There are a hundred ways to measure what makes a great movie, but nothing speaks more highly about a film than how closely you can read it. In his feature, Deadshirt Editor-In-Chief Dylan Roth explores one of his favorite films by demonstrating just how much there is to talk about, writing at length about Every Five Minutes of runtime.
Written and Directed by Brad Bird
(c) 2004 Disney/Pixar
Mr. Incredible arrives at 2 p.m. sharp for his meeting with his mysterious employer, but there’s no one else there. The meeting room sports a whopping twenty-two chairs pushed up to a comically long conference table, and, assuming that everyone else is running late, Mr. Incredible casually takes a seat, closest to the door. He’s been wined, he’s been dined, and he’s completely off his guard. He barely has time to sense that something is wrong before the far wall opens up to reveal a new, much bigger Omnidroid. It completely gets the drop on him, quickly reaching across the long table with its fifty-foot-long arm and effortlessly flinging him outside into the volcanic jungle.
In no time at all, the Omnidroid has Mr. Incredible dead to rights, and only stays its giant spinning rotor blades at the command of a short, wild-haired redhead in a jumpsuit, cape, and rocket boots. He is SYNDROME, and he’s awfully familiar. That’s because we’ve seen him before, in the film’s opening minutes, as Buddy, the young IncrediBoy. Heartbroken after being rejected as a sidekick, Buddy turned his genius intellect toward the high-tech arms trade. Now, he’s finally about to exact his ultimate revenge and punish the man who told him he didn’t have what it takes to be a hero.
Even now, the events of that one night in Municiberg are coming back to haunt him. There’s a particular cruelty in Syndrome’s plan—he’s given Bob his life back, his purpose, his confidence, everything that was taken away from him by the Superhero Location Act that was set into motion the night Buddy was carted off by the police. And he did it all just so that he could take it back from him. The extent of Syndrome’s evil is revealed to be deeper and deeper as each detail of the plan is exposed throughout the rest of the film, but the heart of it is here: I built you up so I could cut you down, kill you, replace you, and you could have prevented it if you’d just taken me seriously in the first place.
Bob offers Syndrome an apology for shattering his childhood dreams, but it’s forced, and Syndrome sees right through it. What Syndrome almost doesn’t notice is that Bob is biding his time, sneaking toward a loose tree trunk, which he hurls at the ranting villain. It’s a nice callback to Bob and Lucius’s conversation back in the car—taking advantage of someone “monologuing.” Syndrome counters the attack with his signature weapon: a zero-point energy beam that extends from his gloves and suspends any object weightless in mid-air. It works a little too well, actually, as Syndrome accidentally hurls Mr. Incredible across the jungle, out of sight. It’s a good gag, but also continues the theme of super-people being ordinary people with larger-scale problems, and underlines that Syndrome, while brilliant and powerful, is still kind of a shitty, awkward nerd.
Mr. Incredible recovers at the top of a tall waterfall, which is an absolutely breathtaking set. Regard:
Mr. Incredible dives off the ledge to avoid Syndrome’s ZPE ray and lands in the water, also wonderfully rendered by the Pixar animation team. Seeing an opportunity to finish him off, Syndrome retrieves a small “i”-shaped explosive from his gauntlet and drops it into the falls. Mr. Incredible, no longer underestimating his opponent, sees the small device drop into the water and immediately jets in the opposite direction, anticipating its enormous yield, which can be seen from high above the top of the waterfall. The force of the explosion propels Bob into an underwater cave, where he finds himself face to fleshless face with the skeletal remains of an old friend: GazerBeam, whose alter ego was reported missing in the newspaper earlier in the film. Bob traces the gaze of his expired comrade and finds, carved into the cave wall and stalactites, the word “KRONOS.”
What was GazerBeam doing here? What does “KRONOS” mean? With each callback to the film’s first act comes a new mystery to be solved in the back half, although the audience won’t have to wait too long to get the answer to this one.
Once again, Syndrome produces a small, high-tech gadget (convenient that the two things that he needed during this sequence were both fitted directly into his gauntlets), this time a sleek white drone that descends into the cave to scan for Mr. Incredible’s remains. Bob hides behind GazerBeam’s body (bleak, bleak Disney movie) and fools the drone, which returns to Syndrome, who chuckles with the certainty that he’s finally vanquished his foe.
Syndrome is simultaneously very genre-savvy, being an expert in all things Super, while also being a real sucker for the typical supervillain follies. Just minutes ago he was caught monologuing, and now he’s fallen for the old “no one could have survived that fall” chestnut. Sure, he had one of his gadgets go down and confirm the kill, but his trust in his technology has made him a victim of yet another classic villain failing: overconfidence. We don’t know much else about the supervillains in the Golden Age of The Incredibles, but one has to wonder who Syndrome’s idols may have been after the falling out with Mr. Incredible, and if maybe he picked up a few bad habits from them.
Now, Syndrome has an evil scheme to complete, and Mr. Incredible has a mystery to solve. And Helen Parr? Back in the States, she’s got an appointment to keep with one Ms. Edna Mode. See you next week…