A lot has changed since The Incredibles was released in cinemas way back in November 2004. First of all, like so many others my age, I’ve basically grown up within that time frame; graduating high school, surviving college, and taking the biggest risk of my life as I stuffed my car to the brim with everything I owned and moved across the country to fulfill my dreams, crossing my fingers and toes I was making the right decision. Obviously a lot has changed in the film industry too, and yes, I’m talking about the elephant in the room: the Box Office monster that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There have literally been hundreds, no, millions of superhero movies made in the last 14 years. So much that I’ve stopped shouting, “ANOTHER ONE?” whenever I see a trailer or hear rumors about the next Thor VS. Iron Man installment; instead I just sit there, defeated, and accept the fact these movies are just never going to end.
Despite all that, the Incredibles 2 somehow still seems refreshing. Seeing Bob, Helen, Dash, Violet, and Jack-Jack on screen again felt like I was reuniting with my long-lost relatives; the ones I saw only once when I was a kid but always somehow managed to keep in touch with throughout the years. The same relatives I never thought I’d see again but we miraculously found a way to coordinate a date where everyone was available. And even though the reunion was only for a few hours, the reminiscing was unforgettable and even more memories were made together.
Brad Bird takes the helm again as both writer and director of the Incredibles 2. Most of the original cast returns, Craig T. Nelson as Bob, Holly Hunter as Helen, Samuel L. Jackson as Frozone, etc., save for Spencer Fox, who voiced Dash in the original, and Bud Luckey. Unfortunately Bud Luckey passed away earlier this year, so Jonathan Banks stepped in to voice the iconic Rick Dicker.
The sequel starts right where the first one left off, with the Underminer bursting through the concrete parking lot on his massive mining machine, threatening the innocent people of Metroville. C’mon, you didn’t think they’d let the Underminer not get at least a few more minutes on screen? Despite some hiccups during the opening sequence, like the family fighting over who gets to actually save the day and who’s stuck babysitting Jack-Jack, they barely manage to stop the Underminer from destroying the city center. Frozone even pops in at the last minute to help out. The Parr’s barely have time to celebrate their first real success as a superhero family before they’re apprehended by the police and thrown into an interrogation room. It turns out the world isn’t ready to have supers helping them again and they bring up a good point: if the Parr’s never helped in the first place, there’d be less damage to clean up and the officers could follow protocol to get things back to normal. Who knew everything the Underminer stole was insured?
The family has no home to return to, since it was destroyed at the end of the first film, and they’re soon relocated to a modest hotel with the help of their old pal Rick Dicker. But they can only stay in the hotel for two weeks; Dicker’s Super Relocation Program is shutting down, so it was the least he could do for the family before he’s forced into retirement. Once the two weeks are up, the family will be on their own, which means one of them is going to have to get a job in the real world again to support their family. Bob shudders at the thought of returning to a cramped desk, we all know how well that turned out in the last film, but Helen is quick to offer her help and seems eager at doing something more with her life. Bob dismisses Helen’s offer and as the couple fight over who’s turn it is to support the children, they’re interrupted by Frozone, who slithers into the scene from the shadows. He gives them a business card from tycoon and superhero enthusiast Winston Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk) and tells them to suit-up; Deavor wants to chat with the trio at his headquarters. Could this be another reconnaissance mission? Or a top secret assignment that’s only worthy of a superhero? Bob nearly rips his shirt off in excitement, but Helen backs away, cautious after literally being thrown in jail that same day.
Despite the mixed feelings, they all head to Deavor’s gorgeous high-rise building downtown. He greets them like old friends, showering them with praise and nostalgia as he explains his history with superheroes and how much their legacy means to his family. We’re even introduced to Winston’s sister, Evelyn Deavor (voiced by Catherine Keener), as she stumbles through the doors of his office, nearly dropping all of her paperwork and blueprints and other mysterious documents. Winston is the face of the company, the businessman, while his sister is the one who designs everything behind the scenes. Winston then gives a presentation to the trio, detailing how they want superheroes legal again. But how are they going to achieve this goal? With the help of Helen AKA Elastigirl, obviously. Of course Bob is flabbergasted – he’s Mr. Incredible, the strongest and “manliest” superhero in that room, it should be him bringing superheroes back into the spotlight. But he also causes the most damage, which is the laws biggest complaint against supers. Elastigirl, on the other hand, is sleek and tidy; Evelyn’s research even proves Elastigirl’s damage numbers are way less than Bob’s.
