Samuel L. Jackson on what Marvel can learn from The Incredibles
The modern abundance of superhero movies is partly why it took so long for Incredibles 2 to get to the big screen. Fourteen years have passed since the first film, each one introducing more and more superheroes into cinemas, resulting in a lucrative but crowded landscape in 2018 that stands in stark contrast to the much smaller if still square-shouldered company that The Incredibles found itself in in 2004. “There were two active franchises, X-Men and Spider-Man, while Christopher Nolan was in the Batcave concocting a new and better Batman,” says writer-director Brad Bird.
As Lucius Best, a.k.a. cool-as-ice hero Frozone, Samuel L. Jackson’s role in The Incredibles has always been retroactively charming, since he went on to become synonymous with the 14-year glut of superhero movies led primarily by The Avengers and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And yet, although Jackson is already considered the glue that holds almost every Marvel movie together, somehow the 69-year-old actor has leveled up even higher as Hollywood’s de facto superhero whisperer thanks to his revived involvement with the Incredibles franchise. Now that he’s back in Lucius’s slick shoes, he is essentially more qualified than anyone to discuss the very superhero bubble that The Incredibles and Incredibles 2 are so lauded for bursting.
He credits Bird, first and foremost, for crafting a movie that treats returning audience members equally, whether they saw the original as a small child or took a small child to see it. “Fourteen years later, to evolve a story that gives everyone in whatever age group a chance to participate in a very real and honest kind of way…” says Jackson. “Teenagers can sit there and watch Violet’s story and say, ‘I know that girl. I know that story.’ Little boys and little girls can watch Dash and go, ‘Yes! That’s who I want to be!’ Or they got a math test they don’t understand. Or fathers doing things they don’t know they’re capable of doing, and wives who are working and still experiencing anxiety about what’s going on at home.”
Jackson boils the Incredibles’ success down to a sentiment Bird often echoes, that superpowers themselves are not as important as the family that just happens to have them, and therein lies the lesson Jackson feels modern superhero movies can learn from The Incredibles: “That ordinariness of who you really are is as interesting as this super thing you can do. How do you live every day? What do you do? Who are you without your uniform, or your costume?”
He rattles off a list of familiar names that sort of fit the bill—Superman (“The only superhero we know that’s got a job”), maybe Bruce Banner (“He’s a scientist, I’m sure he gets paid by some government entity”), technically Iron Man (“But it’s his business”), absolutely not Thor (“Thor doesn’t have a job, we definitely know that”). Jackson continues, “[The Incredibles] are a real family with real family problems. It’s a very universal story, and you come to realize that being a superhero is an avocation. It doesn’t put food on the table. It doesn’t keep the lights on. So you’ve got to do something else to be a part of real life.”
If anyone can please help Groot with his resume, that would be great, thanks.