Image Credit: Flickr – Brickset (CC BY 2.0)
After fourteen years, and an intervening thirteen films, including two Toy Story, two Cars, one Finding Nemo and one Monsters Inc. sequel[s], comes perhaps the mostly highly anticipated movie of the year (move over Infinity War!). After this much time, is a sequel to The Incredibles still what we want to see? Pixar Sequels have been hit and miss in the past, with every great installment (e.g Toy Story 2) accompanied by a poor one (e.g Cars 2). Furthermore, in an age when superhero films are everywhere, and crossing into so many genres, is the concept of The Incredibles still entertaining? I went to the cinema with many hopes and reservations, waiting to see what it would really be like.
Before the film, as per usual, there is the traditional Pixar short. This time, it’s Bao, the tale of a Chinese mother living in Canada whose Bao dumpling comes to life. As a story, it’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, somewhat reminiscent of the opening scenes of Up, as the dumpling grows up through adolescence and into adulthood. It also sends a powerful message on loneliness and family that affects you regardless of background, as I found watching it with a group of friends from all over the world, and all this without the need for any conversation. Pixar have refined tugging at the heartstrings into an art, and this is yet another masterpiece.
Then the film proper begins. As you may know, the film sees Helen Parr/Elastigirl go back to work as a superhero, while Bob/Mr. Incredible spends time at home looking after the kids. Meanwhile, Screenslaver begins their campaign of terror, as Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack try to deal with the changes in their lives. The first thing that struck me, even after seeing the trailers, is that it picks up straight off after the end of the first film, with no attempt to age the characters at all to reflect the gap. In some ways, this is perhaps reflective of the medium from which it is inspired, utilizing the sliding scale of time found in comics as a way of ensuring that the characters never age to any meaningful degree. As for the voice actors, time has moved on, though you wouldn’t really notice it. The only change that stood out to me was that of Dash’s voice, which makes sense given the replacement of Spencer Fox with Huck Milner after the former’s voice changed during puberty. The animation has certainly improved as well, with one of the most difficult developments this time being Elastigirl’s bike, the Elasticycle. Given its high speed, it required alteration of other components in the scene in order to make it look realistic. This is a strong contrast to the first film, where the most difficult development was Violet’s hair, something that computers can now process in incredible amounts of detail.
Another thing that struck me, surprising for a sequel to a film which is now over a decade old, is how topical it is. Perhaps the most obvious is the role-swap from the original, with Helen doing the superheroics while Bob does the housework. #MeToo has made its mark everywhere, including at Pixar, where John Lasseter, director of Toy Story and one of its first employees, left the company after sexual misconduct allegations against him came to light. Indeed, one of the key themes of the film is about liberation of all kinds. This isn’t exactly unusual for superheroes, with the X-Men used as a metaphor for civil rights campaigners in America since their inception. Some of the lines in the film, especially one by new hero Voyd, allude to the struggle for LGBT recognition, while the Parr family as a whole transitions from the traditional nuclear family of the first film to a recognisibly modern one. This topicality extends to the villainous Screenslaver as well. Like most good villains, Screenslaver is a character who has a valid point, questioning our dependence on technology, and its impacts on society as a whole, which proves especially poignant after the various data scandals of late.
For a film that does so much to be different from its predecessor, it is somewhat strange that my only complaint would be that in some places it is too similar. The role reversal between Helen and Bob does mean that some points feel like the film is treading the same ground as its predecessor, while fan favorites like Edna and Frozone are somewhat sidelined (though still scene-stealing). However, this does enable Jack-Jack, now manifesting his powers, to be developed as a character. Through slapstick, and more importantly silent, comedy, he matures into a central figure in the film, unlike the first where he occasionally popped up on the sidelines alongside his babysitter, Kari.
On the whole, I would highly recommend a trip to see the Incredibles 2. Even with such high expectations, it still stands among the Pixar greats, perhaps even equivalent with its predecessor. I think the best way of summing it up is to use a line from its predecessor- “That was totally wicked!”