Does The Incredibles 2 have any relevance after a 14-year wait?
There are many that would claim that The Incredibles may just be the best Pixar film ever made (I do not fall in that camp for clarity sake but I thought it was a great film anyway). This is the Internet we are talking about so it must be true, right? It has been years. There have been tweets. There have been posts. If the Internet is to be believed, there is a large fanbase, presumably now somewhere in their 20s or 30s that anticipated the sequel to the first film with bated breath. Now, only 14 years later, we are treated to the follow-up to the 2004 classic. Will the internet masses be satiated with the return of this fantastical family in The Incredibles 2?
This film picks up solidly where the first left off. Our cast of super family members are facing off against the Underminer but unfortunately using superpowers is still against the law. After a dramatic opening we find out that the Parr family is falling on hard times and are on the verge of bankruptcy and homelessness. Enter Winston Deaver (voiced by Bob Odenkrik) and his inventor sister Evelyn Deaver (voiced by Catherine Keener): a sibling pair that owns a telecoms company and a fondness for superheroes. Their plan is to use their resources and political pull to re-instate superheroes to their former glory. Based on statistical data showing Elastigirl to be the least destructive hero, they propose that she don a new shiny suit — complete with built in camera and a motorbike to boot, to capture all her daring activities. This footage can then be used to show the world the positive work that superheroes are doing and hopefully use it as a platform to abolish the laws oppressing the super population. As a result of this, Mr. Incredible reluctantly needs to take up the duty of being a stay-at-home dad. However the endeavours of our protagonists are foiled as a new evildoer, The Screenslaver, rears his ugly head to challenge Elastigirl and the good work she is trying to do.
Right off the bat I have to admit that the story of this film is entirely predictable. I managed to piece together the plot of the film far ahead of time and with every new reveal, instead of being surprised or delighted, it simply felt like a verification exercise. For that reason alone, the story certainly isn’t the aspect that is going to keep audiences hooked. Unfortunately, I also found the humour in the film surprisingly bland. Sure there were some chuckles to be had but generally the film just wasn’t particularly witty or funny. There are a few stand-out scenes (especially one involving a raccoon) but for the most part the dialogue and interactions were just functional to get the plot moving. I found the main plot with Elastigirl fun and exciting for a lot of its running time but the sub-plot involving Mr. Incredible and the kids felt oddly flat. Yet, despite these criticisms I enjoyed the majority of the film.
I suspect most of my enjoyment in the film was nested in the fun and bombastic action set-pieces and the creative exploitation of the abilities of the superhero characters. There are some genuinely interesting ways in which the characters use their specific powers (specifically a scene involving Elastigirl and her new motorbike) and there is also a whole cast of new superheroes that get to show off their stuff. The most interesting of these additions being Voyd (voiced by Sophia Bush) whose abilities are given a nice shining showcase as the film progresses. Additionally, the sub-plot involving Jack-Jacks’ new and growing list of abilities was certainly another bright spot in the film. If you are one of the diehard fans that have been waiting to see just exactly what this incredible baby can do, then you will be rewarded in spades as a large part of the film is dedicated to exploring this.
It should probably be noted that in the 14 years between the first and the second film, many things have moved and changed including politics and films themselves. What made the first film in the series so spectacular, was the fresh perspective it brought to the superhero genre. I think it is safe to say that over the years this perspective has waned a little in its shine given the fact that we are inundated by superhero movies all the time now. The Incredibles 2 still manages to use both its protagonist and antagonist to ask some interesting questions regarding the role of superheroes in society and creates an interesting parallel exploring societies’ dependency on digital screens and hero figures alike. It is by no means a dull topic but I do think the edge of the commentary has dulled a little with time. In addition, the level of depth and complexity given to the antagonist of the first film was nuanced and sophisticated. There was a lot of layering involved in his motivation making him a sympathetic character as well as an evil-doer. This time around however, the antagonist just isn’t as compelling. There is still a personal lynchpin to give the character their motivation but it just isn’t as effective as Syndrome was in the first film.
Showcasing even further progression, we find that the macho dynamics that pervaded the first film is replaced in favour of shining a spotlight on the leading ladies whilst a large part of the male cast is delegated to side plots. This progressive change in the dynamics certainly reflect our current political zeitgeist, propagating messages of female empowerment and the role of female leaders in society. This particular aspect also allows the film to explore Mr Incredible’s feelings of being upstaged by his wife (something that can easily be construed as a commentary on masculinity and gender roles). This could have been a moment for some powerful commentary, and it is hinted at, but it never really gets resolved. Overall, the film handles its rather progressive agenda quite well but this is undercut by what I felt to be a lack of character development in the film. On the whole, it does not feel as if any of the characters (with the exception of Violet possibly) learn anything particularly useful or insightful. I am not asking for anything life-changing here but I do feel the characters were treading water until the end of the film.
Incredibles 2 is a fun film but it is a far cry from being as brilliant or influential as the original. The familial dynamic of the characters still make for a satisfying watch but on a character and story level I felt there was a lot less of a journey in this film when compared to the first one. There were more sequences that felt a little uneventful and the humour was (at least for me) sub-par. The commentary that made the first film so insightful is still here to a degree, but far less powerful. The film does however offer exciting action sequences, imaginative power uses and the ending does not disappoint in its climactic show-off. I believe that no matter what I say about this film there will be an overwhelming amount of people that will love and enjoy this movie and there is no reason why you shouldn’t go to see it. At this point what should a review say other than “Hey, it’s a Pixar film!” I give this film laser-eyes out of ten.
The Incredibles 2 is in cinemas from 15 June.
Emerging artist and lecturer working in South Africa. Interested in messes, horror, existentialism and the creative process. Ink is my spirit medium.