- “You can't count on anyone! Especially your heroes!”
- ―Syndrome expressing his bitterness towards Mr. Incredible
Syndrome (real name Buddy Pine) is the main antagonist of the 2004 Disney/Pixar animated film The Incredibles. He originally wanted to be a superhero, but when his former idol Mr. Incredible coldly rejected his offer, Syndrome went insane. To take revenge on Mr. Incredible, he became a supervillain and devoted his life to murdering all superheroes, besides selling his weapons to everyone in order to create a world in which everyone would be "super", so nobody would be unique.
Originally, in the early drafts of the film's script, Syndrome was originally going to be featured as a minor villain, like Bomb Voyage in the prologue of the film. The film's main antagonist was originally supposed to be Xerek, who was to fulfill what became Syndrome's role in the finished version of the film: He was to call retired superheroes back to action to battle to death the Omnidroids and was the boss of Mirage. Syndrome's appearance in the film was to be fast as he was to be the main antagonist of the film's original opening sequence.
However, when Brad Bird noticed that Syndrome was more popular for the film's producers, he deleted Xerek from the story and used Syndrome instead in what would have been Xerek's role if the film's story would have been left intact. Despite this, Xerek ended up being reintroduced in The Incredibles comic book series of Boom! Studios.
As a young Buddy Pine, the boy who would become Syndrome aspired to become a superhero and this goal led him to beg Mr. Incredible to hire him as a sidekick IncrediBoy. Sadly, after Bob categorically and justifiable refused to grant Buddy's favor, Buddy returned home in disgrace and rejected the righteous path. He had stopped idolizing Mr. Incredible and became embittered, eventually descending into megalomania.
Buddy was a technical genius and even at an early age, could create wondrous gadgets to circumvent his lack of "super" powers. After his dismissal at the hands of Mr. Incredible, and the dissolution of classical superheroes, the young man turned his gifts towards evil, eventually killing several superheroes with his Omnidroids and various superweapons. He was a classical sociopath, caring not at all for the rules of society; and seeing it as his mission to make himself the world's ultimate hero through trickery and technology, and when he grew tired of that, to make superheroes entirely obsolete by selling his weapons to the highest bidder. Because "when everyone's super... no one will be."
Syndrome appeared to be driven at an early age for recognition and ego nourishment, which are normal traits for that of a child prodigy as seen by him trying to overcompensate for his lack of super abilities with his brainpower and technology. Perhaps even if Mr. Incredible had not rejected Buddy, he would have still descended into villainy (or simply become an anti-hero) as he proved of having no grasp on the terms of what it means to be a hero, which was shown when he still considered himself one despite having killed real heroes. To put it simply, Syndrome, having never been told he was special or could do great things, wished to remove the world of its specialties (specifically supers) by either eradicating them or turning them redundant with his technology, which made him a bit of a complex character as well.
Despite his evil personality, he had assured Mirage he does care about her since he explained he was calling Mr. Incredible's previous bluff to crush her. When she storms off anyhow, Syndrome expresses shock and confusion. Syndrome is shown to have a comedic side, as he says that Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl "got busy" when he sees their children and he accidentally throws Mr. Incredible away while he reveals himself to his former idol.
Aside from being bitter and sociopathic, Syndrome was intensely sadistic as shown by how he taunted Mr. Incredible with his family's supposed death and a second time when he gloated to the family on how he would steal away Jack-Jack and turn him into a sidekick in a last-ditch attempt to spite Mr. Incredible.
Though it was years and his vindictiveness had completely absolved him, Syndrome did have a memory of why he respected Mr. Incredible and was visibly impressed when he tricked the probe by hiding from the corpse of Gazerbeam while claiming "he truly was Mr. Incredible" and was "still geeking out about it."
- Genius-level Intellect: While not having superpowers, Syndrome's high intellect made him a fierce opponent, his tactical skills and inventions proving to be more than enough to allow him to compete with the likes of Mr. Incredible. He was also a former child prodigy - when Syndrome was still at a young age, he was a gifted boy who specialized in technology engineering, as he was able to create jet boots at a young age.
- Technology Engineering: Syndrome was a formidable foe when it came to building numerous advanced technologies and weapons, as he was also capable of becoming a successful weapons designer.
