In what may be considered the longest cliffhanger in Pixar history, we finally get to see what happens after the Parr family encounters the Underminer right before the credits rolled in Brad Bird’s 2004 animated film, “The Incredibles”. Once again taking the helm as director, Bird took fourteen years to bring back the now-iconic family of superheroes. But with such a long hiatus, and the how Marvel Studios and the DCEU has shaped and continues shaping the superhero landscape, does “The Incredibles” still have what it takes to be super?
“The Incredibles 2” reintroduces us to the Parr family, moments after they encounter the Underminer at the end of “The Incredibles”. Bob (Craig T. Nelson), Helen (Holly Hunter), Violet (Sarah Powell), and Dash (Huck Milner) spring right into the action as their superhero alter egos, to keep the Underminer from robbing the Metroville Bank. However, despite the optimism of the first movie’s ending, it turns out that things didn’t go as well as the Parrs had hoped. In fact, the Parrs may actually be in a worse situation this time–they’re wilting in a drive-in motel, Violet fastened to teenage troubles, Jack-Jack is manifesting uncontrollable powers, and yep, “Supers” are still illegal.
Enter the telco tycoon, Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) who is also a huge superhero fan. But unlike Syndrome’s obsessive fandom, Winston believes that the world actually needs superheroes and that if public perception is what made them illegal, then it’s also what will help bring them back. Together with his crafty sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener), they propose a series of PR stunts that put the spotlight on Helen (a.k.a. Elastigirl) to show the heroic acts of Supers from their own perspective. But for Helen to go full-time, Bob has to take over babysitting duties. Helen sums it up perfectly – to help her family, she has to leave it. And to fix the law, she has to break it.
The superhero genre has become a tougher territory to penetrate, especially with the saturation brought by Marvel and DC films churned one right after another. On the surface, it may seem hard for “Incredibles 2” to find its place among the barrage of superhero films this year (“Avengers: Infiinity War” and “Deadpool 2” are difficult acts to follow), but the film finds itself nestled on its distinctly unique niche. Yes, it is a movie with superheroes, but more than their superpowers or their secret identities, what makes “Incredibles 2” fun to watch is the close-to-home dynamic among the members of such an unlikely family. Elastigirl going around as a vigilante at night in order to provide for her family isn’t something you usually see in a superhero film. Mr. Incredible, on the other hand, is being a different kind of hero by being a super-dad to a pubescent Violet, an curicularly stumped Dash, and a hyperactive Jack-Jack. As Edna Mode (voiced by Brad Bird himself) has said, “done properly, parenting is a heroic act….done properly.”
From being a side character, Jack-Jack has become a keyer part of “Incredibles 2”. Many of the film’s adorable and funny moments involve him playing around with his powers, serving both as comic relief and looking cute enough for merchandise potential.
Just like Jack-Jack, the whole family doesn’t seem to have grown a year older in the movie and I believe for a good reason – nostalgia. “Incredibles 2” works because it knocks into our longing to see this superhero family again on screen, presenting to us both familiar and new elements. For one, the plot is parallel to that of the first movie, only this time it’s Elastigirl who dons the habit as a breadwinner. We even get to hear Frozone’s wife again who, despite not having a full second of screentime, is one of the most memorable from the first “Incredibles” film.
But “Incredibles 2” appeals not only to fans that have seen the 2004 original. The film feels contemporary enough for young audiences to appreciate. The better, photorealistic animation is evident here. And despite being set in the 60’s (I know!), the villain, Screenslaver is actually relatable to audiences today, like a jab at how we’ve all become “slaves” to the screens we carry all around. It’s ironic if you think about how we’re watching the movie through a large screen, but that adds more to its brilliance. “Incredibles 2” is brimming with social commentary– the use of publicity stunts to manipulate audience perception echo today’s proliferation of fake news. On a lighter note, it also shows that being a family is not defined by what society established as proper or normal—whatever gender roles, quirks, or superpowers yours has.
So, was “Incredibles 2” worth the wait? Fourteen years for a sequel may not be the longest by Hollywood standards, but I say that brewing “Incredibles 2” for more than a decade is rewarding. It’s not just good—cue the trumpets!–it’s super.
2018 / Action, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Science Fiction / US
Direction: Brad Bird
Screenplay: Brad Bird
Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener, Eli Fucile, Bob Odenkirk, Brad Bird, Samuel L. Jackson
Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) is left to care for Jack-Jack while Helen (Elastigirl) is out saving the world.