Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Incredibles 2

Note: The following review contains spoilers for The Incredibles (2004).

Following the success of the Academy Award-winning The Incredibles (2004), Brad Bird maintained interest in creating a sequel, but wouldn’t begin writing the script until several years later, by which point several superhero films and TV series had become rather popular, especially the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, 14 years later, the film’s anticipated sequel, Incredibles 2, has released to critical acclaim. Considering the large gap between installments, the finished film feels very worth the wait.

Immediately following the events of The Incredibles, the Parr family – Bob (Craig T. Nelson), Helen (Holly Hunter), Dash (Huck Milner), Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) - fights The Underminer (John Ratzenberger), who uses a large drill to rob the Metroville Bank, with the aid of Lucius Best, aka Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson). Due to the failed attempt to stop The Underminer and the destruction caused by the fight, however, the Super Relocation program is shut down and the Parrs are forced back into hiding. Soon after, Bob, Helen, and Lucius are contacted by Winston Deaver (Bob Odenkirk), who wishes to make Supers legal once more by demonstrating how heroic and helpful they can be. He elects Helen to kick off this plan under her old identity of Elastigirl, which forces Bob to become a stay-at-home dad, a task made more complicated by Jack-Jack’s numerous and developing powers. Elastigirl’s mission is also made complicated by the arrival of Screenslaver (Bill Wise), a villain who can brainwash people through television broadcast signals.

At its core, the story and plot of Incredibles 2 follows a somewhat similar trajectory as the original film, but with Bob and Helen’s roles switched. However, this film is able to expand greatly on the events of the original while not undoing any of the previously established events, and even throwing in some world-building, as well as offer a greater amount of character development for the Parr family without undoing any of the development they went through in the original. In this sense, Incredibles 2 is a sequel that feels like a true continuation of previous events in a way that feels both seamless and organic. The parallel plots of the film are also both engaging and easy to follow, which helps the nearly two-hour runtime fly by.

The villain, Screenslaver, is rather intriguing and the brainwashing ability fits well within the setting. Though their motivation, like Syndrome, involves Supers and it’s a little easier than expected to figure who they might be, this did little to detract from the enjoyment of the film.

Screenslaver (Bill Wise) is an intriguing villain with an interesting ability.

After 14 years, the 1960s visual style of the Incredibles universe still has a timeless quality to it. Naturally, 14 years of technological advancement have resulted in largely improved animation and rendering compared to the original. This also results in some slight stylistic differences between the two films, mainly smaller details of the characters’ faces, but the viewer can quickly get used to it and it doesn’t really feel that jarring.

Even though the story takes place in the 1960s, the problems that the Parr family has and the way characters of the world live and act are more or less universal to how we would live and act today. In fact, there are only a few small hints that clue the viewer into what decade the film takes place, most noticeably the style of cars that people drive and a joke about “New Math”, currently just known as “Math”, that would only work within that context. There are also brief glimpses of both Jonny Quest and The Outer Limits, which further reinforces the setting. There are a couple small things which feel a little out of place, mainly the hairstyle/color of a Super named Voyd (Sophia Bush), but they’re rather minor in the grand scheme of things.

The action is visually exciting and very easy to follow, which is helpful for the amount of action and number of characters onscreen. What helps is that new Supers that are introduced later on all have unique silhouettes and visual designs to help them stand out from one another. The comedy of Incredibles 2 is also consistently funny and mainly derived from the interactions of the characters and how Bob reacts to his stressful life at home raising three children. Some of it also comes from how Jack-Jack can easily throw a wrench into certain situations, though at some point the number of powers he has can get rather ridiculous, even though it’s explained away within the movie.

Brad Bird and Pixar did a great job with Incredibles 2. The story and tone are consistent with the original film and the world and characters are expanded upon while staying true to previous development. The action and humor help the film stay engaging and the parallel storylines are both easy-to-follow and entertaining, though at least one twist is a little predictable. The improved animation quality is such that the style is consistent even with an increased level of detail in the world. I highly recommend Incredibles 2 to people looking for a fun summer film or want to visit/re-visit a world that looks and feels different from the plethora of superhero films released within the last few years. Due to its nature as a direct sequel, however, you should also be sure to watch The Incredibles beforehand.

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