Incredibles 2 (2018) Review
A FUN SUPERHERO SEQUEL
In 2004, Pixar released The Incredibles, their sixth animated feature film. Directed by Brad Bird, the film, who had the voice talents of Craig T. Nelson, Helen Hunt, Jason Lee, and Samuel L. Jackson, followed the family of superheroes who are forced to hide their powers from society and live a quiet life in suburbia. However, Mr. Incredible (the family’s patriarch) who longs for reliving the glory days of being a superhero draws the entire family into battle with a former fan who now plots to wipe out all superheroes with his supercharged killer robot. The film went on to become a smash hit with viewers and critics alike, finding The Incredibles to be a big success at the box office with a $633 million return on investment against its $92 million production budget. The movie even went on to winning several awards, including two Academy Awards for Best Sound Editing and Best Animated feature (beating out Dreamwork’s Shrek 2 and Shark Tale). Given the success of the film, many believed that Pixar would release a follow-up sequel to The Incredibles sometime in the near future. However, Pixar decided to move on from doing a sequel, choosing instead to create other films, with Cars, Ratatouille, and Wall-E being their next sequential theatrical releases. Pixar even return several of their past film to created other sequel (i.e. Monster University, Finding Dory, Cars 2 and 3, and Toy Story 2 and 3), but still no sequel for the Parr superhero family. Now, after fourteen years since The Incredibles were released, Walt Disney Studios, Pixar Studios, and director Brad Bird finally return to the superhero world of the Parr family with the movie Incredibles 2. Does Pixar’s twentieth animated feature find its place amongst its studio’s illustrious history or does this belated sequel fall short of many fan’s expectations?
Trying to stop the Underminer (John Ratzenberger) from wreaking havoc in the city and robbing banks, the Parr family, including Bob / Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Helen / Elastigirl (Helen Hunt), Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner), and baby Jack-Jack, suit up once again to try and save the populace from this supervillain. However, superheroes are still illegal to the public and their sudden action lands the family in hot water. With the public opinion of “superheroes” being at all-time low, the government officially shuts down the program that helped the Parrs keep their secret identities a secret; creating an uncertain future for this superhero family. However, the family’s old superhero friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) is approached by Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), a wealthy man behind the communication corporation DEVTECH, about a plan to bring superheroes back. Along with his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener), Winston Plans to change the public’s perception on superheroes (to show them in a better light) in order them government to reconsider the idea of “supers” being legally outlawed. Choosing Elastigirl as the face of the program’s first phase, the Deavors set their plan in motion, leaving Bob to run the household. That includes dealing with Violet’s dating troubles, helping Dash with his math homework, and contending with the onset of Jack-Jack’s newly discover (and wide range) of new powers. As Helen and Bob face new challenges, a new supervillain named the Screenslaver, suddenly appears, infesting his evil onto the city and posing a threat not just to the Parr family but to all superheroes everywhere.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
The Incredibles was released during the infancy of the superhero movie movement. Yes, there were superhero movies released back around the early 2000s era, but nowhere as near as many (nor as palpable, lucrative, or celebrated) as they are now. Still, the movie showed the world of superheroes nuances and spy aspects (something that director Brad Bird drew influence from reading comic books from the 1960s). Personally, I loved The Incredibles. It was definitely a fun and hilarious movie that had a lot of entertainment value (and still does), providing enough of a superhero spectacle as well as providing enough insight into a superhero family (i.e. the Parr family) and how each one has a different outlook on their “hiding” predicament. Plus, I love all their unique superhero abilities, especially the ending scene with Jack-Jack. Additionally, the animation was great (for its time, which still holds up), its voice talents were spot on, and director Brad Bird, who was the first “outside” director to do a Pixar film, proved that he had the right stuff in making a Pixar film a bit more “mature” for older audience members to join in the fun. Thus, The Incredibles showed that the animated studio company can delve into different facets and likability avenues for than just its targeted demographic.