- Utility Gauntlets: Using zero-point energy, Syndrome can create a field of quantum energy that inhibits the majority of a victim's body movement. If the victim's skin is exposed, the range of motion of the victim's face is also taken to the minimum (only their eyes can move), and the ability to speak is also inhibited. The field is moved by his fingers and can be fired in the forms of energy blasts and concentrated beams. Similar to Spider-Man's web-shooters, the trigger for these weapons is located high on the palm of each hand to prevent misfires, but it does not shoot webs from the trigger. The left-hand gauntlet also holds the remote control for the Omnidroid. A communicator is likely built into the right-hand gauntlet.
- Bio-Probe: Used to locate temperature, atmosphere and life signals in various locations. Worn in the left-hand gauntlet.
- Miniature "I"-bomb: Small, but exceedingly powerful explosive. Worn in the right-hand gauntlet.
- Aero Boots: In his short days as IncrediBoy, Buddy used makeshift rockets. As Syndrome, his rocket boots were modified to project flames of blue fire.
- Omnidroid: To date, there have been ten known versions of this battle robot. The first nine were prototypes designed to fight and kill supers. The tenth was used in the foiled Operation Kronos. All of them were artificially intelligent, enabling them to solve any problem that they encounter; Omnidroid v.10 figured out that Syndrome used a remote device to control it and knocked him unconscious. Another feature of the Omnidroids is that they have different colored eyes (e.g., v.8 has a blue eye, v.10 has red-eye). The Omnidroid's only weakness is itself: in the film, Mr. Incredible scrambles into Omnidroid 08's inner workings, making the machine pierce its hull in a vain attempt to pry the hero free from inside, and later on, with help from his family and friends, Mr. Incredible launches Omnidroid v.10's claw at it and tears right through it, ripping out its power core.
- Viper: Helicopter-like, VTOL vehicles with ducted fans attached that twist and turn to control the vehicle's altitude and movement. The ducted fans tend to decrease lift when changing the independent blade pitch.
- Velocipod: Round open cars with four surrounding blades that spin at exceedingly high speeds to keep them airborne.
- Manta Jets: Specially designed transporters resembling manta rays that have a translucent holographic monitor inside, and can travel underwater.
- Energy Prisons: Prisons in which the victim is suspended inside a powerful electric field and unable to escape due to large metal balls attached to their limbs. Violet Parr is the only known superhero who manages to escape the device, using her force field to counteract its effects.
As a young boy, Buddy was in his own words Mr. Incredible's biggest fan, even wanting to become his sidekick IncrediBoy. Buddy is insistent on this and shows up in Mr. Incredible's car unexpectedly and tries to force this on his idol, but Mr. Incredible immediately ejects him from his car and speeds off as Buddy yells at him, begging him to wait. One night, as Mr. Incredible is facing Bomb Voyage, Buddy shows up with a pair of rocket boots to help him. He flies off to get the police, but he doesn't realize that Bomb Voyage had attached a bomb to his cape. Mr. Incredible has to release Voyage to save Buddy. Eventually, Mr. Incredible is angry at the boy for meddling in his affairs and had the police take him home and report his actions to his mother. Feeling hurt and betrayed, Buddy stops idolizing Mr. Incredible and hates him for his actions, even tearing off the huge poster he had of him on his wall in a fit of rage and began to descend into psychopathy and villainy.
