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Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.
About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)
Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl aren't just super heroes at the top of their game, but an engaged couple about to be wed. Everything's dandy, right? Wrong. Due to legal tomfoolery, superheroes are suddenly banned by the government, forcing our heroes to hang up their costumes for good.
Mr. Incredible is now known as Bob Parr, and he lives with wife Helen—the former Elastigirl—and their super-powered children, Dash and Violet, as well as one not super-powered baby, Jack-Jack. Bob works as an insurance adjuster, but secretly pines for his old life as a wannabe Avenger, even going out on late night superhero runs with an old buddy to scratch the itch. On one of these fateful nights, their work is watched closely by mysterious figure with silver hair…
After a fight with Helen over these late night runs, Bob goes into work grumpier than ever. But don't you worry—he gets even grumpier when his boss Mr. Huph calls him to his office for a smackdown. Bob's crime? Actually helping customers. The horror. During their shouting match, Bob peeps a mugging outside the window, but to his own shame doesn't do anything to stop it. He does, however, throw Mr. Huph through several walls, which really isn't a smart move for someone trying to hide their superpowers.
Bob is fired, of course, and through a government agent we learn that this has happened quite a few times since the superhero ban, and each time the family is relocated and forced to start anew. Not so, this time—the Parrs are on their own. As he unpacks his belongings back home, Bob finds a tablet that plays a message from the silver-haired woman, who introduces herself as Mirage. She offers him the opportunity of a lifetime: a rogue robot has run roughshod over a secret government facility, and they need Mr. Incredible to to save the day.
His midlife crisis fantasy fulfilled, Bob lies to Helen, telling that he's been promoted at work and chosen to attend a high-falutin' insurance conference. Instead, he rides a fancy jet to an island in the middle of the Pacific, meets Mirage, and handily defeats the supposedly fearsome Omnidroid. His pockets now flush with cash from a job well done, Bob returns to home happy and fulfilled.
And we mean fulfilled. He becomes a good husband and father. He gets back in shape. He buys a sports car. He even commissions a brand spankin' new costume from Edna, former fashion designer to the superhero elite. Life is good. It's less good for Helen, who's grown suspicious of her hubby. Her suspicions are confirmed when she hears Bob talking on the phone to Mirage about another job, though from her perspective it sounds like he's having an affair.
Regardless, Bob takes this second job and returns to the mysterious island, where Mirage promises that Bob will meet the secret benefactor behind his missions. During a fight with the new-and-improved Omnidroid, this benefactor is revealed to be a super villain named Syndrome. Syndrome was once Buddy Pine, Mr. Incredible's biggest fanboy, but turned evil after the hero rejected him. After learning about Buddy's secret plan to launch the Omnidroid into New York City to wreak havoc, only to pretend to be a superhero and "save" the day himself, Bob is captured and locked up in Syndrome's diabolical lair.
Helen follows a trail of clues to Edna, who tells her what Bob's been up to. Thanks Edna. She also helps by designing the whole fam new costumes, which are pretty sweet. Tracking Bob's location using a homing device built into his suit, Helen flies to the island in a government jet, while unbeknownst to her she has two stowaways: Dash and Violet. The jet is taken down by Syndrome as it approaches the island, however, leaving Bob believing that his whole family is dead. Not so. They survived and snuck onto the island in the dead of night.
Helen leaves the kids to rescue Bob, giving them the opportunity to use their superpowers for the first time in their lives, battling baddies like they're in the Justice League. Thanks to a last-minute switcheroo courtesy of Mirage, the family reunites and gets ready to rumble with Syndrome. Unfortunately, his evil plan is already underway, so they race back to the mainland as the Omnidroid starts laying waste to the city.
Syndrome attempts to deactivate the Omnidroid as planned, but he's quickly bested by his own creation. Luckily, the Incredibles arrive in the nick of time, defeat the Omnidroid alongside some old superhero pals, and enjoy some healthy family bonding. The day is saved...right?
Not quite. On the way home, the family learns that Syndrome has kidnapped Jack-Jack, and when they arrive, they find the villain flying away with the youngest Incredible. Conveniently, little Jack-Jack decides that this is the moment to show off his superpowers, transforming into a sequence of fearsome forms that cause Syndrome to drop him back to the safety of his family. Syndrome, on the other hand, gets chopped up into a billion bits by an airplane rotor. Ouchie. Okay, now the day is really saved.
The entire family seems way happier now that they're somewhat allowed to use their superpowers, with young Dash even allowed to join the track team despite his super speed. As the family is leaving one of his track meets, a giant drill bursts from the concrete, revealing a new super villain: the fearsome Underminer. Well, not fearsome, maybe. He's like a gerbil. Anyway, the family has already changed into their costumes, revealing that their superhero soiree was no one-time lark. They're a team now.
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