The Superheroes Who Should’ve Changed The Genre For The Better

By Jacob VanGundy | Published

When Pixar released The Incredibles in 2004 it stood out within the superhero genre. Its combination of original characters with clear Silver Age comic book influences was nothing like the live-action blockbusters of the early 2000s. It should have been a defining moment in the genre’s history, but it ended up being largely ignored within the genre.

The Incredibles Are Incredible

In the early 2000s, the superhero genre was defined by the X-Men movies and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins.

Those movies strived to bring a greater degree of realism to their superhero universes. For the X-Men films, this meant abandoning comic-accurate costuming in favor of leather uniforms, and for Batman Begins, it meant embracing a darker, more grounded tone.

While the most popular superhero movies of the time were distancing themselves from the aesthetics of their source material, The Incredibles leaned into its influences. The costume design alone sets The Incredibles apart from its contemporaries.

Instead of black leather and ballistic armor, the costumes in The Incredibles are bright, formfitting, and look taken directly out of a forgotten Silver Age comic. 

Leaning Into Comic Book Tropes

From a plot perspective, The Incredibles once again leans into comic book tropes rather than eschewing them. The movie is filled with comic-inspired superhero moments like Mr. Fantastic fighting a giant robot or The Underminer’s cliffhanger appearance.

These moments have an otherworldly, larger-than-life feel that no other superhero movie at the time was even attempting. 

Another way The Incredibles differentiates itself is how heavily it centers around family dynamics. While the plot’s superheroic elements raise the stakes it’s the authentic feel of the family that gives the movie its heart and soul.

The bickering between Violet and Dash, and Bob’s struggle to communicate with Helen, have real human drama inside of its fantastical premise. 

No Lasting Influence

the Incredibles

It’s unclear why the success of The Incredibles didn’t translate to a big influence on how superhero movies were approached.

The movie made over $631 million at the box office and was praised by critics and audiences alike, yet the dark tone and pursuit of realism remained the genre norms. Perhaps its influence was mitigated by the fact it was animated, with filmmakers and studios doubting its approach would work in live-action films. 

Audience Want These Style Choices

the Incredibles

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s obvious that many of the more fantastical and stylistic choices made by The Incredibles were what audiences wanted.

Much of the MCU’s success came from their more comics-accurate costuming and willingness to have less grounded plots.

The focus on interpersonal dynamics is also obvious in modern superhero movies like the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy.

Superheroes Became Oversaturated

the Incredibles

It’s also frustrating that a movie so ahead of its time took so long to receive any follow-up.

By the time The Incredibles 2 came out in 2018, the superhero genre was both oversaturated and much more in line with the style of The Incredibles making it feel less special. With a quick follow-up and more sequels, The Incredibles could have been a huge franchise. 

Ahead Of Its Time

the Incredibles

The Incredibles was ahead of its time, wearing its love for silver-age comics on its sleeve and striving to pay homage to that genre at a time when grim and gritty was all the rage. While the genre eventually came around to a similar tone, it took years and was done on the back of existing IP.

As a movie with new characters that still managed to perfectly capture the feel of a silver-age comic, The Incredibles should have been the template for superhero movies.

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