Movie Review: “Incredibles 2”

Well, spoiler alerts are due.

Last night I went and saw Incredibles 2 with my girlfriend. They began with a little disclaimer from the director and the voices of key characters. Acknowledging the 14 years that had passed since The Incredibles was first released, they assured us it was worth the wait.

To begin, I had to double check the correct names of the movies. The original was indeed titled The Incredibles, while the second movie dropped the “The”. This is interesting in its own right.

Next, it had been 14 years so I was wondering how duration compared. The Incredibles came out when this whole 3D animation was still relatively new, but they got a full 1 hour, 55 minutes. Incredibles 2 barely surpassed it at 2 hours, 5 minutes. Yet somehow, it felt like a lot more happened. More characters were introduced, and it was clear they had the original audience of children in mind — who are now in their 20s — while still making it fun for kids.

They did not pull the classic Disney move of subliminal messaging, nor did they participate in the crudeness of Dreamworks stuff (which I really despise, especially the Minions.) It was classic Pixar, coming back to its roots, and having a lot of fun with the audience. Let’s go through some things.

Heroes

Of course we have the Parr family, which make up the Incredibles. Frozone makes a more significant appearance, and Jack-Jack becomes a legitimately funny, and useful, character in his own right. In addition to this lineup we were introduced to in the original movie (there was even a throwback scene involving Gazerbeam), some side heroes were used as a part of the plot. The only three I remember by name are Void, Screech, and Reflux. We’ll get back to these in a bit.

What I was most excited about was how this movie largely focused on Helen, or Elastigirl, getting back into the hero game alone. Her character became more fully developed beyond her role as a mother. She came into her own more, and we got to see a side of her that was thrilled by hero work, a trait we mostly only see in Mr. Incredible during both movies. She was cunning and clever, in addition to being very physically capable. As far as being the face of reintroducing heroes, she was an excellent choice.

Frozone also showed us how his seemingly-specific powers can be broadly applied. A loyal, cool guy who truly cared about what he did, it was always a pleasure to have him on screen. As far as total screen time, I’m sure it wasn’t all that much more than the original movie, yet he had far more impact. While there was no “Where is my supersuit?” level scene (a weak reference was made when he went to go protect the kids) he also became a character we could actually identify with.

As far as Jack-Jack and the kids go, you have to remember the major plot points are likely only a week or two after the events of the first movie. This is glossed over a bit, especially as Violet uses her force field at the beginning in a way we never saw (creating a Thor-hammer-like shockwave), but it was cool to see them take charge in their own sibling-rivalry fashion. Just watch the movie to actually see Jack-Jack. Words will provide nothing.

Finally we’ll get back to the additional heroes. It was a good idea to add them, both to show a world of superheroes beyond those killed off by Syndrome, and so Pixar could flex their creative chops on what powers they would have. One of the most engaging parts of the Incredibles is the mix of typical powers (super strength, speed, invisibility) with stuff not as much in the public eye (yeah flexibility is in the Fantastic Four, but who really cares?) In particular, you got the feeling these people were in a sort of X-Men type world. They knew they were different, but had no means to deal with it productively. Their powers were incredibly unique. They did not have hero complexes, because many of them (except Reflux) were probably too young to have experienced the glory days of the heroes. Overall, the heroes were fantastic and why we came to this movie.

Villains and Plot

Overall, I was not impressed with the Villains or how they were used in the movie. We’ll start with the Underminer. I think it was a good move to start Incredibles 2 right at the end of the the first movie. It got me engaged right away, because I knew what had just come, and how they struck a collective pose once the Underminer broke ground. However, I had two issues:

  1. The Underminer escaped, so he is still completely unresolved. Also, he’s a mole-type creature who stole from a bank. What’s he going to do?
  2.  Apparently everybody forgot how the Incredibles had just defeated Syndrome and the giant robot literally minutes prior. Hence the focus on the resulting destruction from fighting the Underminer. How could that possibly spin immediately into support in a matter of weeks?

Due to point (1), I’m quite afraid they are planning a third movie. I hope they don’t. I’m quite satisfied with these two. Due to point (2), I became a bit more cynical of the plot. As I noted in the hero section, I still love the characters (mostly), but was a bit miffed by the plot.

A key thing to keep in mind is that I am not a seven-year old watching this movie. I’m an adult who has seen a lot of movies now, and have watched the first movie countless times. The Incredibles was not very subtle about who the villain was. We were given the background to know why Syndrome was frustrated and vengeful, and specifically was aiming for Mr. Incredible. In the second movie, we were greeted with “The Screenslaver”, who had many broad things to say about how people use technology for passive activities, yet had no direct reason to be going against heroes on the surface. However, it was clear to me that the intention was for the identity to be some sort of surprise. The major issue was introducing two characters: A boisterous salesman, and his tech-savvy sister, who headed a major telecom company previously run by their deceased father, who was buddy-buddy with superheroes.

Now, how could a villain hi-jacking all the screens in a large city possibly be tied to the largest telecom company in said city?

Starting about 20 minutes into the movie, I was just sitting around waiting to figure out who of the brother-sister duo was the evil mastermind. I was not surprised when the reveal came. The only small thing was the true motivation. What the Screenslaver said had little to do with the true motivation.

This was the low point of the entire movie for me, because it was so predictable. As I said before, Pixar clearly targeted this movie at nostalgic people who had seen the original fourteen years ago. Yet this plot was so weakly developed that I started to second guess what they were going for. Everything after the reveal was great though, so I forgave them.

Gender Roles

I’ll keep this brief. Helen is all worried about her family, and Bob finds out how difficult it is to parent alone all day. Very funny. I felt like Pixar really tried to ram home Bob’s masculinity and Helen’s need to be a mother. In the first movie it worked a bit better. Here they rubbed it in our faces. There were a few scenes that really seemed like they were from a 60s sitcom that aged somewhat poorly. I would have liked to see something a bit more subtle and clever than what was given.

Overall

Another fantastic soundtrack, Jack-Jack with powers, new heroes introduced, old heroes developed. Honestly, I really did like this movie and highly recommend it. It was predictable, but at some point it had to be for kids and not for those who saw the original when it came out. They gave us enough with Edna being developed further and various fan-service scenes to hunt down. I think they could have done better with a less ambitious plot that narrowed itself like the first movie, but it was a wonderful follow-up. I was happy they made it, and that cannot be said for all Pixar sequels (Cars.)

Go see it, enjoy some nostalgia, have some laughs, and wait for the next new thing Pixar has for us.

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