Of course, this brings me back to talking about Incredibles 2. As stated above, this long-awaited sequel has been on many minds (including myself) and its confirmed release date was somewhat of an exciting celebration for me. News and rumors of an Incredibles sequel have been circling around the internet for quite some time. I mean with their releases of other sequels, I was starting to wonder if Pixar was ever going to release Incredibles 2. Well, I guess my worries could be put to rest, especially after seeing the film’s trailers almost every time I go to my local movie theater. Plus, many (if not all) the voice talents behind the characters were returning as well as director Brad Bird to helm the project. So, I was pretty excited to see this movie. What did I think of it? Well, it was really good. While the movie doesn’t outshine the first film, Incredibles 2 is a fun superhero sequel that works, further continuing the Parr family’s journey together.
Director Brad Bird, who previous directed the first film as well as The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and Tomorrowland, returns to the director chair in overseeing this long-awaited sequel. To be sure, this is a good thing. While a different director might have tried to change things up and try had a different spin, Bird keeps mostly everything the status-quo as to what made the first film very much unique, special, and downright entertaining. In truth, the movie seems very much in line with the same style and tone as did with the original film; a decision of which probably Bird wanted to when he began to think about doing Incredibles 2. To further this point, the movie actually begins only a few minutes after the first one ends, which is a good thing as it keeps the same storyline flow / continuity of the Parr family exact the same rather than doing a standard “time jump” of events. This idea really does work, keeping the dynamics and struggles of the Parr family still as fresh as well as continuing their character’s growth and evolution rather than jumping into new problems. It also interesting to see that Bird takes the stance of a role reversal, switching the parental dynamics of Bob (Mr. Incredible) and Helen (Elastigirl) and seeing how each one reacts to their new situations and circumstances.
Additionally, Bird, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, keeps the story in line with the first film, keeping the adventure and story light and filled with superhero action and never really makes it darker and edgier (which sequels films tend to do). Also, Bird slightly touches upon the role of superheroes and the backlash they have on the government, which the first film touched upon, as seems a bit more relevant, especially during the rise of today’s superhero movies (i.e. like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Winter Soldier and Civil War), but just with more kid’s gloves. There’s also plenty of superhero action and frivolities, so it has the same excitement level as the first film was able to achieve in big-screen action. In general, Bird’s Incredibles 2 is long awaited, but a fun and action-packed animated sequel that’s just as exciting and entertaining as it’s predecessor. To me, it was a fun jaunt of cartoon movie to return to and it was great to see a continuation the superhero family-oriented themes of the Parr family, especially with director Brad Bird back behind the wheel to helm this feature.
As a side-note, while Pixar has made a name for itself by adding its signature touch of sincerity and touching heartfelt moments, Incredibles 2 (and by proximity The Incredibles) doesn’t really showcase that same signature. However, that’s not really a bad thing as the movie really doesn’t need to have it as the movie’s message of family dynamics and self-identity. To me, it would sort of ruin the allure and attraction if Pixar had their more “tear jerker” scenes in something like the Incredibles movies. Thus, The Incredibles and Incredibles 2 stand out from the rest of the Pixar pact, standing as the more fun and more tween level of children’s animated endeavors.
As for filmmaking presentation, Incredibles 2 looks great. While the there’s an extensive lengthy gap, the film still keeps the same style of animation (a mixture of animated outlooks of early 50s comic book setting and modern aspects). That being said, the overall animation is much more detailed and richer than the original film, which does help elevate the overall look and appeal of the feature. Thus, I would have to mention the art direction by Josh Holtsclaw, cinematographer Mahyar Abousaeedi, and the entire animation department team for their efforts in making Incredibles 2 such a vibrant and colorful endeavor; something worth of being Pixar’s latest animated feature. Additionally, the film’s musical score, which was composed by Michael Giacchinoi (who also provided the music for The Incredibles), does have some great melodies, keeping the score action-packed and reminiscent the classic superheroes of old.
There are a few problems that Incredibles 2 can’t escape and its shortcomings which hold the movie back from surpassing the original film. Perhaps the most notable one (of which many will automatically see) is not so much the movie itself, but rather the very long delay in getting this movie made. Perhaps if this was movie was released semi-close (even a few years out) to when The Incredibles was released, the movie could’ve been something more, capitalizing on the inherit hype of the feature to make this sequel. Well, the hype is still (even after such a lengthy gap between films), but I mean…. really…. 14 years (or 13.5 years). Yes, The Incredibles was a great Pixar film (of which many will agree with me on that) and have been eagerly awaiting a sequel film, but the long wait for it. I mean, I’m 32 right now (at this point at writing my review), so I was roughly around 18 when the movie came out. This goes back to the recent endeavors of Hollywood, retreading back to belated sequel. Personally, while I do like Incredibles 2, I just felt like this such a long wait for a such a fun superhero animated feature.
