2018, PG-13, 118 mins.
Craig T. Nelson as Bob Parr / Mr. Incredible (voice) / Holly Hunter as Helen Parr / Elastigirl (voice) / Huck Milner as Dashiell Robert Parr / Dash (voice) / Sarah Vowell as Violet Parr (voice) / Bob Odenkirk as Winston Deavor (voice) / Catherine Keener as Evelyn Deavor (voice) / Samuel L. Jackson as Lucius Best / Frozone (voice) / Brad Bird as Edna Mode (voice) / John Ratzenberger as The Underminer (voice) / Jonathan Banks as Rick Dicker (voice) / Isabella Rossellini as Ambassador (voice) / Sophia Bush as Voyd (voice)
Written and directed by Brad Bird
the super hero movie genre was not at its peak when Brad Bird's THE
INCREDIBLES was released back in 2004.
This was years before the first IRON MAN
was released and before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was even a pop
culture entity. Hell, THE
INCREDIBLES even predated Christopher Nolan's groundbreaking DARK
KNIGHT Trilogy, which fundamentally altered the makeup and
landscape of the genre in incalculable and influential ways.
Yes, there were super hero films before THE INCREDIBLES, but the
massive popularity of the genre was still in its relative infancy during
the early 2000s, awaiting for it to truly burst and achieve audience and
critical respect in the subsequent years.
only serves as a means for me to emphasize how stupendous Bird's second
foray into feature film animation was, especially after he made a real
seismic splash for himself with 1999's THE
IRON GIANT. THE
INCREDIBLES was not only a bravura animated film for Pixar (and still
remains one of my personal favorites from the studio), but it emerged as a
stunning and shrewdly crafted super hero film that paid respect to comic
book mythology of old while satirizing it all the same.
Using a blockbuster sense of scale that would later typify future
super hero team up extravaganzas like THE
AVENGERS and JUSTICE LEAGUE,
but also done with an incredible amount of dry wit and heart, THE
INCREDIBLES was a thoroughly thrilling and magnificently executed package,
one that seem ripe for endless sequel opportunities.
fans, Bird would take 14 years - during which time he dabbled in live
action fare like MISSION:
IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL and TOMORROWLAND
- to see a follow-up entry to successful fruition.
thankfully, the blandly titled INCREDIBLES 2 joyously bursts with just as
much unbridled imagination and style as its predecessor.
The fact that, aesthetically speaking, its animation is a quantum
leap jump in terms of overall quality is hardly surprising, seeing as
Pixar and other studios have been able to fine tune and perfect computer
animation to new heights unheard of in 2004.
Bird's sequel might be the most sumptuously gorgeous animated film
released to date, but the key to THE INCREDIBLES success was not just in
the area of opulent eye candy; it contained intelligent scripting that
played up to super hero conventions while subverting them in chronicling
the lives of a costume clad family. INCREDIBLES
2, much like Bird's previous animated films, matches its visual panache
with progressive minded storytelling that respects his characters and the
audiences that consume their stories.
The fact that this new installment fails to have the first one's
freshness of approach and artistic ingenuity is only inevitable, not to
mention that - on paper - it never really traverses down daring new ground
for this series or the genre as a whole.
Yet, INCREDIBLES 2 makes up for such creative oversights in
wholeheartedly delivering on propulsive super powered infused action,
vibrant animation, an endlessly energetic spirit, and, most importantly,
characters that we latch on to and care about.
comic book themed sequels, INCREDIBLES 2 doesn't involve any significant
time jumping or flash forwarding in its plotting.
Instead, the story takes places immediately after the conclusion of
the 2004 film, and during its opening we see the super hero family - Mr.
Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Elastigirl (Holly Hunter, and their children
Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner), with an assist from family
friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) - work to save their city from the
menace known as The Underminer. Even
though they are successful in eradicating this evildoer, the event leads
to some sizeable collateral damage that raised some governmental eyebrows
for breaking the country's ban on all "supers."
As a result, the family is forced back into hiding as a typical
middle class suburban unit. Even
though they were initially offered protection by government agent Dicker
(Jonathan Banks), he feels that he can no longer assist them with keeping
their identities a well guarded secret.
