Nico’s Movie Review: ‘Incredibles 2′ Swoops In And Pleases
It's been quite a while since we've seen America's favorite superfamily.
Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles came out in 2004, and while it was incredibly well recieved at the time I felt it was overshadowed for a time by Pixar's other franchises; it was sandwiched between the release of Finding Nemo and Cars, both of which were huge marketing wins for the animation giant. You'd think it would be easy to sell toys of superheroes, but you have to remember this was all before the Marvel-splosion spurred on by Iron Man.
So, it's taken 14 years for us to finally see the continuing adventures of Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Dash, Violet, Jack-Jack, Frozone, and all of their friends. A lot has changed, but a lot stays the same.
Incredibles 2 picks up literally the second after the first film left off; we see the family suit up to fight The Underminer, and their battle ends up causing a lot of collateral damage. As a result, they feel frustrated because they still haven't gained the legitimacy and respect they think they should have.
If you'll remember, this franchise is set in a world where superheros are illegal. The world has decided that those with extraordinary abilities do more harm than good, and as a result they are forbidden from engaging in vigilantism and are forced into hiding.
However, shortly after relocating again, The Incredibles receive a phone call that seems too good to be true: a mega-rich businessman and head of a telecommunications company wants to help make "supers" legal again. Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) have a relatively simple plan; a massive media push to change public perception of superheroes, in order to convince world leaders legalizing them is a smart move.
The main character conflict of Incredibles 2 comes from this plan. The Deavors decide that Elastigirl is the perfect fit to lead the push, since she's charming and doesn't destroy buildings with her antics like her husband. However, the universe of the film is set in a retro-futuristic world similar to the Atomic Age of the 1950's, so it's predictable that Mr. Incredible struggles with being a stay-at-home dad. As Elastigirl continues to be more and more successful in her fight against newcomer villain The Screenslaver, he grapples with feeling incompetent at doing "her job", when she's so good at fighting crime.
Here's where the "same but different" becomes apparent between Incredibles 2 and its fantastic predecessor. Like the first, this movie is a story about family disguised as a superhero film; they just focus on different parts of the familial experience. While The Incredibles touched on so many facets including parents giving their children independence and the struggles parents face growing old, Incredibles 2 focuses more narrowly on this main conflict caused by the role reversal of breadwinner and homemaker. Unfortunately as a result, the children receive much less characterization.
Many of the same things we loved about the first are still present; Incredibles 2 is incredibly funny and clever, and features lots of throwbacks to the first film that for the most part don't feel exploitative. There's lots of fun action, and we get to meet a cast of new supers as well with interesting powers. And yes, we get to spend some time with fan-favorite fashion designer Edna Mode (voiced by the film's writer/director Brad Bird again).
So, I really liked this movie. And I feel the need to point that out before I get into my criticisms, because sadly I have a few.
My biggest complaint is that Incredibles 2 doesn't stick to any difficult or thought-provoking idea with any conviction. I mentioned the main conflict being Mr. Incredible's struggle with being a dad, but in my opinion they don't go far enough with spelling it out. He feels emasculated, and humiliated, and the sexism of his time is clearly evident in his attitude, particularly when he first learns he's going to be sidelined in favor of his wife. But they could have gone farther, to send a bigger message.
The same applies with businessman Winston Deavor. When he first spells out his plan for legalizing superheroes, he talks about using media to shape perception. This could have been an incredibly interesting road to take the story down, particularly in our current climate of distrust for the newsmedia. They could have played hard on the "fake news" theme, but they didn't. It's brought up at points, but it's not really there to make a point.
Chiefly though, my complaint lies with the villain, The Screenslaver. The Screenslaver is a hacker who is able to hypnotize people by getting into their televisions and broadcasting certain patterns, and this does lead to some very interesting situations that I enjoyed quite a bit. However, their motivations are muddy and change throughout Incredibles 2. At one point about a third through the film, they give a monologue that lays out their disgust for our current screen-focused culture; again, a very topical issue for today's world. I loved the monologue, and the points about "outsourcing risk" to avoid living our own lives.
To my displeasure, they AGAIN don't focus on this theme, and kind of let it go by the wayside; I would love to explain exactly what I mean, but I can't really do it without spoiling the plot. You'l understand what I mean about their motivations, I think, when you see it yourself.
And I do think you should see Incredibles 2 for yourself, despite these criticisms. Yes, this is an animated movie rated PG, but as I said in my A Wrinkle In Time review, I have a deep love for films that transcend the title of "kids movie" and become something more. The first Incredibles film did that by a country mile, and I do feel like its sequel does the same. I enjoyed it immensely, and I do feel like for the most part it was worth the wait.
Incredibles 2 is a lot of fun, and is certainly a worthy sequel to the original. But it could have been better. See the trailer below.