After fourteen years of waiting, it’s finally here. Incredibles 2 flew into theatres a few days ago, and I think it’s fair to say that fans are more than a little excited.
So, we’ll start with the basics. If you missed the first one, we have the Parr family, all with superpowers. Superheroes were a thing, but they have since been made illegal. The family struggles with concealing their powers, and Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) gets into trouble chasing that superhero thrill. His family then comes to save him.
This movie picks up exactly where the last one let off, where the family has returned to what appears to be a normal life–until the Underminer shows up and the family prepares to fight. Then it goes as you’d expect: in stopping him, there’s a massive damage, and the Parrs are put on probation. Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), who was also at the scene, is approached by Winston Deaver (Bob Odenkirk), a businessman who wants to legalize superheroes again. Eventually Deaver gets ahold of the two parental Parrs and shares his plan. At first Helen Parr (Holly Hunter) is unsure of the plan, but she gets picked to be the face of the campaign, and she and Bob switch domestic and hero-y duties.
From the start, I was into the movie. It gets you right into the action, which is great for getting a viewer invested, and it also reminds you of the world that the characters inhabit–one the first people you see is actually Tony, the non-super kid Violet had a crush on in the first film.
Incredibles 2 had a ton of strong points. One thing it did really well was balance everything–we saw Elastigirl improving heroes in the public eye by saving the day, we saw Bob at home trying to handle being a stay-at-home dad, which overlapped with Jack-Jack coming into his powers and Violet handling some very everyday high school troubles that were exacerbated by the fact that Tony had his memory wiped. I never had a moment of restlessness because we were spending too long a time with a particular group.
It also didn’t hurt that all the stories were enjoyable and worked well apart and when they finally intertwine. On all ends there’s not much for me to say other than they’re all engaging, and even if you predict some aspects of a plot, I’d doubt you would get every single detail down pat. The Elastigirl plot is pretty clever; the main villain is almost the exact inverse of Syndrome, a cool spin on things. The foreshadowing is great too–keep an eye out for that The Outer Limits TV spot! You can tell a lot of careful plotting went into this film as a whole.
The family dynamics in Incredibles 2 were handled perfectly as well. Like before, this is a convincing picture of a family, just one that also has super powers. All of their interactions are on, and I think that’s part of why the “at-home” subplots work so well. A dad taking up the reins at home is usually portrayed as impossibly inept, like, say, Homer Simpson. And although Bob messes up, it’s realistic, and you know he’s trying to do his best despite the challenges because he loves his wife, he wants her to succeed, and he loves his kids and he wants them to succeed too. And the kids get on each other’s nerves and get annoyed with their father and have other problems, but they aren’t mean-spirited. They’re just kids. It’s humorous realism, and you can understand every single action and reaction. When they have to be super, it’s just putting a different lens on what’s already there.
One thing I loved seeing in Incredibles 2 was the presence of other superheroes in this world. The Parrs and Frozone aren’t the only supers that had to go, they’re just the only ones we know personally. They’re an interesting group, although you have to wonder how successful that identity protection program could have been with heroes that have the same build as The Thing or have owlish powers and also look like a human owl.
A personal favorite was Voyd, a “new hero.” A lot of this movie felt pertinent. You know, things like switched gender roles with Bob and the complexities and tension that come with that, a nice jab at politics (what is really going on versus the public perception: citizens see the destruction without seeing how much effort was put into preventing it, etc.). But Voyd caught my attention because of one quick line she has when meeting Elastigirl about how excited she is about not hiding her superpowers anymore.
One theory as to why superheroes are so popular–especially the X-Men–is that they’re relatable outcasts. They’ve got to hide an essential part of themselves, but there might be acceptance and inclusion in a small community, with the hope that that can exist within the larger community. I was really impressed to catch something that appears to be that same message–we’ve seen the Parrs hiding their powers and attempting to live normally before, but it just hadn’t clicked in that way before then. The kids still used their powers in the house, so did Bob, Helen, and Frozone. But it sounds like Voyd didn’t even have that. That suppression of self can happen wherever and whenever, but it feels like a very pertinent issue right now. It doesn’t have to mean something more if you’d rather it didn’t, and you can stretch the idea as far out as you want to because it can be read that way–but it meant something to me and I suspect it will be meaningful to others in the same kind of tradition à la X-Men.
The style in Incredibles 2 also felt more cohesive. Obviously the movie is still set in the sixties, like the first film. But the way the film has the period set pieces and the future technology just work better together. The futuristic technology feels more like it is a product of its time–the future as someone from the sixties would picture it and create it. Even the really out of bounds stuff like Elastigirl’s new bike kind of has that sleek, HAL 9000 aesthetic. The updated technology didn’t hurt the characters, either. It’s still the family we know and love, but they just look a bit shinier and newer, and even though they are very stylized, they look that much more living and real.
Since we’re talking about those video aesthetics, we should address what you’ve probably heard about by now: the warnings for people with photosensitive epilepsy, etc. The effect is really strong. The villain hacks screens to hypnotize people and at one point gets Elastigirl in a small room with brilliantly flashing patterns. It’s extremely effective–so if that is something you have to be conscious of, I have to recommend you skip this one for your own health and safety.
Overall, I thought Incredibles 2 really knocked it out of the park. Brad Bird has said that he waited on making this film until he had a good story, and you can tell. The wait was worth it; it doesn’t lack in anything except for maybe a situational loss where superhero movies are a bit of an over-saturation in the market right now. But this movie stands out from other superhero movies out right now. It also has a more mature, adult feel than the last film (and without forced edginess or grittiness) which is great for the movie’s adult fans and parents taking kids, but it’s still accessible and fun for kids too. If you were on the fence about this, just go. It really is incredible.