As promised, here is AniB Productions’ review of Incredibles 2! In a first, there’s going to be a spoiler-free section…and some spoiler thoughts as well, along with the usual grading format.
Film: Incredibles 2
Studio/year released: Pixar, 2018
The 13 and a half year wait is finally over. Yes, today (at the time of this writing) was the day Incredibles 2 finally turned from fiction into reality and audiences jumped back into the world of heroes right where they left off back in 2004, with John Ratzenberger’s Underminer announcing his “war on peace and happiness!” In a twist though, the movie is opened up with government agent Rick Dicker in the same questioning room from Jack-Jack Attack with Tony Ryndinger, Violet’s new boyfriend as he describes the beginning of the attack and the shock of finding out Violet was in fact, a superhero…and off we went.
Since this is the non-spoiler section, it won’t be entirely easy to dish out the juicer details of the film, but there are some things that can be confirmed without doing so, such as the return of the jazzy Incredibles motif courtesy of Michael Giancchino, or that Jack-Jack inevitably plays a bigger role in this film, hardly a surprise given his relatively minor casting in the original film. However, the more pressing question that anyone’s dying to ask is “was it worth the wait?” To that, the answer is a pretty clear “yes,” with a lively action plot, more than a little influence from classic Bond adventures, fluid fight sequences with all the beauty you’d expect a Pixar film to have, and a rousing climax. It is in a word, “super”- and worth the investment into a theater trip when the rest of the cinema is (or was, if you read this weeks or years after the fact) lacking at the time of its release any sort of rousing alternative….until Jurassic World’s sequel hits theaters next weekend, but that’s another story entirely.
(Skip ahead to grading if you don’t want spoilers.)
Okay, so now it’s time to discuss the little nuances and details of a long-awaited film that exceeded expectations.
First off, picking up where they left off was probably a good decision now that I’ve seen the film, though I would have liked to see more of the Underminer after the frenetic opening sequence. He’s still digging his tunnels underneath Municiberg for all we know (and he’s one ugly mole for sure.) This part of the movie was as action packed as you’d expect (and hope), and a useful framing for introducing the wealthy businessman who’d push to revive the supers via a comprehensive plan- which he wanted Elastigirl to spearhead, much to the chagrin of Mr. Incredible.
I’m sure you all want to hear about Dash, Violet and Jack-Jack, the Parr children. I’m happy to report that the expanded roles they get in this film are in equal parts charming, funny, and serious. Violet receives an interesting subplot after Tony’s mind is wiped by Dicker at the beginning of the film, and true to her development from the prior film, she’s a lot more outgoing from the get-go, and isn’t afraid to voice her displeasure when things go south. She also has much better command over her powers, and definitely gets to do some cool things with her force fields in particular. Dash is the only one of the original VA cast that was replaced between the first two films (Huck Milner stepped in for Spencer Fox, who simply got much older in that time frame), but you’d never be able to tell the difference as on screen, he’s still the same confident, slightly cocky kid you’d come to expect. In this film, he gets a running gag of pressing the wrong buttons on control panels of very high-tech things…which actually pans out with the unexpected and fun return of the Incredimobile after the discovery that Bob still had the remote to the car.
The single biggest change in this film though, had to be the emergence of Jack-Jack as a major factor in the film. As you might expect, the youngest Parr’s role often was fairly comedic, but the humor visually worked, particularly the fight with the raccoon as a good example. Jack-Jack also wound up being a major source of Bob’s headaches in parenting while Helen was away- but also a source of joy as he was the first to discover the baby had powers (as no one actually realized in the first film that Syndrome’s defeat was directly caused by Jack-Jack’s manifestation of abilities, or anything about the events of Jack-Jack Attack. In another clever nod, when Edna Mode is later tasked with babysitting him from a weary, sleepless Bob, she finds that Mozart stimulates his powers, indeed confirming that the Mozart that the babysitter Kari talked about over the phone to Helen in The Incredibles was in fact the initial trigger for Jack-Jack, and a sneaky reference for those who knew the film assiduously.
The single biggest aspect that set apart The Incredibles from its sequel was the villain. I detailed a bit in The Incredibles review about why Syndrome was exactly an amazing villain that lifted the whole movie, and I’m not sure I can say entirely the same about Screenslaver. In context, she was a pretty neat villain idea- a hypnotist puppetmaster who was also a communications genius that decided to hijack monitors and use special goggles as mind-control devices, and one embittered by personal tragedy and blame- but there was never quite the same emotional heft to her character that Syndrome built in relation to Mr. Incredible-the spurned fanboy turned supervillain with an island base of his own creation to boot. I also will add I had zero problems with the woman being the villain here, or in any movie that actually does it, and I was also happy with Elastigirl’s expanded role in this film doing “hero work” as we actually got only some tantalizing glimpses of her in action during the original film (and not much at all solo.) Likewise, in building on the first film’s “your family is your greatest adventure” lesson for Mr. Incredible, he takes much more of a front and center role in learning to be a better dad, although this fails miserably for a while as he winds up getting a total lack of sleep as well…
Overall, this was a very good film, in fact, even excellent. Is it as good as the first? Not quite, but it’s close, and after years of waiting, it proved to be a worthy followup. It’s a funnier film than the original, but in return sacrificed some of its heavier emotional weight, but the end product remained the same in the most basic sense: a seriously entertaining film.
