Superhero fatigue is growing. Honestly, I don’t think I could handle another Marvel movie right now as I still haven’t gotten over the ending of Infinity War. But, I knew that my bitterness wouldn’t apply to Incredibles 2 because if it was anything like the first one, it would transcend the genre. And simply put, it did. Developing on the themes of the original while also taking steps in new directions, this sequel makes you forget that these were the same people who made Cars 2.
Following up on Coco, perhaps their greatest film since Toy Story, Pixar goes full digital upgrade here to accompany the Parr family’s long-awaited homecoming. While it did take 14 years to get back to The Incredibles – even though it felt like the most sequel-ready film in Pixar’s collection – nothing about their world feels stale. Brad Bird, who’s returned as writer and director, makes this possible by cleverly starting up exactly where the first one ended. So, we see the Underminer burrow out of the ground, declare – in his unmistakable Cliff Clavin-voice – war upon the metropolis, and watch as the Parr’s go to stop him.
They do, but because there’s so much damage done to the city, no one’s too eager to thank them. In fact, they almost want to send them the bill. As has been the case for superheroes in both the Marvel and DC universes, their valiant efforts are unappreciated. It seems that people are happy that the world is saved…as long as their cars don’t get destroyed in the process. This is the why supers were outlawed in the first place, forced to watch the world burn and just wait for the insurance check.
There is one man, however, who still believes in the necessity of these heroes. His name’s Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and with his sister Evelyn (Catherine) and their corporation’s endless pit of a bank account, he wants to make supers great again. The nerdish way he addresses Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) is how I imagine I would talk to Batman. He plans to change the public perception of the supers by installing a body cam and letting the world fall in love with their heroics once again – one of the many concepts here that feels remarkably current.
Winston and Evelyn understand that until their plan works, they have to be as cost-friendly as possible, and that is why they elect Elastigirl as their premiere project. This of course leaves Bob to watch over the kids, a heroic chore in itself. Dash (Huck Milner as the film’s least used character) is still his erratic self, with no improvements to his schooling, and Violet (Sarah Vowell) is going through some teen girl problems, especially with the cute boy she likes who literally does not remember her. The most urgent needs, however, come with Jack-Jack, whose sudden burst of superpowers will make parents appreciate their boring, normal babies.
As he’s done in so much of his work, Bird highlights the act of conquering societal expectations and tests their definitions. The Iron Giant doesn’t have to be a weapon; a dirty rat can be a chef; and Mr. Incredible can play housewife while Elastigirl saves the day. This theme flows throughout Incredibles 2, especially as we meet a new cast of superheroes who are dragged out of the shadows of the law, and a villain called Screenslaver, who, as the name suggests, attacks us through our most recent addiction. There’s not much suspense or mystery to this villain’s secret identity, but the threat is certainly real.
It’s amazing how a story which started 14 years ago can feel so current. Though I have a pretty good idea of some of them, I wonder which events exactly inspired Bird to make Incredibles 2. Given how it plays out, it seems unlikely that this was the plan coming out of the gates in 2004. If it was, there would be more uncanny coincidences or “predictions” here than there were in Back to the Future Part II.
However, the importance of the film’s familial aspect has carried over into the sequel. If anything, by completely reversing the parental roles, this is a better, more touching, and more relevant family tale. It’s also very funny. Badass babe Jack-Jack steals just about every scene he’s in. His bouts with a trash-thieving raccoon will have you cackling, as will his sleepover with the always entertaining fashion designer with a grudge, Edna Mode (hilariously, the director Brad Bird).
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If Coco was Pixar’s most beautiful looking film – an argument that can easily be made – Incredibles 2 cascades any doubt that the company isn’t getting better each and every day. Going into the show, having some idea of what computers are capable of these days, you should be excited just asking yourself “what can they do now?” Though it will certainly be the action sequences which are remembered most – two come to mind: one being the opening battle with The Underminer, and the other features Elastigirl chasing after a runaway train – all of the animation here is unbelievable. Paying attention just to how Jack-Jack stumbles around the house is worthy of our appreciation.
All of this is elevated by a fantastic voice cast. Hunter’s incredible in her ability to portray a woman trying to balance her obligation to her family with the sudden fame that comes with being the lone hero. And Nelson equally encompasses heart into his voice, capturing Mr. Incredible’s torn priorities as a family man who misses being at the top of the superhero chain.
On the way to see Incredibles 2, I can picture parents sitting anxiously in their cars waiting for their kids to get out of the house (*honk honk* “Let’s go!”). I suppose that’s what happens when you wait 14 years to follow up on one of the best superhero tales ever told. But now that the film’s proven that the Parr’s are capable of defeating the villainous expectations we attach to sequels, I don’t think I can wait another 14 years for Incredibles 3.
Using all of the digital advancements from the last 14 years, Brad Bird manages to make every action sequence in Incredibles thrilling without taking away from the familial element that made its predecessor revolutionary.