Review: Incredibles 2 (2018)
Title: Incredibles 2 (2018)
Genre: Animated/Superhero/Sci Fi/Action/Comedy
Director: Brad Bird
Stars (primary actors): Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Vowell, Huck Millner, Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Wise, Bob Odenkirk, and Catherine Keener
Bias: I don’t know if it’d be considered a bias, but despite being a massive superhero nerd, I’ve somehow only seen the first Incredibles film twice.
In A Nutshell: Picking up from the cliffhanger ending of The Incredibles, the team faces off in a public showdown with the Underminer. After massive property damage ensues, and the team fails to capture the bad guy, the promise of a return to the spotlight for superheroes seems to vanish, leaving the Parr family returning to their humdrum secret identities. All hope seems lost until Winston (Odenkirk) and Evelyn Deavor (Keener), the money and brains behind Devtech, a global telecommunications company, want to sponsor their return – starting, much to the chagrin of patriarch Bob Parr (Nelson), with Elastigirl (Hunter). The stretchy superheroine soon finds herself facing off against Screenslaver (Wise), who uses video screens to hypnotize his victims, causing them to wreak havoc.
The Critique: It’s been fourteen years since The Incredibles and leaving aside the inherent difficulty of following-up such a successful film after all of that time, there is also the question of how well the sequel would fare against a landscape full of big-budget superhero blockbusters. The answer, much to my surprise, is astonishingly well. Right from the opening action sequence, which is essentially a chase across the city, Bird and the animators at Pixar show that the animated medium allows for an energy and fluidity to the action that even the best of the live-action superhero films can’t replicate. There’s something about the attempt to blend the realness of live-action that limits how far you can push things before a certain uncanny valley response kicks in for the viewer. The action in Incredibles 2 evokes a Kirby-esque heightening and exaggeration that is legitimately breathtaking.
The plot, though fairly straightforward and without too much in the way of surprises, functions as an engine that drives the film while allowing for the aforementioned action, as well as the family conflict and comedy. In much the same way that the first film centered on Bob’s Mr. Incredible off on a mission of his own for the bulk of the film, the sequel shifts the focus to Helen, leaving the hyper-masculine 50s-style patriarch, Bob the challenge of acting as homemaker to a lovelorn Violet (Vowell), the impulsive and impatient Dash (Millner), and adorable mass of chaos that is baby Jack-Jack. There’s nothing especially groundbreaking about any of this (I mean, minus the superpowers it’s the set-up for the 1983 film Mr. Mom) but it allows for some hilarious comic set-pieces. It also reinforces the family dynamic that sets the series apart from other superhero films (and this aside will be the extent of the obligatory “The Incredibles are the Fantastic Four” reference – they’re not, but they kinda are).
Shout-out: There’s no way I could point to anything other than what I can only hope is the introduction of Jack-Jack’s first archnemesis – backyard raccoon. The entire sequence, from beginning to end, was hilarious.
Comic Book Recommendation: Okay, this is technically another Fantastic Four reference. If you loved the first film (or the second) I'd highly recommend taking a look at the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby FF comics that inspired them. Their run spans the first 103 issues of the regular series (along with a handful of Annuals) and includes the introduction of The Mole Man, Black Panther, the Inhumans, the Silver Surfer, Galactus, and their archenemy, Doctor Doom! You can get the first 18 issues in the Fantastic Four Epic Collection Vol. 1.
To Go, to Rent, or to Netflix: It’s worth noting that the film begins with a warning for viewers who may be prone to seizures, do to sequences with intense strobe lighting. If you are able, however, see this on the big screen as soon as you possibly can!