Incredible? Yes! Well, Mostly— Incredibles 2 Movie Review
After a 14 year wait, Disney-Pixar’s supercharged sequel to the rightfully incredible original releases — does it stand up to its predecessor?
It’s been 14 years, but in the world of the Incredibles, it’s only been a few minutes.
That’s how the long awaited sequel to the critically acclaimed 2004 film begins — right where we left off. It’s a refreshing change of pace for sequels, especially amongst the Disney-Pixar repertoire, as they are notorious for timeskips featuring a rehashing of the original plot, but this time, with the lead’s children. Writer-director Brad Bird keeps things familiar, which is a perfect way to bring the audience back into the franchise — new and old — without alienating those who were diehard fans of the original. (Though, not having a timeskip deters some potential maturation of the characters that we miss deeply.)
The film’s script decides to opt for a more girl-power centered film — i.e., the true main character of the sequel is Helen Parr, a.k.a. Elastigirl, kicking a lot of ass all over town. The main subplot concerns Violet as well, and Dash and Bob (or Mr. Incredible) take a backseat to letting the women run the show (though Jack-Jack often steals any scene he’s in thanks to him not being in control of any of his vast set of powers). It’s quite an interesting shift, but one that does make sense, and reflects the world today, as traditional gender roles are being broken down further by the second. Holly Hunter, voice of Helen herself, even said,
“With everything that’s going on with Me Too and Time’s Up it’s fun to see a woman in all of her glory…. To be someone who is living up to her potential. Living up to her own personal gift that she possesses as a woman.”
As far as the film’s plot goes, barring spoilers, it fills out its seemingly long 118 minute runtime well. There is never a dull moment, and that is the truth — it’s a rambunctious, action-packed, bombastic romp to watch and experience, even in the simpler domestic scenes. The animation is phenomenally done, furthering the intriguing balance between realism and stylistic choices (although a 2004 animation style from the original can hardly be compared to 2018's). There’s always something on screen to keep you interested. The characters on screen feel real, even if what they’re doing isn’t, and that’s due to Bird’s smart writing and Pixar’s impossibly realistic animation. I distinctly remember watching some background characters in certain scenes and noting how genuine their body language felt. It’s quite a feat to achieve when you’re swarming in a world full of superheroes and you make them feel accessible and relatable.
Though every second is packed with something, not everything works. While it’s obvious this movie was created with care, the plot falls a bit short. To get it going, it takes a good thirty minutes. That’s not the end of the world in terms of sketching out a movie’s arc, but it does take a bit to get the ball rolling, and can certainly get frustrating. I think the reasoning behind this sort of expository approach — spending time with the Parr family before the true plot-action happens — was to appeal to newer audiences or those who hadn’t seen the original. In that sense, a timeskip wouldn’t make much sense, as you would have to see the original to know what’s going on in the sequel. Bird specifically said he didn’t want to go into crafting the children as adults and creating many new characters. While I think both arguments for each plot are valid, I can appreciate the continuation a bit more. It’s easier to see how the previous films’ events affected the characters in a more general sense, even if you hadn’t seen it. Perhaps if there’s an Incredibles 3, I’d much rather prefer a timeskip — though I sincerely hope that won’t take another 14 years to make.
As mentioned before, Dash and Bob take a significant backseat to everyone else, even Jack-Jack, who is discovered to be the appropriately named “Jack of all Trades” superhero. And while the girl-power themes are nice, they don’t get a chance to show off their powers. Dash’s main schtick is being able to run really fast. It was like that in the original film, but he was able to utilize his powers in a way that made him important. Here, the plot doesn’t allow him to show off as he does best, nor does it for Mr. Incredible. In fact, Mr. Incredible barely does anything but be a househusband. Sure, you can say he got to shine last film, and that’s certainly true, but the art of the film was fighting together as a family, not just mom-daughter overhaul. It would’ve been nice for the two of them to have gotten more exercise in showing their stuff.
The other unfortunate issue with the film is the villain character. The motivations and actions for the Parr family make sense, and are smart and well done. The villain’s doesn’t. The plot doesn’t do them justice, unfortunately, and rushes the reveal and final act. In all, the plot is impossibly predictable. “Well, what superhero film isn’t?” That may be true, but the point is to spin the typical tale and make it something different. This film goes about halfway there. It’s still satisfying to see the good guys beat the bad, but the zig-zagged path to getting there — which definitely ate up a lot of screentime — wasn’t.
That being said, it’s still charming and exciting to watch. As a massive fan of the original, I couldn’t wait to see this one, and it didn’t disappoint as many sequels had. There are visible problems, mainly in the writing of the general plot (as dialogue is spot-on funny) and overall predictability, but it’s nonetheless a wonderfully made film and visually stunning. And cheers to it for breaking many records as far as gross goes. It might be on Parr (pun intended) to dethrone Frozen!
Finally, a special mention has to be made to Michael Giacchino’s fantastic score. It’s such an ingeniously written and iconic score, and I couldn’t imagine the franchise without it.