Directed By: Brad Bird
Release Date: June 15, 2018
Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Vowell
14 years have passed since The Incredibles was released, but for the titular Parr family, not a day has gone by, as Brad Bird's long-awaited follow-up to his superhero classic picks up right where the first film left off. With the Underminer having revealed himself to the world in the closing moments of The Incredibles, Incredibles 2 kicks off by showing what happened next, with Bob, Helen, Violet, and Dash, as well as Frozone, all suiting up to stop him from robbing the city's bank, a very public clash that has major consequences for the family.
Not long after, they're approached by Winston Deavor, the owner of the massive corporation known as DEVTECH, with an offer: He wants to help supers across the globe get back into the public's good graces with their help, with Helen chosen to be the public face of the charge as Elastigirl. While Bob is left to stay at home and watch the kids, including their youngest, Jack-Jack, who is developing a multitude of powers all his own, Helen faces off against the mysterious Screenslaver, a dangerous new foe with the ability to brainwash people and an agenda that has Helen - and all the other supers - squarely in their sights.
The Incredibles is one of my absolute favorite Pixar films, and thus I've been really looking forward to another adventure with these characters. It's been a long time coming, and now that it's here, I can safely say it's been worth the wait, though my only major complaint about it – which I’ll get to in a moment – is big enough to deflate my elation just a bit, keeping the sequel from fully hitting the bar its predecessor set back in 2004.
Unsurprisingly, everything that made the first film so enjoyable still holds true here. The visuals look more stunning than ever, whether it's in the creative action setpieces or the retro aesthetic that continues to fill every corner of this universe. Michael Giacchino's evocative throwback of a score is still infectious. And, of course, the cast is solid, the film featuring great performances from returning actors like Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Vowell, Samuel L. Jackson, and Bird himself as Edna Mode, to newcomers like Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Sophia Bush, and Huck Milner, who takes over as Dash from the first film's Spencer Fox. Taken all together, Incredibles 2 completely feels like an effortless return to the world of the first film, and that’s a comforting feeling that more than works in the sequel’s favor.
So why doesn't it live up The Incredibles?
Well, it all boils down to the story at hand. Fundamentally, I love the idea of Helen being selected as the face of Deavor's effort to turn public opinion around on supers, as her success and the joy she finds in it ends up serving as a great contrast to her husband's arc in the film. Bob isn't allowed to become Mr. Incredible, relegated to taking care of the kids instead, a storyline that allows him to interact, for better or worse, with the kids in ways Helen was more accustomed to, dealing with things as simple as helping Dash with his ever-changing math homework to more complicated issues like Violet's "boy problems." The dichotomy between the two different arcs pushes each character out of their respective comfort zone and into new territory, and so much of the fun of the film stems simply from watching Helen find success out of the shadow of Mr. Incredible or seeing Bob cope with the discovery that Jack-Jack has powers (something that leads to one of the film's funniest sequences involving Jack-Jack squaring off with a pesky raccoon).
The first two acts are - ahem - incredibly solid, but where the film starts coming apart for me rests on the late reveal of the Screenslaver's identity. It's an underwhelming revelation, one that's also easy to see coming early in the film, and for a film that does such a good job playing with and subverting superhero genre tropes, it's unfortunate that the reveal leads to a pretty generic final act. The villain and their motivations just don't carry much weight in the way that the first film's Syndrome had, and the film's final stretch suffers because of it, resulting in a climax that's visually entertaining but narratively underwhelming in a way that shortchanges the overall product.
It says a lot, though, that that's all I have to hold against Incredibles 2. If you loved all the elements that made The Incredibles such a fun ride back in 2004, you'll be happy to see them all still in place here nearly fifteen years later. But after all this time, one would've hoped that everyone involved could've figured out a way to end the sequel a little more memorably than what we got, especially when the first two-thirds of it are just as good - if not better - than the first film. Despite that, Incredibles 2 is a blast, a welcome summer adventure that feels like revisiting old friends, one that will undoubtedly leave many holding out hope that we won't have to wait another decade and a half to catch up with the Parr family again.
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