Over the next 15 years, Buddy excelled in technological engineering and eventually became a weapons manufacturer. He amassed a large fortune selling dangerous weapons to various countries who paid handsomely for attaining weapons that would garner them respect. With his nearly endless wealth, Buddy transformed the isolated island of Nomanisan into his personal headquarters and hired an army of loyal enforcers and also Mirage, who became his right-hand woman and possible lover. Arming himself with some of his best inventions, Buddy created his new identity of "Syndrome" and wore his own superhero costume. Buddy then embarked on his lifelong quest to become a "real" superhero and exact revenge on Mr. Incredible for rejecting him. He at one point created the Omnidroid, a deadly battle robot that he hoped to one day use to kill Mr. Incredible. He also developed "Operation Kronos", a plan that involved the Omnidroid being sent to the mainland and wreaking havoc on the city in order for Buddy to reveal himself as Syndrome and defeat his own creation, thus becoming a superhero and basking in recognition. To perfect his creation and prevent any interference in his plan, Buddy had Mirage systematically track down various Golden-Age superheroes in hiding on the mainland and lure them to Nomanisan under the guise of the Omnidroid being on a rampage to study the tactics of each superhero. The Omnirdroid succeeded in defeating and killing every superhero lured to the island and those who managed to defeat the Omnidriod would be lured a second time and killed by an improved model of the robot. The superhero Gazerbeam, however, was able to somehow infiltrate Syndrome's headquarters, hack his computer and learn the computer's password: "Kronos". Unfortunately, Gazerbeam was eventually killed by an improved Omnidroid after he defeated the previous model. Unbeknownst to Syndrome, in his dying moments, Gazerbeam managed to carve Syndrome's password on the wall of a cave with his laser vision for someone else to eventually find.
Shortly after this, Mirage was sent to track down the hero Frozone and presumably lure him to the island to face the Omnidroid. Instead, she was able to learn of Mr. Incredible's location after witnessing him and Frozone save people from a burning building and escape the police. With this new information, the plans for Frozone were abandoned and Syndrome had Mirage lure Mr. Incredible to the island to face the Omnidroid, which he agreed to do after losing his job.
Mr. Incredible defeats the robot, but Buddy builds another, more powerful unit, the Omnidroid v.9. The robot defeats Mr. Incredible and Buddy arrives, revealing his identity as the latter is shocked that it was his former fanboy. Buddy declares himself to be Bob's nemesis and better, "Syndrome." Syndrome discusses his past and reveals how he got rich before Mr. Incredible tries to attack him. Syndrome immobilizes him with his zero-point energy invention, remarking on his attempt to catch him monologuing, and, in a fit of rage, accidentally tosses Mr. Incredible over a cliff with his invention, making the hero land in a river. After tossing a bomb into the water, Syndrome sends a robot probe after him to confirm the kill, but Mr. Incredible manages to trick the probe by hiding behind the corpse of Gazerbeam.
Mr. Incredible sneaks into Syndrome's hideout, infiltrates his computer and discovers elements of Syndrome's plot: Operation Kronos. Unfortunately, due to a tracking device, Mr. Incredible is caught by a high-security trap and held in a torture device. When Syndrome finds out that a government aircraft is coming to the island, he assumes his prisoner has called for reinforcements. When Mr. Incredible denies any involvement, he sends missiles to destroy the plane anyway, not knowing that it was, in fact, the Parr Family.
Even though the missiles hit their mark, the family survives and swims to the island, but Mr. Incredible thinks his family had been killed. After Mirage tells Syndrome the target was destroyed, he mocks Mr. Incredible, telling him he will get over it since he recalls that Mr. Incredible prefers to "work alone". In a fit of rage, Mr. Incredible lunges toward Syndrome, only to capture Mirage since she pushed Syndrome out of the way to save his life. Mr. Incredible angrily orders Syndrome to release him or he will crush Mirage. Syndrome comments on how uncharacteristically dark that sounds for Mr. Incredible, but dares him to do it. Upon releasing Mirage, Syndrome tells Mr. Incredible he knew he could not do it, even with nothing to lose, denouncing him as "weak" and that he has outgrown him. Later, Mirage calls Syndrome out on his attitude, stating that valuing life is not weakness and disregarding it is not strength. Syndrome assures Mirage he simply called his bluff and implies that he does care about her since he already knew Mr. Incredible would never kill an enemy. Nonetheless, Mirage tells Syndrome to bet his own life next time he gambles and storms off in a huff, leaving Syndrome confused.
Later, Elastigirl breaks Mr. Incredible out of Syndrome's prison and they reunite with their children. Syndrome manages to recapture the family and is surprised that Mr. Incredible had a family with a fellow hero. He later reveals his plan which was to send his Omnidroid v.10 to wreck the city, after which he would arrive to stop it and look like a hero in the public's eyes.
