When Incredibles 2 was announced to be in the making, it was quite a realization that it would be 14 years since the first movie debuted in 14 years and how much has changed since that time. In 2004, the superhero genre in film was just starting to bloom and now that small patch of cinematic earth has become the Botanical Gardens. According to writer/director Brad Bird ( who inspired much of the film’s first villain Syndrome), that was one of the many challenges he faced in creating the sequel to Pixar’s tribute and parody of the superhero genre documenting the life of a family of super powered individuals struggling to live a normal life. How can you make a film like this stand out in a world where Avengers: Infinity War just crossed the two billion dollar mark or every casting or trailer posted on the Internet is an immediate online discussion and/or debate between fans? Simple, you tell the story the only way you can and according to Bird, he wanted to not only avoid clichéd tropes in superhero movies but also wanted to include stories that didn’t make the cut in the first film. So when we see Bob, Helen, Violet, Dash and the films break out star Jack-Jack, it literally picks up right after where the first movie left off just like a story would continue once you flip the next page. It’s that and many other great and genuine moments that have Incredibles 2 avoid the sequel slump that plagued other Pixar continuations but continue the kind of superb quality we’ve come to expect from Pixar and by some extension Disney. Like my friend Lawrence said when the movie was announced, they gave us Cars 2 and 3, it’s the least they could do.
One of the best parts of the Incredibles 2 is how genuine the realism of the Parr family is in both their family and superhero lives. After their battle with the Underminer is successful but they not only let the villain get away but cause millions of dollars damage in the process, the Parr family find their relocation program closing and their family living in a motel with no employment and on the verge of homelessness. For the iconic Mr. Incredible and Elasti-Girl, this is the lowest point of their lives until eager millionaire Wilson Deavour invites them to a meeting. This multimedia tycoon and his chill yet brilliant sister Evelyn see the status of superheroes hiding underground and denying their abilities to help others and wants to change that with the help of Frozone, Mr. Incredible, and his first choice: Elasti-Girl. So while Devaour gives Helen a new suit, tech, and a mission Bob has to change gears and now the breadwinner is the stay at home parent who has to hold his hyper and overwhelming family together. Much of the real hilarity is how Bob known for his super strength is absolutely overwhelmed with dealing with new math, Violet’s questions and emotional instability over her love life, and a baby whose superpowers fluctuate at random. While Bob struggles with life at home, Helen struggles with standing on her own feet and being both a role model for other superheroes but also as an individual. The ominous Screenslaver who uses technology to hypnotize the public with the same screens they worship is dedicated to causing destruction to highlight society’s overdependence on technology but mainly superheroes to solve their problems instead of learning how to do so themselves. As Helen and her family learn, Screenslaver’s forces will test their powers and teamwork as they must not only save each other but the future of superheroes in total.
Honestly the personal struggles depicted through the characters are what really make the Incredibles 2 stand out as a superhero film. The film is full of wonderfully choreographed action scenes, vibrant super powered characters, but it’s the emotions expressed within the characters that remind us that they are by some extension representations of us. When we see Bob slumped over on a couch heartbroken not only that he inadvertently hurt his daughter through his actions but that he feels he’s failing to keep his family together or Devour relating how personal his mission is to his family, the emotion soaks through your skin and trickles to your heart.
Much like Bird’s other legendary work The Iron Giant, Incredibles 2 knows exactly how to tap into the emotional nostalgia related to the core of superheroes. Superheroes are written to represent the best traits of humanity but also to show how those features are tested by the everyday struggles of modern day life. Through brilliant animation, we see the Incredibles deal with school, relationships, honesty, family, grief, and frustration in ways that any person regardless of their age can relate to. While it picked up right where it left off, it shows us just how much has changed in the world in these last 14 years. The world has become an increasingly cynical and dangerous place. We are more dependent on technology and its advancements than ever before and some things of the past involving communication and how we interpret the world around us is becoming lost in the process. It’s a struggle to balance both the past and present while creating a future that will lead to a good life and the Parr family show that even with great power, you will fight to keep your head above water more than once. But while these emotions are sharp when they arise, the story is peppered with hilarious lines and moments that are so honestly funny that me and friends were still smiling after the end credits. While Bob and his family are always good for a laugh, the real show stealer was Jack Jack. Whether he’s fighting a raccoon inspired by watching an old movie, disappearing and reappearing when he wants a cookie or spending time with Auntie Edna (who is always hilarious no matter the scene), the silliness of the character is so wonderfully captured by the script and animation. Whether he’s duplicating or turning into a demon baby before bursting into fire, his actions are so wonderfully random juxtaposed by the fact that he is just a baby. The movie moves at a great pace where nothing feels rushed and the laughs come genuinely instead of having to build up over time which is something a nice chunk of superhero movies experience. The film knows its audience and instead of giving them something that just goes over their head or gets one laugh and then is forgotten, it gives its viewers fictional reality that allows you to laugh at the ridiculousness overall.
While the villain plot and reveal felt a bit too similar to the first movie, you cannot deny that Incredibles 2 is a great film that adults and children could enjoy. It’s a rare kind of movie that can balance a family with the intelligence and maturity we expect from the superhero genre. While there is always the possibility of Incredibles 3, I left the theater feeling content with the story and where it ends. It was the same feeling you get when you see friends for dinner that you haven’t seen in a while. Although it’s been years, the moment you sit down and start talking it feels like it was only yesterday since you last saw them. Although for so many of us that yesterday feels like a long time ago, sometimes the best things in life are simply moments that you sit down and enjoy them as they are instead of what you want them to be. So grab some cookies, take a seat and enjoy the show.
Also remember, no capes.