Another problem with the movie is that the story, while still based in Bird’s ideas and nuances, seems a bit more conventional now. This is not so much the movie’s fault (though still a little), but more on the rise of superheroes blockbusters films over the past several years. Back in 2004, superheroes were still in the more “infant” stage as suppose the more bombardment of the more prominent superhero endeavors of today. Meaning that, despite the return to this superhero world, it’s “pizzazz” as sort of become commonplace with all the recent age of superhero movies. There’s still fun to be had, but it just doesn’t quite measure up to the same way that the first film was able to achieve in its superhero antics. This also extends to the idea of the main direction that movie ultimately wants to go. It was crystal clear on what the first movie was (i.e. a superhero family that lives in hiding and how the father of the family wants to relive his glory of being a “super”), but Incredibles 2 sort of looses that narrative aspect. There’s storyline to follow, but gets a bit muddy along the way and just doesn’t resonate as much as did the first film’s narrative was able to achieve.
Furthermore, Incredibles 2 does slightly different from its predecessor. What made the first Incredibles movie fun was the spy aspect and that classic superhero motifs from the old-school comic books, especially with the usage fun gadgets, exotic locales, and zany / over-the-top villains. Incredibles 2 takes some of the nuances into account, but is more rooted in more today’s superheroes, including the likes of urban crime, the role that the government / politics plays, and the more “realness” to the film’s villain. Its all good, but it just seems a bit like Bird is taking cues from Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe rather than sticking true to his spy / comic book influence from his childhood. There’s also a few problems with some of the character developments, but I’ll mention them below. Overall, these problems are more minor problems rather than larger negative one, but it just makes Incredibles 2 slightly outreach of being both on par and / or surpass The Incredibles. Still, despite these flaws, Incredibles 2 is a lot of fun and entertaining.
The voice talents for Incredibles 2 shines with almost all returning actors / actresses from the first film to reprise their respective roles. At the head of the pack are actor Craig T. Nelson and actress Holly Hunter as Parr’s patriarch / matriarch Bob Parr / Mr. Incredible and Helen Parr / Elastigirl respectfully. Nelson, known for his roles in Coach, The Proposal, and Parenthood, and Hunter, known for her roles in Saving Grace, Thirteen, and The Piano, easily slide back into their roles as the husband and wife superhero duo. The overall handling of the dialogue is great and their back and forth banter with each other (and others) are truly great; sharing that same type of chemistry that they did back in the original 2004 film. Much like before, these two are the main focal point of the feature, finding their “role” reversal to be the key ingredient for their conflict in Incredibles 2. To that effect, it works as Bird circumnavigates the duality of both Helen and Bob in how they deal with their new roles. Plus, Nelson and Hunter are up for the task and succeed beautifully in their vocal performances as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl.
Behind them are the three Parr children (Violet, Dashniell “Dash”, and Jack-Jack), who are voiced by actress Sarah Vowell (The Incredibles and Please Give) and actor Huck Milner, who replaces Spencer Fox as Dash and makes his theatrical debut with this movie, and actor Eli Fuclie (The Incredibles). Collectively, all three vocal performances are great and do lend some fun voice talents in bringing the Parr children to life. However, Violet and Dash’s story arcs (in the movie) are, more or less, to serve Bob’s storyline thread about learning to take care of the household. Violet’s sub-plot, which involves her liking another boy and how she deals with learning to live a life as an adolescent teenage, could’ve been a bit more developed, especially given that the fact that she’s a superhero and the boy she likes is just a regular teenager. Again, her storyline is more serviceable plot on providing more challenges that “stay at home” Bob must overcome. I just think there could’ve more to her sub-plot. Likewise, the same can be said with Dash’s subplot, which sees the middle Parr child getting the least amount of screen-time, especially in his own story arc. He’s in the movie and does have a lot of the comedic relief parts (some of which are pretty good), but there’s not much to him. As for Jack-Jack, the youngest of the three, he actually gets more screen-time in than his other two siblings, discovering and experiencing his burgeoning powers (multiple ones, in fact) and does provide probably most (if not all) of the film’s funniest sequences. A scene involving him and a raccoon, in particular, is truly hilarious. All in all, the voice talents behind Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack (his voice work was archival recordings) are solid and its great to see the three Parr children back in action, but I just wish they were a bit more developed, especially Violet and Dash.
