Director: Brad Bird
Writer: Brad Bird
Stars: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell
A couple of weeks ago, I blathered away about sequel syndrome, the movie studios obsessive urge to fire them out and why I wasn’t a fan of them in general. The main reason being that they’re often at the expense of a great, self contained story. The original Incredibles, now fourteen years old, was the perfect example of an intelligent, slick and fun standalone film. Of course, it gave us that memorable cliff hanger ending with the Underminer and everyone assumed there would be a sequel shortly afterwards.
The film was a complete financial success too, which normally would solidify a second chapter being green lighted, but it remained a wonderful singular entity for over a decade.
That is until Brad Bird, the director and writer, finally had a creative jolt or some kind of epiphany and penned a screenplay worthy of continuing our lovable, goofy, group of heroes journey. I only discovered the new films existence late last year. The first Edna teaser somehow evaded my glance, but needless to say, when I finally found out there was to be an Incredibles 2, I was absolutely ecstatic. I’m contradicting myself with that one, I know, but some sequels just demand to be made and this is most definitely one of those examples.
There’s always that danger of damaging or forever corrupting the enjoyment of the original with a shitty made sequel though, but this is Brad Bird we’re talking about here. He gets this wacky universe of chaos and superhero bans.
After watching Incredibles 2, I’m very pleased to say that he hasn’t ruined the enjoyment of the original. If anything, he’s enhanced that story, because it picks up right at that moment the Underminer burrows out of the ground and seamlessly blends the two together. Think of a better executed version of Back to the Future 2’s opener and you’ll be on the money. Our familial superheroes spring into attack with an exhilarating, flurry of action. The city is brutalised in the process and worse still, the antagonist manages to escape, leaving the good guys to carry the can.
There’s something magical about a Pixar animated film. The artistry of the visuals is undeniable and a total joy to see on the big screen, but they also have that uncanny ability of attracting a wide spread of demographics, as the crossing of the £1bn mark in record time will testify. The reason is fairly obvious too. They take a simple concept, mesh it with stunning visuals and an undercurrent of deeper themes, and in doing so manage to connect with toddlers through to great grandparents. It’s been done in Coco and even the non-Pixar Paddington films recently, and the very same thing is at work in Incredibles 2.
The film is split into two distinct perspectives. Firstly, you’ve got the more simple, superficial plot of Elastigirl taking on the antogonist Screenslaver whilst fighting to empower and legalise superheroes, which were famously banned in the first film. But underneath that, is quite a powerful message about the dangers of modern society’s obsession with consuming tv and also just the obvious message of empowering everyone in society, regardless of their gender, sexuality and so on. Secondly, is Bob Parr’s simplistic plot of juggling parental duties whilst enviously watching his wife take the spotlight. Underneath is an equally powerful message about the complexity of parenthood and the difficulties of multitasking that comes with it.
Stepping away from the deeper, more cerebral meanings though, it’s just an incredibly fun, quick paced and riveting story. All of the characters we loved from the original are back, barring one obvious villain, and each are given their own moments to shine.
Elastigirl was the most prominently featured. She’s obviously the most level headed of the family, which makes her the default ambassador for Winston Deavor’s drive for superhero acceptance. Jack Jack was by far my favourite however. The overwhelming majority of laughs came from his antics. The raccoon fight in the backyard was hilarious, as was the bonding session with Edna and the edible lavender, fire retardant moment. He was a little, combustible, Swiss Army knife of powers and I loved it. Bob was also enjoyable, he cut an exhausted figure for the most part, trying to help Dash with maths, keeping Violet from having an emotional breakdown and a toiling with Jack Jack.
Frozone was sadly limited to a handful of admittedly action packed flourishes, but listen, Samuel L embodies the character and I love him. The villain, Screenslaver was cool enough, without ever troubling Syndrome as the best we’ve seen in the universe. The identity twist was telegraphed, but the character was complex for the genre and I could once again understand the ignorance that drove her actions and motivations much like in the first film. There’s was also some cool new additional superheroes that popped up and the one with the portal power in particular was a standout.
I absolutely loved the action sequences throughout. The runaway train and the way Elastigirl stopped it gave me Spider-Man vibes, the raccoon fight was up there and the climatic battle was incredibly enjoyable. It had everything, from the skydiving, seat ejecting, an oversized toddler smashing through walls, propeller tampering, ice skating to just amazingly put together animation. The way they all cooperated to stop the gigantic ship from slamming into the city, harkened up memories of the frantic rush to rid Thanos of his gauntlet on Titan in Infinity War. The final ten minutes or so was like the entirety of good stuff seen in the film in a microcosm.
I had been waiting to see this film for over a decade and there was a point when I didn’t think it would happen. Bird had been quoted as saying that he’d only do it if the story was bang on, which is admirable in today’s movie business. It was definitely worth the wait, however, I don’t think it quite topped the original. It’s a cracking film though. It was a visually stunning bit of escapism, that featured great voice acting, the exploration of complex themes, mixed in with some genuinely hilarious antics and light hearted fun.
I don’t even need to recommend this film. If you’ve seen the original, it’s more of the same. If you haven’t seen the original then have a word with yourself.