However, when he arrives to defeat the robot with a special remote control, the Omnidroid (which has become self-aware like its predecessor before it) betrays and outsmarts him, knocking Syndrome's remote out his hands and shooting at his rocket boots with a laser gun. With his rocket boots out of control, Syndrome smashes into a building and is knocked unconscious. He remains unconscious during the Incredibles' battle and awakes just as the robot is defeated spectacularly; destroying his plans of glory and revenge and infuriating him.
With his plans foiled, Syndrome breaks into the Incredibles' home and tries to kidnap their baby, Jack-Jack, to be his sidekick and protege, just as he had been denied in his youth. The family arrives just as he is preparing to leave, and he suspends them and slams them into a table. He then begins his trip to his hoverjet. However, Jack-Jack transforms into a mini-monster and disables his rocket boots. Syndrome gets back on his jet and starts yelling that their battle was not yet over and he would "get [their] son eventually!". However, as Syndrome laughs evilly, Mr. Incredible throws his prized sports car at the jet, knocking it off-balance and making Syndrome slide toward the left turbine. Syndrome's cape gets tangled in the spinning blades (just as foreshadowed by Edna Mode) and he is pulled in, resulting in the explosion of the plane. Syndrome is finally killed, ending his reign of terror on the Incredibles, avenging Gazerbeam and the other supers he killed, and indicating that the battle was already over. Moreover, his death also prevents Jack-Jack from potentially becoming a supervillain.
Syndrome was seen only during the end of Jack-Jack Attack, when he came to the door of the Parrs' home, claiming to be a replacement babysitter. In the mix, he lied that his 'S' symbol stood for "sitter" (also mentioned that he wanted initials for Baby Sitter, but he didn't want to go around wearing a big BS) and Kari (exhausted from babysitting Jack-Jack) believed him and left gratefully. This was when he attempted to kidnap Jack-Jack. Here he was shown for the second time without a mask.
Due to his death, Syndrome doesn't appear in the sequel, but he is indirectly referenced by Bob Parr. He referenced that the jet blew up and took his suits and their old house with it, which was accidentally caused by Syndrome's death in the jet turbine.
However, he was seen in a storyboard that depicted Gazerbeam being killed by one of the Omnidroids.
Syndrome appears as a playable character in the Disney Infinity video game series. While the main antagonist of the Incredibles Play Set level (which is likely set in an alternate universe where he survived the events of the 1st film), he also made a major antagonistic role in the 3.0 level, Toy Box Takeover, where he stole the Magic Wand from Mickey Mouse (as well as Merlin's magic wand) and tried to control the Toy Box world with the other villains (most notably Davy Jones, Venom, and Darth Vader as level bosses and the other Marvel villains within his "Hero Eliminator" level). When confronted in his lair, he used the Sidekick feature to make five copies of himself. After he was defeated, Syndrome and the other villains were blasted far away by Merlin's magic.
Syndrome and his past-self Incrediboy are playables in the LEGO The Incredibles game. Some scenes are the same as the first film with a few differences:
- Incrediboy arrived to help Mr. Incredible fight against Bomb Voyage like the first film's game console adaption. Except he is finally able to aid Mr. Incredible in defeating Bomb Voyage before calling the police, while unaware that Voyage managed to implant the bomb on his cape at his defeat.
- Incrediboy's hair is red instead of blond as it is in the film.
- After Mr. Incredible and Frozone defeat the first two Omnidroid tests, Syndrome's full appearance is seen.
- He uses a control pad to control Omnidroids instead of his control wrist.
- Syndrome's tragic past is cut from this game, where he instead accidentally throws his Omnidroid remote control pad.
- Syndrome survived at the end of the first film's chapter and he is instead beaten badly by the awakened superpowered Jack-Jack while attempting to kidnap the baby at home off-screen before the other Incredibles arrived there. As Syndrome surrenders, right before he goes into hiding, he advises the Incredibles to find a better babysitter, regarding how dangerous Jack-Jack has become. He can be later fought as a bonus boss where he is arrested.
- According to official sources, Syndrome is 25 years old, is 5'7", and weighs 185 lbs (83 kg).
- Joaquin Phoenix was originally considered for the role, before the producers settled on Jason Lee.