Fate, as it
always does, steps in with Winston (Bob Odenkirk), a powerfully affluent
super hero fanboy that wants to publicly and financially sponsor the
family and return them to the proud stature of respected crime fighting
celebrities. Assisted by his
tech genius sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener), Winston wants to take a
cautious and patient approach with the clan and wishes to use Elastigirl
(the more responsible minded of the parents) to be the new face and
spokesperson of his movement. With
Elastigirl now being given renewed super hero duties, Mr. Incredible is
forced to assume to role of stay at home dad, tending after his children's
needs, including dealing with his baby Jack-Jack's newly acquired powers.
Things get complicated for everyone when a new shadowy super
villain known as Screenslaver emerges and uses hypnosis through strobing
TV screens to control anyone he wants.
The deeper Elastigirl begins to dig as to the whereabouts and
identity of Screensaver the more dark and twisted secrets she uncovers
that could threaten her family and city as a whole.
Again, one of the
simple pleasures of INCREDIBLES 2 is in its overall sequel approach,
showing Bird atypically deciding to open his new film up precisely where
the last one ended. This
serves to maintain visual cohesion with what we saw 14 years ago (nobody
has aged and everyone looks the same), but it also helps ground the film's
new themes of domestic crisis and parental role reversal.
I especially liked how Bird gives his female protagonist in
Elastigirl her time to shine, seeing as she is given the full spotlight to
emerge apart from her husband's rather large shadow and become a
self-actualized and respected hero all on her own. For the opening half of INCREDIBLES 2, Bird plays with two
facets of the family dynamic: Elastigirl becoming the sole bread winner
(in terms of fighting bad guys) whereas Mr. Incredible faces an even
larger uphill battle of waging war on the never-ending tedium of staying
home to raise his kids. There's
certainly something to be said that this overall plot arc is hardly
revelatory (that of a dad struggling to find meaning in being a homemaker
while the mother partakes in the more exciting and fulfilling life of
leaving home and exploring work...been there, done that), but Bird makes
his characters so inviting and winning that you're willing to disregard
such narrative contrivances.
arc also helps serve up the film's most stunningly dynamic action
sequences, which involves her racing through the city on her motorcycle -
and making some rather ingenious usage of her unique stretching
capabilities - as she's trying to stop a runaway elevated train from
destroying property and killing citizens.
The greatness of INCREDIBLES 2 lies in Bird's unparalleled
confidence in pushing the very boundaries of what's visually possible in
not only animated films, but super hero blockbusters altogether.
This tour de force sequence - one among many others - highlights
Bird's committed willingness to wow and astound, which gives the film such
a propulsive, never look back vitality.
Obviously, the animation on display maintains the first films
charmingly vintage facade (the world here looks aesthetically trapped in
the idealism of the 50s while maintaining a contemporary edge), but
nevertheless represents an astonishing uptake in detail and nuance.
And unlike so many super hero films these days that are drowned in
dark nihilism, its still a breath of fresh air to see INCREDIBLES 2 makes
its heroes feel colorful and optimistic.
Of the things
that hurt this sequel, running time would be the most glaring one.
Despite the fact that INCREDIBLES 1 was not a short film either,
this sequel doesn't maintain the same level of story fluidity and
momentum, which sometimes makes it feel longer than it actually is.
One of the other problems is that INCREDIBLES 2 takes a bit too
long to actually get to the meat and potatoes of its main story and build
to payoffs, something that will make very young children in attendance
uncomfortably squirm. Perhaps
my largest qualm with this entry is that its chief villain - especially
compared to the deeply personal motives of the one in the first
INCREDIBLES - is pretty weak and unmemorable.
Screenslaver possesses potentially intriguing powers of mass mental
manipulation, but when this antagonist's true motives are revealed in a
would be shocking plot twist it never really packs any sizeable dramatic
punch. Super hero films are
usually only as great as their villains, and INCREDIBLES 2 frankly has a
And maybe INCREDIBLES 2 bares too much of a resemblance in overall scripting to the first one, which unfortunately makes it all unwind with a bit too much predictability. That's not to say that INCREDIBLES 2 isn't spectacular fun in its own right; as a piece of family entertainment and a solidly action packed super hero epic, it most definitely deserves big screen viewing. It might not be as cunningly satirical as what came before and never seems too compelled to take calculated risks with the characters and propel them in daring new directions, but INCREDIBLES 2 remains safe sequel comfort food that goes down exceedingly well. Living up to the 2004 franchise starter would be a Herculean task, to be sure, but witnessing Bird playfully return to this blissful cinematic toy box was mostly worth the long wait.