Sequels can be a tricky business, as expectations can be tough to reach and often audiences are left disappointed after simply holding too much hype for a second installment. In some respects, that plays to the advantage of Incredibles 2, which goes the anti-Solo route and doesn’t come a minute too soon.
You may not realize it, but it’s been 14 years since Brad Bird’s original made its way to the big screen in 2004. It was actually the first non-Toy Story Pixar film that appealed to me, because I saw the value in a high-budget animated superhero movie. Unlike the effects required to pull off certain feats in live-action, anything can be on the table in a Pixar film. Thus, things like Elastigirl become not just possible, but no more difficult to accomplish than anything else.
In 2004, superhero movies had not “arrived” in the way they would after Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and the explosion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Batman Begins was a 2005 release, and Iron Man didn’t debut until 2008. That’s not to say movies with masks and capes (and not Fifty Shades style) weren’t already making big money, but from a critical standpoint, only a select few were of any real quality.
In certain ways, it made The Incredibles a story that was ahead of its peers, but it also had the added dimension of needing to weave its plot around a family and the challenges that exist for the Parr household both in and out of its members’ super suits. Largely, it was successful. I greatly enjoyed it, and it led me to start paying attention to Pixar yearly, despite aging out of some of the content. It’s without question that on an annual basis, one of the things you can count on in entertainment is at least a decent, but usually a very good effort from Pixar.
Due to the success, we’ve seen others get into the act, and Disney now drops the strong Wreck-It Ralph entries of the world, which we’ll see again this fall as the sequel to that gem releases. You can ask whether a second Incredibles entry was necessary, but the original ended with a cliffhanger of sorts, or at least a new villain, and a 2005 video game already presented an alternate sequel.
What Incredibles 2 needed to do was first and foremost, be fun and entertaining, and build on the franchise with the proper marriage of the new and the familiar. Although the first few minutes are heavy on action and not much else, the rationale behind it makes complete sense. The movie begins just three months after the events of the 2004 film, and we don’t feel as if we’ve missed anything or been shoehorned into a world we no longer understand.
It helps that Bird wrote both movies and knows his universe. If you liked the first movie, you’re going to like the second one nearly as much, or perhaps more. The story is straightforward, and it does unfortunately borrow from the overused narrative of superheroes being outlawed or regulated because the public, government, and media blame them for widespread damage or an increase in large-scale events. It’s something that’s done far too often, and it’s the backdrop for the entire movie.
If you’re going into Incredibles 2 anticipating twists, you’ll be disappointed. Even the big reveal as to who is under the “Screenslaver” villain mask is relatively predictable, or at the very least you should have a 50 percent chance of guessing it correctly before it happens. That storyline itself is effective, although it’s a little more static than it could have been. We could have had more depth, but Incredibles 2 is far more concerned with the family dynamic…than in dynamic storytelling.
But, how many Marvel films have ever ended in a less than obvious fashion? With the exception, perhaps, of Infinity War, and even that might be a stretch, it’s possible your answer is ZERO. We don’t watch these films for the Kubrick effect, but to be entertained by a fast-paced, out-of-this-world story using the mythology of the modern generation. It’s a popcorn blockbuster, and a worthy one at that.
Where once were the likes of Zeus, Ares, and the rest… now there are the likes of Batman, Deadpool, and Mr. Incredible.
Is it fun? Absolutely. The Jack-Jack toddler character works far better than I expected, and has a very early Despicable Me minion feel to him. One particular sequence involving the boy and a raccoon will remind you of the best of the Ice Age squirrel vs. acorn content, which was always a crowd pleaser even after those films became long in the saber-tooth.
Despite its obvious conclusion, Incredibles 2 is still awfully good. It’s not the best Pixar film of all-time, but it’s not a disappointment to fans of the original. I expected not to be blown away by it, and I wasn’t, but I felt about it the way I did Finding Dory a few years ago. It was not a waste of my time, it was well-done, I’d watch it again, and I liked it a great deal. I’d recommend it to Pixar fans, certainly to parents looking for good entertainment for their kids, and to anyone who loves an easily consumable story.
The voice cast is terrific, with Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter reprising their roles as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, Samuel L. Jackson doing his Frozone thing just as solidly as ever, and director Brad Bird as Edna Mode. Adding to the festivities, interestingly, are Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks, who shed their Saul Goodman and Mike Ehrmantraut roles in the Gilliganverse to play Winston Deavor and government agent Rick Dicker. Also stellar is Catherine Keener, who voices Deavor’s sister, Evelyn.
It’s Pixar, so it looks and sounds like a million bucks. Luckily it will make far more that a mil at the box office. In addition, it’s Pixar, which means make sure you’re there on time, because the animated short that precedes the main attraction is well worth your attention. This time around it’s Bao, which is definitely more emotionally affecting than anything you’ll see in Incredibles 2. It’s so well-done, and mothers in particular will relate to it immediately.
While it may not have been essential, Incredibles 2 is what you should take the family to see this weekend. No one will be bored by it, no one will be upset by it, and there’s something to be said for simply smiling and laughing at a wholesome, but not exactly juvenile family movie in 2018. It’s easy to be negative and find yourself spiraling along with the antiheroes we love to loathe.
Why not take a ride with a family of actual superheroes? I’ll give it an A-. It’s Pixar. Maybe it’s a B+, maybe it’s a B depending on the day, but I like to have fun, and I had fun. It’s a little busy at times, but I dug it. It’s a supremely easy watch and satisfies what fans of the original will want. There’s a level of quality expected from the studio, and Incredibles 2 delivers. With the exception of Cars 2, they basically all have.
Will there be an Incredibles 3? There could be, and I predict there will be, but if there’s nothing else to come, this feels much more sealed up as a story than the opener. The universe is fun to return to and the characters still retain their charm and excitement. It’s also, like every Pixar film, worth seeing on the big screen. You won’t smile wider at the theater all summer than you will watching the Parr family do their saving the world thing again.
I’m @JMartOutkick. Up…and…at…them.