Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Pixar are about the only studio that can get me to the cinema to see a super hero franchise. When the sequel was first announced, I thought that they were leaving it a little too late in the superhero zeitgeist, but it turns out that the fad never ends. With the core Avengers series not wrapping up until next year, and several franchises in various phases of reboots and reimagines, it appears as though Pixar were right on the money.
Their were children in the theatre, which was weird. I assumed that this franchise was for people who watched the original fourteen years ago, and had spent the time in between not doing much of anything. Except waiting.
It’s only just occurred to me that some of us could’ve had kids of our own in that time. I’m glad I’m not one of them. 80% of the toddlers were screaming louder than Jack-Jack. During a dramatic and emotional highpoint of the film, a presumed three-year-old bellowed out…
“How long is this film!”
“This is only the end of the first act kid, I’m sorry not all media is as swift as a round of Fortnight.”
Incredibles 2 dives straight back into the action, with the opening sequence being the chaotic battle with The Underminer. I didn’t think it was entirely necessary to go back to this particular villain, as he felt like a throwaway exclamation mark at the end of the original. But, Pixar proved me wrong. The first ten minutes served as a reintroduction to the Parr family, showcasing how they dysfunctionally manage to get the job done. The core themes for the movie were telegraphed, rocky relationships were established and we were off.
The sequel revolves around the idea that Supers need to be made legal again. Elastigirl takes centre stage for this outing, which is a welcome shift from the first. She works with an ominously named telecommunications company, DEVTECH, in order to lobby for the legalisation of Supers, by carrying out heroic acts across the city.
Alarm bells ring out all over the place when we’re introduced to Winston and Evelyn Deavor, the sibling duo that own DEVTECH. They talk a lot about perception management; The idea that truth doesn’t matter, only the point of view shown. While this is absolutely true of the real world, it only tends to be shady men in shady rooms that openly have these conversations. Or men behind men in white houses.
All of that, along with the slogan of “Make Superheroes Legal Again”, was enough to make me second-guess just who the evil mastermind was. Right until around the middle of the second act, when the unrevealed villain swirled a drink and said something that may as well have been:
“I am the bad guy. Look at me. I’m very evil.”
The villain, The Screenslaver, was a perfectly constructed antagonist for both Elastigirl and our times. During their first extended monologue, I found myself agreeing with a lot of the things they had to say. They railed against the disposable and passive nature of our culture, as well as drawing parallels between Helen Parr and themselves. A good villain should always speak with a grain of truth, but go about “fixing” that truth in selfish ways. A well constructed villain should also have faced the same hardships as the protagonist, but taken the easier pathway through those problems. Screenslaver ticked both of these boxes, making them one of the better cinematic superhero villains.
Mr Incredible played stay-at-home Dad for the majority of the movie. He wrestles with the fact that he’s not the one out saving the day, as he attempts to manage the chaotic lives of his lovesick teenage daughter, his hyper-energetic son and a baby that’s developing superpowers. At least two out of three of those are relatable to audiences. Although I’ve seen some babies, and Jack-Jack might be easier.
Bob Parr’s character development was, for the sake of a one-time pun, incredible. He begins by being frustrated with his role, until he takes is in his stride and works himself to near-death in order to raise his family. This story spoke to shifting gender roles in our society, that stay-at-home Dads are now just as common as stay-at-home Moms. That it doesn’t matter who is in which position, as both are working as a team in saving their own worlds.
This subplot is what puts The Incredibles head and shoulders above any other superhero franchise, for me. They constantly ground the story in real, relatable human struggles. For every ridiculous comic-book moment, we have a thirty second conversation that could be had in any family household in the world.
My dislike of the superhero genre comes from the lack of imagination. I like my stories to be either grounded, gritty and realistic; Or out of this world, dream-like nonsense, that push and question the limits of reality. Everything in the middle feels like, wow, you tapped into your imagination and all you saw was a guy in a cape?
I know this makes me biased in reviewing a superhero film, but an entirely animated feature managed to tick the first of my two boxes, where most movies in the genre fail to do so. It’s a story about a dysfunctional, realistic family, who happen to be superheroes.
I also enjoyed the imagery of a group of generic, yet colourful superheroes being villainous for the third act. For me, it felt as though Pixar were poking fun at the Marvel model of shoving as many heroes into a movie as possible, by having the Parr kids fight their way through a variety pack of spandex-clad characters.
Secondary characters, like Frozone, Edna and the newly introduced Void, were used well. Each of them had a good reason for helping the family at specific moments, and weren’t just their for window-dressing.
Any concerns I had about the visual and tonal styles from the first feature, were washed away within minutes. Michael Giacchino’s score emulates and evolves from his own offering fourteen years prior. And the colour schemes, animation style and visuals of a generic urban sprawl are that perfect cocktail of familiar, yet progressive.
My only real criticism was that it didn’t feel as smart as the original. But when half of the genius comes from creating a family that have powers reflecting their role in the nuclear family, it’s impossible to recreate that realisation in a sequel of already-established characters.
We already know that a Dad wants to feel strong, that a Mom wants to be flexible, a teenage girl feels invisible, and a boy has a lot of energy.
All in all, The Incredibles 2 can be considered another successful sequel for Pixar. Similar to Monsters University and Finding Dory, it managed to re-establish the world and push the driving, emotive force of the original, but without quite reaching the magical heights. Which is no disrespect to any of these films, more a testament to the benchmark that Pixar sets itself.
I’d see a third film, partly because the genre already has a set precedent for sequels, meaning it won’t seem jarring or unnecessary. Also because I’ve already pitched a couple of ideas to myself that I like. The main one being that Jack-Jack is kidnapped by a “collector”, due to his unique multitude of powers. This can allow for Dash and Violet to take centre stage for the final act, in order to tell a real explosive, thrilling and heartfelt sibling A-story.
Go see The Incredibles 2. It’s solidly an 8/10, 4 star flick. And if this cynic was pleased, you won’t be disappointed.
Today is Saturday, 17th of June and some cinemas in America have reclining armchairs, which is amazing.
What did you think of The Incredibles 2? Let me know, in the comments below!