Monday, June 13, 2005

Who Watches You, Pixar?*

So, a second viewing of The Incredibles was in order this weekend. A friend had the DVD from Netflix, and I wasn't going to let a chance to see the film again pass by. Incredibly (bad pun, sorry) I was let down.Which was extremely surprising.

You see, when I saw The Incredibles the first time around (in a movie hall), I was mesmerized by the imagery, the whiz-bang action and the clever script. Of course I read more into it than is good for me, but I was still bowled over by how ingenious it was.

Then I read Alan Moore's "The Watchmen" (movie version due soon) last month. While reading it, the inspiration for The Incredibles was obvious. The superheroes in hiding, living ordinary lives, and so on. What was more incredible (sorry again) was the number of smaller nuances from Watchmen used in the script. The perils of wearing a cape, the nefarious scheme adopted by Syndrome in the end, the character of Syndrome itself in some ways. Of course, the violence was toned down, and dastardly darkness of villains lightened to a PG-13 shade. Also, the blurry greyscale of do-gooder superheroes like Rorschach was passed through a high-pass filter to yield the pure B&W of Bob and Helen Parr. But the 'inspiration' was there for everyone to see.

Of course, no one creates in a vacuum. You always have some sort of creative license to move ideas across genres and mediums. But when the ideas are so obviously derivative like in this case, some acknowledgement or credit is generally in order.

While all of us as always went ga-ga over Pixar (I remember reading how 'ingenious' people thought the idea of superheroes in hiding was), the sad fact is that this movie has a lot of unattributed credit due. To Alan Moore. To Stan Lee (who created the Fantastic Four). And to the rest of us mere mortals, who think Pixar is awesomely original. And Incredible.

Update: In hindsight, this post is probably putting Pixar down a tad more than it should. I'd say that I was pretty incensed and disappointed when I wrote it, because Pixar seemed like a holdout in this era of focus group scripts and political correctness in films, and this threw them off a pedestal for a bit. (To think that I'd probably have ended up seeing Mr. and Mrs. Smith, with only two of us five guys being against watching it)

I still think the film is great and original, albeit with some caveats now. An important distinction for me is that Watchmen is uncompromisingly bleak, with a wry, ironic sense of humor at some places. I won't give much away, but The Incredibles is, well, a Disney film in comparison.

*"Who Watches the Watchmen" is a byline from Watchmen.

This post itself owes its idea to this post I found while on a search on the web for more material linking "The Incredibles" and "Watchmen". The post is 404 Not Found now - I have the google cache here .


Ramanand said...

Interesting - coincidentally, I watched it yesterday in a movie hall (at a special screening) and was obviously blown away. Didn't know this of course, but as a first time viewer, would have still found it awesome.

Ajay said...

I still find the movie awesome, but my view is kind of colored now. A nod in the direction of Alan Moore would have been nice, because even with the 'inspiration', the movie is very original.It is not a shameless rip-off in the Sanjay F Gupta mould.