It’s been fourteen years since the release of the first Incredibles movie back in 2004. In that time we have had a conclusion to the Toy Story Trilogy, three Cars films as well as a sequel to Monsters Inc and Finding Nemo. It appears then that Pixar may have missed the golden opportunity to cash in on a sequel to one of the pillars holding the animation giant up after they left the Parr family about to battle the Underminor. So then Pixar has returned to its first family with Incredibles 2, but have they have done something to partially encapsulate the feeling of the original? Aside from the obvious technical improvements that is.
Set directly after the events of the first film, The Incredibles, or should I say the Parr family, are arrested for stopping The Underminer. However, their actions gain the attention of media mogul Winston Deavor and his sister Evelyn. At a meeting, the Deavors explain to Frozone, Mr Incredible and Elastigirl, that to change the law that outlaws Supers they need to change people’s perceptions of said Supers. Deavor suggests that Elastigirl be a spokesperson, leaving Mr Incredible to care for Dash, Violet and Jack-Jack. However, a sinister force seeks to keep Supers from being re-legalised, the nefarious Screenslaver.
Those wanting more of the Incredibles will not be left disappointed. The design of the film, that faux 60s look with the sharp lines and bright colours, works wonders with the new features in computer animation. This is coupled with the fantastic score by Michael Giacchino, who also composed the music for the first film, to provide something that envokes those classic silver and gold age comic book stories and the spy/detective films of the 50s and 60s. The setting and design of the characters and their powersets make for some exciting and inventive action scenes.
While the action set pieces that come from Elastigirl saving ambassadors and tracking down The Screenslaver will get bums in seats, it is the more grounded family stuff that will keep those bums in those seats, and it is the excellent cast of characters that help that immensely. Most of the original cast returns to bring the characters back to life, Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell and Samuel L. Jackson all reprise their roles and inhabit the parts. These absolutely shine in the more domestic parts of the film when Bob Parr (Mr Incredible) is struggling with Jack-Jack’s new powers, Dash’s maths homework and Violet’s boy trouble. This is the real heart of the film. Much like how the original movie had the family grow closer together through the adversity provided by Syndrom, Incredibles 2 tests that familial bond with the new power dynamics that a working mother and stay at home dad provide. The cast is completed by great turns from Bob Odenkirk, the idealistic media emperor set on legalising Supers, and his more subdued sister Evelyn, played by Catherine Keener.
The film itself has some interesting things to say. We have already heard that there might be Randian themes in the movie, after all, they are about extraordinary people being forced to live like ordinary individuals, and the villains all aim to get rid of heroes either by making everyone unique or framing them for crimes. People have interpreted this as a narrative of being yourself despite your quirks. Specifically, in regards to the sequel, Incredibles 2 makes a comment on our relationship to media, perception, superhero movies in general, legal injustices and playing with familial gender roles. It is mainly a strong supporter of working mothers, demonstrating their capability and the challenges they face as mothers due to all their commitments. It may not be subtle about these points but the fact that they are in a kids’ movie at all and the creators are exploring and normalising them, as long as it isn’t the Randian stuff, should be commented on.
However, despite these steps to make this a fantastic sequel, Incredibles 2, unfortunately, does not reach the same heights as the original. This is mainly due to a feeling of separation, of disconnection in the film. As already said there are two parts to the movie, we have Elastigirl’s fight with Screenslaver which provides the adrenaline, and then we have the domestic life which contains the heart, but they don’t connect. In the first Incredibles, Mr Incredible came back from missions, he interacted with his family again and we experienced a change in the way they interacted. Here the family is separated and they are only rejoined at the end when none of what has transpired before really had any effect on the other side. This is the same with the stakes of the film which feel lacking. The family drama feels like there is too much focus on Mr Incredible, and then the kids become props, causes of his consternation, rather than the characters that they were in the original film. It lacks that spark that was in the first film, and whether that is because this didn’t have the time needed to gestate (weird I know, they have had 14 years to work on it) or because of a disconnect in the story, it needed some more work and polish before it could pack the same punch as the first film.
While it may feel unfair to compare a sequel to its original, it is an inevitability, especially when the said sequel can only capture part of the first glory. Don’t get me wrong, Incredibles 2 is still fun with great animation and those same strong characters, it just doesn’t feel as incredible. There is a looseness to the film that makes it look and feel messy, almost like after years of retirement the superhero tries on their outfit again to find that it bulges in some places and hangs in others.
You can watch Incredibles 2 in cinemas now