When Helen finally accepts her new job, it almost seems too good to be true for the Parr family. Not only does Helen get to suit up like old times, but the Parr’s are quickly moved into a new gorgeous mid-century modern home, complete with fancy gadgets and waterfalls. Everyone seems to be content with where things are going and ready for the challenges ahead. Of course that all changes once Helen leaves and Bob is stuck with the children and his new role as Dad. As Helen fights crime, stopping trains from derailing and helicopters from crashing, Bob is stuck at home dealing with Violet’s pubescent rage, Dash’s ridiculous math homework, and the discovery of Jack-Jack’s new never-ending powers. The more Helen rises in popularity, garnering interviews and news specials on TV, the more Bob struggles – seething with jealously and nearly exploding due to his lack of sleep and rising stress levels. It’s not that easy for Helen though, she’s soon faced with conflicts of her own as a new villain, the Screenslaver, starts provoking her on missions. The Screenslaver is able to manipulate people from their screens – be it TV’s or glasses, and if you look into the hypnotic light for even a second then you’ll be under their spell. As the Screenslaver puts more and more people in danger through their manipulation, Helen struggles with finding out who’s behind this facade and is thrown off kilter each time they make an appearance. The more Helen’s superhero fame rises, the louder Screenslaver gets and the more elaborate their plans become.
Will Helen defeat the Screenslaver? Will supers be accepted again? And most importantly, will Bob be able to learn how to do math homework while somehow helping Violet with her boy troubles?
I’m usually not a fan of sequels, I think they’re almost always unnecessary and only made to benefit the studio executives, forcing beloved characters into contrived situations because it’s what the public demands. The Incredibles 2 still worked and the film is a solid sequel but it’s just that, a second installment, a DLC added to the main story-line of a popular video game. Although I had a lot of fun watching the sequel I didn’t leave feeling as inspired or blown away as I did after watching the first one, and I’m actually OK with that.
I really enjoyed the fact the sequel explored more of the Parr’s family dynamics. It was great being able to see the family interact more, how they worked together at home and out in the field, how they showed their love for each other in unique ways, and even how they managed to get around their conflicts when they butted heads. Although I’m not a parent, Bob’s struggle to be a good Dad and take care of his family was still relatable; from staying up to the wee hours of the morning trying to figure out how to help Dash with his homework to going out of his way to help Violet with some personal struggles, it brought me back to my youth and my own relationship with my parents. I also enjoyed that the roles were so obviously reversed – that alone created enough conflict to carry the entire film. Helen being in the spotlight, receiving praise for her powers and abilities to save the day was a refreshing change. Her role in the sequel seems to have come at the right moment. I loved the conflict between Helen in the spotlight and Bob stuck at home, gutted that it’s not him getting all the glory. I’m glad Brad Bird decided to show that side of Bob, as it only makes him more human and empathetic. Without spoiling anything, I’d also like to say that Jack-Jack and Edna Mode steal the entire film. Edna was always my favorite, but I have a newfound respect for her after this. If Pixar announced tomorrow that there’s going to be an Incredibles 3 but it would only focus on the relationship between Jack-Jack and Edna then I wouldn’t even be mad, in fact, I’d start throwing my money at them right now. The pair deserves their own film series ASAP.
The characters and story are one thing, but the Incredibles 2 wouldn’t soar without Michael Giacchino returning to his classic score and the overall design and animation seen throughout the film. With every Pixar film, there is so much detail thrown into every single shot. Artists spend months researching and designing elements on screen so that it can look as realistic as possible by the time it’s projected in cinemas. From the immaculate mid-century modern home the Parr’s move into, the lighting in the city as Elastigirl sits on top of a roof surveying the area, the detail on every single piece of clothing that the characters wear, the animation when Bob finally succumbs to the pressures of parenthood, and all the ridiculous explosions and special effects; this film is gorgeous and stands up to Pixar’s motto: “The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art.” I don’t even question the way a Pixar film looks on screen anymore, at this point I’m just expecting to be staring at the screen in awe, with my mouth agape at how they treat the water in the oceans, the clouds in the sky, and the dirt in the ground.
With that being said, the Incredibles 2 still had its issues, and most of it revolved around the script. The film is nearly two hours long and it definitely felt like it. The film started off with a big bang but when it got to the second act the spark started to fade away, so by the time the film was over I was almost relieved. Finally, we got there! The pacing lagged and it didn’t feel natural, in turn that made the ending feel clunky and forced; as if the outcome had to happen because Brad Bird was running out of time and needed to wrap things up. Without giving away important twists and turns in the story, I still wish the stakes were upped more in terms of how Helen was going to make supers legal again. Everything felt so easy, and besides the superhero legacy, nothing else was really at stake for Helen. If Helen failed, then what’s the worst thing that could’ve happened? Return home to Bob? The Screenslaver was an interesting villain, powerful and manipulative, but the character was flat and one dimensional. Until the face behind Screenslaver is revealed, the character only feels like they were thrown into the picture to add that random conflict for Helen. The reveal could’ve been better executed, making that realization even more gut-wrenching and maybe less predictable.
Although the Incredibles 2 was far from perfect, I still got to enjoy some heartwarming moments, great laughs, amazing action sequences that pushed animation technology to even greater places, and on top of that, I got to spend time with some of my favorite characters. Who says every movie released by Pixar has to be mind-blowing or change the animation industry? Who says every film has to be as good as the first? Why can’t it just be a solid sequel and help us escape for a few hours from the horrors of the real world? If you’re looking for that distraction, then definitely check out the Incredibles 2, which bursts into cinemas this Friday.