trying to show off how great he is with no real understanding of what a “hero” is. Should Mr. Incredible have offered to work with him so he could be a good super? Possibly but he was also a new husband dealing with two asinine lawsuits and increasing hatred of superheroes. I don’t think he had time to worry about a punk kid who kept going head-first into trouble without realizing what he was doing. And then Syndrome tries to murder or corrupt his family while launching an attack on the city to make himself look good. So no, I don’t think Mr. Incredible has any reason to mourn Syndrome’s death. He could have handled things differently but in the end Buddy is responsible for his own actions. And Arey makes the most damaging case without even trying. Buddy did have it all: the respect of his peers, people coming to him, and he could have been declared a hero based on society’s current perspective. But he wanted to be a superhero and ended up being a supervillain, with no respect for the lives of others, including those close to him (I think it’s implied he and Mirage were an item) or the very community he wanted to be part of without understanding what it actually means to be a superhero. He only has himself to blame.
And Brad Bird’s hatred of capes.