Director: Brad Bird Starring: Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Samuel Jackson, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Jonathan Banks Running Time: 125 minutes
For viewers, things have changed a lot since The Incredibles irised out with the Parr family gearing up to take on the Underminer back in 2004. Already popular, superhero movies have exploded to become the dominant force in big studio’s release slates. Pixar have come back into the Disney fold, have become more sequel friendly and beholden to (or promoted to) the big wheels at the biggest studio. Brad Bird went and proved himself as a director in live-action, stumbled a bit with Tomorrowland and finally got around to a follow-up to to the beloved superhero family. The Incredibles meanwhile, have been waiting in stasis, still waiting to fight the Underminer, baby Jack-Jack still developing powers unknown to all, Violet still having a date with the cutest boy in school, Bob and Helen still freshly back on track after the derailing effects of Mr. Incredible’s hero withdrawal. Incredibles 2 follows off immediately from the ending of its predecessor, with an enjoyable film that settles back in without missing a beat.
Superheroes are still illegal when Incredibles 2 kicks off, and the question of whether or not the family should be crime-fighting together when it’s both dangerous and against the law is the source of a-fussing and a-feuding. Mr. Incredible is as eager to relive the glory days as ever while Elastigirl is trying to be realistic and do what’s best for the family, but their roles are reversed when they, along with old family friend Frozone (Samuel Jackson, cool as ever), are recruited by the wealthy Deavor siblings Winston and Evelyn (the voices of Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener), the charm and brains respectively behind DevTech. Winston is a superhero fanboy who wants to rehabilitate their public image and make superheroes legal again while saving the day, and under the advice of cooler head Evelyn, they choose Helen to kick off their efforts. While Elastigirl rides again on a brand new Elasticycle and gets to enjoy some glory while she hunts down a new mind-controlling supervillain, Bob has to stay at home and look after the kids, with their significantly less exciting problems. Dash needs help with homework, Violet has some fairly justified teenage angst and Jack-Jack is shooting lasers out of his eyes, turning into a demon and setting things on fire…well two out of three are less exciting.
The story does repeat quite a few elements from the original film, but it does have a refreshing approach in how it works through Bob’s storyline. He’s obviously frustrated and then, overwhelmed by having to play the stay-at-home-dad instead of the superhero, but the film forces him to commit, and Bob learns to be a better parent by actually parenting, rather than through the action side of the storyline. The film balances the family comedy and Elastigirl’s action/mystery well, bringing them together in the last act. There are some story beats that are frustrating because we’ve seen them over and over of times before in other recent animated films, especially Pixar ones – the twists and turns will only shock the youngest viewers, but that repetition may be because of a shorter production schedule. Pixar swapped the release dates of this film and Toy Story 4, and perhaps the script might have benefitted from more time. It’s a testament to the skills of all involved though, that a film as entertaining and well made as this is a relative rush job.
Brad Bird continues to show how capable he is putting together kinetic action set-pieces. Whether it’s a motorcycle chase or a superpowered tussle, the fight scenes are simple ideas done well. It’s always clear what characters are trying to do and why, and even if the character work feels like a slight retread, the creativity in how their powers are used is maybe even more impressive than in the first film. We’re very used to nearly all action movies being superpowered now, but ironically you can’t rely on CGI spectacle when your entire film is made in CGI, so Incredibles fights rely on ideas, to their benefit. Michael Giachinno score – bombastic orchestra that amplifies the energy on screen. It’s remarkable to see how Pixar, which wowed audiences from day one, have improved their animation. With advanced technology, the film’s unique Disney-Deco aesthetic looks better than ever, and it plays out among some stunning sets, gorgeous lighting in its sunsets (see above) and wonderfully expressive characters. Special mention should be given to composer Michael Giachhino, who scores almost every Hollywood film, but does his best work in this series – leading an excited orchestra that energises the visuals perfectly. There are nods to Johnny Quest and other adventure series throughout this sequel, with the best in animation on his side and Giacchino and co giving the scenes their rhythm, Bird fulfills his ambition of delivering what those older cartoons could only promise.
For those seeking a nostalgia buzz, Incredibles 2 delivers, bringing back the Parrs and using them all well with charming, funny stories. Yes, Edna Mode returns too and yes she is as scene-stealing as ever darling. Newcomers will get on board too, thanks to the exciting action and Pixar’s trademark comedy that plays but never panders. This isn’t among the studios hardest-hitting films on an emotional level, and time will tell if that makes it less memorable. But it’s still a standout superhero movie, and a great family film, and that combination means that Incredibles 2 stands out this summer at the very least.(4 / 5)