Animation Quality: The latest offering from Pixar is always eye candy, and Incredibles 2 was no exception. The action sequences in particular stood out as fluid and lively, and the colors popped off the screen with a vividness that was wonderful. 5/5 points.
You probably already know and love the Incredibles family, but the major difference this time around is that Helen takes center stage, while Bob plays more of the deuteragonist role this time, but in a way that both supports their characters well instead of awkwardly.
Mrs. Incredible, real name Helen Parr, is Bob’s wife and the former pro hero Elastagirl, noted for her incredible stretching powers and elastic limbs that allowed her to contort her body into almost any shape and develop a unique melee style of combat. In retirement though, she’s a devoted mother and wife who wants the best for Bob and for her kids, who can be a handful between teenage Violet, Dash, and the youngest Parr, baby Jack-Jack. She secretly misses being a hero, but she’s equally as willing to live in the role of a stay at home mother as she is Elastigirl. In her words, “she’s flexible.” That mantra is put to the test when a wealthy telecommunications tycoon pegs her ahead of her husband and Frozone to lead a comeback of the supers- meaning that while she gets to revive the Elastagirl mantle, she’s forced to leave the kids with Bob, who between his glory days dreams and usual status as breadwinner until recently, wasn’t cast into that role.
Mr. Incredible, real name Bob Parr, is a man who still pines for the glory days of his youthful prime as a hero before the government decided to push the idea of a hero society underground. Reinvigorated by the defeat of Syndrome, things go awry when the attempt to stop the Underminer turns sour and Rick Dicker shuts down the experimental program to bring supers back, deflating him until a new offer comes in…and Elastigirl takes center stage. And so, instead of being “the man” this time around, Bob’s challenge is to be a good dad while also dealing with the general jealousy of not being “Mr. Incredible” all the time. Bob, despite his shortcomings, is a good family man, husband and father, and his best interests at heart intersect in his mind with what’s good for his family. When he actually takes to the fight though, he’s blessed with the power of super strength and enhanced agility/reflexes, his power on the battlefield is no joke.
This go-around, Violet and Jack-Jack play a much larger role, while Dash plays more of an important supporting role. There’s a subplot with Violet in her role that unfolds as a clever mix of the age-old angsty teen and the issues of being a super that conflicts with having a normal social life. These issues Violet works through in the film, along with showing off some pretty impressive uses of her force field abilities this time around, along with invisibility.
Jack-Jack’s role I talked about at length in the spoiler section, but for the non-spoiler people, he does in fact get a much larger role in this film. You won’t have to wait until end of the movie this time to get some significant action for the baby of the family.
Dash mostly plays a supporting role, but still has some genuinely funny moments and things he’d only do that sometimes work…and sometimes don’t work at all. The change in voice actors also went off seamlessly. Sadly, he doesn’t get quite as cool a sequence as “100-Mile Dash” from the first film, but he’s still a fun character.
Frozone and Edna reprise their roles as well. I’m happy to report Frozone gets a larger role in this film, particularly when it comes to actively battling, and Edna still gets her moments, so don’t worry about it.
I’m not going to mention much about the new characters here for spoiler reasons, but they definitely give a much different feel to this film than the first. They also work well within the context of the story. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know who I’m referring to. 4.5/5 points.
The plot from the first film about super being illegal rears its ugly head again as the main issue at the center of the film, and it’s within that context that a comeback attempt for heroes is spearheaded by a certain new character and his influence. In the mix of that is another family tale that unfolds. There’s a clever inspiration from Bond films that you can feel in this movie, along with the obvious silver-age superhero influence, and a touch of modernity that creates a clash of the cutting edge against the old-school, and like the first movie, technology plays a big role, though it’s not via giant hero-killing robots this time. 4.5/5 points.
Themes: The family aspect of the Incredibles remains intact, along with the fine balance of superhero work that created issues for Mr. Incredible in the first film and now Elastagirl. It’s still really well done, though perhaps not with the same level of depth as the first film, and while the main villain is good, that individual might lack some of the extra personal depth of a “Syndrome” though the conviction is certainly there. 4/5 points.
Don’t Insult the Viewer: Michael Giancchino’s score once again is wonderful, reprising the jazzy themes that helped carry the original film, albeit with new flairs and leimotifs. This film is a fun ride throughout, and is briskly paced, balancing storytelling with action in a way that makes for an entertaining end product. 5/5 points.
Overall: 23/25 (92%): It was always going to be a daunting task to live up to the original Incredibles film, which is no doubt a modern animated classic at this point. However, this film managed enormous expectations with flying colors, and viewed purely on its own merits, it’s an excellent adventure that preserves the family-flavored brand of superhero-ing that The Incredibles is known for, creating another worthy adventure for all ages to enjoy.