Highly acclaimed and loved by fans and critics alike, Pixar’s genre-breaking smash hit The Incredibles first graced our screens back in 2004. Let me tell you, fourteen years is a really, really, really long time to wait for a sequel, especially one as highly anticipated as Incredibles 2. The longer you wait for something, the more difficult it becomes to pull off, not only in terms of how styles, trends and technology in movies have changed, but also because you’ve got over a decade of anticipation and hype to live up to.
Picking up exactly where the first film left off, as if to highlight that they’re not missing a beat (or fourteen years’ worth of beats), Incredibles 2 opens with the epic face-off between the Parr family – Bob, a.k.a. Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Helen, a.k.a. Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner) and Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) – and The Underminer (John Ratzenberger). With some help from Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), our heroes are able to avoid disaster, but their battle comes with some unintended consequences. Thanks to The Underminer’s antics, superheroes, or “supers,” are once again scrutinised and lambasted for the excessive collateral damage that their battles cause. The same reason that supers were outlawed in the first place, way back when.
Before the Parrs can prepare to uproot their lives and go into hiding once again, siblings Winston (Bob Odenkirk) and Evelyn (Catherine Keener) Deavor approach them with a deal. Founders of a powerful telecommunications company, the Deavors are on a mission of their own. They want to bring back the golden age of superheroes and have the super laws rescinded. To effect this change, they intend to focus on the bravery and heroics of supers, as opposed to the damage they unintentionally cause. This means that Elastigirl is thrown back into the crime-fighting spotlight as the face of this campaign, as we all know Mr. Incredible isn’t precisely subtle with his antics. As Elastigirl once famously remarked, “Leave saving the world to the boys? I don’t think so.”
While this setup leads to the sitcom-like trope of “clueless dad has to take care of the kids”, it’s obviously going to be a little different when there are superheroes involved. For one thing, the male domination in so many professions is addressed. For another, the strong leading man gets to confront his weaknesses and learn that there are different kinds of superpowers. It’s not a new concept, but having a gender role reversal explored here, with female-led action, is refreshing and appreciated.
The actual plot of the movie isn’t really anything to write home about. I wouldn’t say it’s a complete rehash of the first film, but there are definite parallels – being sent back to square one and having to hide their superpowers, for one thing, but smaller themes consistently recur too. The downsides to superheroes, the crisis of identity, the theme of family and so on. The twist at the end is also completely transparent and can be seen coming from a mile away. But, even though you know where the movie is going, it’s still immensely fun to get there.
Luckily, the film keeps up the pace by having some favourite characters like Edna Mode (voiced by writer/director Brad Bird himself) return, as well as well as introducing a slew of new supers from across the globe, such as Voyd (Sophia Bush), Krushauer and Helectrix (both voiced by Phil LaMarr). The action scenes and fight choreography are likewise fast-paced and fantastic to behold. From the kick-off against The Underminer to the antics Elastigirl engages in on her missions, Incredibles 2 delivers some edge-of-your-seat, white-knuckled action sequences. Special applause must be given to Holly Hunter here, whose voice acting is, once again, amazingly emotive during these scenes.
In the downtime (as such) between the high-octane super-action, the film had me giggling almost constantly. The dialogue is quick, witty and the jokes are genuine and funny. Most of the laugh-out-loud moments come from Jack-Jack, who is a complete scene-stealer as Bob and the family learn to cope with his plethora of new powers. Bob’s bumbling efforts to help his kids with the various problems they encounter are also played for laughs but in an endearing way.
Between the plentiful action scenes and comedy, Incredibles 2 has some sharp observations to make. Though basically, no time has passed between the films onscreen, in reality, a lot has changed. Bird has brought in a lot of new ideas drawn from real-world equivalents, like Elastigirl wearing a body-camera while on missions so that her actions are transparent. There’s also a lot said about media influence on public opinion, consumerism, and there’s even a throw-away line about how differently the wealthy are treated in the eyes of the law. As with the first film, we see a villain with understandable, almost sympathetic motivations. While they might not be as iconic as “when everyone’s super, no one is”, having the villain as someone that you can understand, if not outright empathise with, makes for a far richer experience.
I’ve watched The Incredibles probably a dozen times, and I think the same is going to happen with the sequel. When a film has so much going on and so much to appreciate, I honestly think multiple viewings will be of benefit here. And not in a “find the Easter Egg you missed” way, but in an “it’s just a damn good movie” way. Incredibles 2 is subversive, stylish, slick and paced on the quick side – so quick that you might miss a trick or two. Even if you don’t, you’ll likely have a richer appreciation after a re-watch. Or, you can just revel in the chic, retro designs. Or just laugh out loud again. There’s a lot to enjoy, and it feels like an on-Parr continuation of the first movie.
Last Updated: June 13, 2018