In 2004 there were five notable comic book superhero films, Spider-Man 2, Blade: Trinity, Catwoman, The Punisher, and Hellboy, as well as one original superhero-inspired film that made far bigger waves than its comic book counterparts, The Incredibles. The Pixar film became a near instant classic to kids and adults alike in hero film flair, soaring in reviews and box office earnings. From the Parr family dynamic, to presented critiques of the superhero clichés, the Brad Bird helmed animated feature has become one of the most memorable hero films of the past decade and beyond.
The assertion of The Incredibles incredible staying power in its audiences’ memory is becoming more and more impressive as superhero films have quickly become the dominating force of theaters, over-saturating superhero fans and casual attendees alike. There are roughly 29 superhero films planned for the next six years alone- not including the much anticipated sequel, The Incredibles 2, leaving its fans to worry if the second Incredibles film is doomed to face off not only super villains, but an insurmountable number of super movies as well.
In the decade since the first movie premiered, the genre for superhero films has entirely shifted into overdrive with a market nearly bursting at the seams with overlooked comic book heroes being shown the spotlight in film after film, as well as on the small screen. Marvel’s dominance of heroes at this point is unquestionable, really the only puzzle to work out now is how long these movies can last before the audience that has given them a rise to prominence rejects them?
The worry that the hero bubble is growing closer to popping has been raised by many, including famed director Steven Spielberg. In an interview with the Associated Press, Spielberg compared this hero flick frenzy to the Western genre- one that dominated box offices for nearly five decades before imploding. He reflected on the present state of these mega-blockbuster superhero films and franchises, casting doubt on their lasting power, “I’m only saying that these cycles have a finite time in popular culture. There will come a day when the mythological stories are supplanted by some other genre that possibly some young filmmaker is just thinking about discovering for all of us.”
In an interview with IGN, comic writer Mark Millar responded to Spielberg’s worry with humor as well as his own take on hero flicks, “The human race will go the way of the Western. Everything has to end at some point. We’re just going to be atoms. It’s inevitable. I think [the superhero movie genre has] got at least another good five years. The stuff that’s coming up is so strong.”
Other critics see the problem of superhero movie dominance differently, that they simply cannot go the way of the Western because superhero films are allowed a wider variety than Westerns ever were. Comic book fan, Chase Magnett believes the superhero genre does not face the same limitations as Westerns. He states that despite the introductory tropes that many films fall victim to, there’s still plenty of room to flesh characters out with franchises building up around many superhero characters. Magnett also points to films like Chronicle, and Nolan’s Batman franchise as films that not only push the limits of the hero, but also work to explore a variety of political themes, as evidence that superhero films are not as one-note as they might appear to be on paper.
The Incredibles writer and director Brad Bird is well aware of the problems his sequel will be facing in the current box office races, as he stated in an interview with Collider, “…what’s changed is there were only two other superhero franchises at the time Incredibles came out. One of them was X-Men and the other was Spider-Man, and now there are 400 billion of them and there’s a new superhero movie every two weeks. What you don’t want to do is trot over the same turf in the same way everyone else is.” Bird’s attention to the inherent problems that may thwart his plans for the sequel seems to be an influence on the storyline he and his team are crafting, “…we’re trying to keep it focused in the area that our [first] film was, which was a little bit more about characters and relationships and stuff like that, and see where that takes us. But we’re having a good time.”
Ideally, Bird’s direction, and attention to character and continued critique of the hero genre will be his film’s saving grace in a sea of superheroes, but audiences will have to wait for the film’s release, tentatively slated for some time in 2016, to know for sure if The Incredibles can still save the day.