- When Edna Mode refuses to design a cape for Mr. Incredible, deeming capes as hazardous to superheroes, she recalls several past accidents that involved their interference. This foreshadows Syndrome's ultimate fate.
- In another instance of foreshadowing, as Incrediboy, Bomb Voyage placed a bomb on his cape before Mr. Incredible removed it leading to the string of events that brought down costumed superheroes in the first place.
- As a young boy, his hair was blond. However, as an adult, it is red. He could have either dyed it red or his hair could have naturally turned said color.
- In Jack-Jack Attack, his mask is not on and he still has his cape.
- Syndrome is a rare instance where a character's voice actor also played their younger self, another being Terk from Disney's Tarzan.
- When Buddy sneaks into Mr. Incredible's car, Mr. Incredible goes through several names trying to remember Buddy's name. One of the names he says is Brodie, possibly a reference to Syndrome's voice actor Jason Lee's breakout character from Mallrats.
- In some novelizations, Syndrome's fate is not fully explained. Instead of being sucked by the propellers, it's described that after Mr. Incredible launched his car against the plane, Syndrome was left without his getaway vehicle. Then it is said that after that "anyone never heard anything about Syndrome again".
- In one of the comics, Syndrome's profile was among the rogue files, implying the possibility that he may have survived the cape malfunction and the jet explosion and may still be fighting the Incredibles (unless he received a clone).
- As mentioned before, Syndrome was to be a minor antagonist in the original version of the film when Xerek was to be the main antagonist. In the original proposed opening sequence, Syndrome was to attack the Incredibles after learning from an agent of his that Mr. Incredible had recently moved into [the agent's] neighborhood (after an incident where Mr. Incredible accidentally cleaved his hand with a butcher knife and, due to his superhuman durability, dented it in the process without injury to himself, and was forced to fake injury and hide the incriminating knife), broke into the Incredible Family's home (the Incredibles used the last name "Smith" instead of "Parr" in this earlier drafts), disguising himself as a burglar and making enough noise to lure Bob to him, and then used Bob as a battering ram to wreck the home. He also tried to capture Violet while she was still in her infancy, but she, in her invisible state, regurgitated saliva onto his eyes (apparently, the baby Violet had a problem with this, as earlier in the scene, she regurgitated saliva onto her mother's shirt, much to the disgust of one of their neighbors), making him drop the parents. In response, Syndrome immobilized both Helen and Violet but became immobilized when Bob rolled a mirror between them and lodged him into the ceiling of Violet's room. Syndrome was ultimately killed when the family's home was totaled in a gas main explosion sparked by a flame in the fireplace (the Incredibles, however, managed to escape in time). In the same scene, Syndrome, upon discovering Violet, also hinted that Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl essentially broke the law by marrying and having children, although this concept was cut in the final version, as when a similarly scripted revelation occurred, he does not mention the legality of whether Supers should breed or not. It should be noted that in the proposed original prologue sequence of the film, it is clear that Syndrome and Mr. Incredible had already met and by their conversation, it is understood that they had already fought in the past on several occasions. Also, as a curiosity, Syndrome did not carry a layer, though it carries one in the finished film.
- Syndrome is one of the four Pixar villains to be considered Pure Evil, along with Miles Axlerod, Professor Zundapp, and Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear. He is also the first of these villains to be a human. However, some fans have disagreed with this ranking, implying that Syndrome is more mentally ill and disturbed instead of Pure Evil.
- The house that the Parrs move into after leaving the motel in the sequel is implied to have belonged to a superhero of some sort. Bob mentions Winston bought it from "an eccentric billionaire who liked to come and go unseen". Considering Syndrome owned a lot of expensive assets already, this could mean the house belonged to Syndrome at some point.
- His villain origin story is similar to the Silver Age version of Lex Luthor from DC Comics. Both characters were once lifelong fans of their respective superheroes (Mr. Incredible and Superman, respectively), until an incident caused them to resent their idols from then on.
- The manner of his death is similar to the character Gustav Graves from the film Die Another Day.
- Syndrome’s name and what he was doing (making himself seem like a superhero) is quite the same as hero syndrome, the act of causing emergencies and then getting involved in helping deal with them so as to gain attention.