Additionally, several other supporting characters from the first Incredibles movie return as well, lending a helping hand to the Parr family. Actor Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown) returns as superhero Lucius Best / Frozone and (much like Nelson and Hunt) easily slides back into the character, providing the same type of tone and bravado voice work for his character. Additionally, actor Michael Bird (The Iron Giant and The Incredibles) returns as Violet’s love interest Tom Rydinger and actor Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad and Mudbound) as government agent who helps superheroes relocate Rick Dicker (actor Bud Luckey originally did the voice in the first movie but was replaced with Banks). However, my personal and absolute favorite supporting character to return is fashion designer guru for “superheroes” Edna Mode, who is once again voiced by director Brad Bird. Bird nails the voice down greatly and seems to have fun playing her once again (even though her involvement is a bit shorter in this movie than the previous one). Still, definitely great to see Bird’s Edna again. Much like a lot of other sequel movies out there, their inclusion in this story is good and does help add a sense of continuity from the previous movie (as if the movie is playing to a larger already established cinematic world). There aren’t super important to the narrative, but again fill out certain scenes with their presences (be action, comedy, or dramatic effect). Thus, it was good to see them return, especially to see Edna Mode again. Of the new newcomers to Incredibles 2, actor Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul) and actress Catherine Keener (Capote and Get Out) play the Deavor siblings (Winston and Evelyn), the pair who are the owner and creative minds of the popular communication company DEVTECH. Both Odenkirk and Keener are solid in their respectful roles, finding each other relishing the opportunity to voice their characters and seem to be have fun in doing so, which adds to their vocal performances.
Rounding out the cast are several minor / supporting characters in the movie, including actress Sophia Bush (One Tree Hill and John Tucker Must Die) as the young superhero Voyd, actor Phil LaMarr (Madtv and Futurama) as two other young superheroes Krushauer and Helectrix, actress Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet and Fearless) as the unnamed character known as the Ambassador (who support the legalization of superheroes again), and famed recurring Pixar voiceover John Ratzenberger (Cheers and Legit) as the supervillain the Underminer.
Lastly, as per usual with a Pixar film, an animated short is attached before Incredibles 2 begins. Titled Bao, the animated short follows the story of an Asian woman who gets a surprise one day when one of her homemade dumplings magically comes to life, which prompts her to take care of the newborn and nurture as it growth and matures. To me, this was probably one of my favorite Pixar shorts to date. The Asian style motifs and background setting is nice (especially since Pixar hasn’t really portrayed Asian ethnicity that much in their projects). Thus, the animation style is solid and the film’s message, which echoes the touching relationship between a mother and son is definitely heartfelt and will most likely tug at everyone’s heartstrings during its final moments.
It’s been 14 years and the Parr superhero family are back for the second installment of “saving the world” in the new movie Incredibles 2. Director Brad Bird’s newest film sees the return of Pixar’s superhero family and finds their continuing story to be worth the wait, even after its very long delay between movies. While the movie does fall into some pretty common clichés (mostly in today’s superhero genre) as well as some lacks development in some of its characters, the movie does succeed in delivering a fun sequel that captures a lot of family dynamics, credited to Bird’s direction for the film as well as the solid voice talents and the overall joy of seeing the Parr family back together on the big screen. Personally, I liked it. It was definitely a movie that it was worth the wait. The movie doesn’t outshine the first one, but it really doesn’t need to be and serves as a great and solid sequel endeavor and another slam-dunk addition to Pixar’s illustrious library. Thus, I would definitely give this movie my “highly recommended” stamp of approval as it has something for all ages (for both the younger and older generations). Will Pixar green light a third installment in for the Parr family (i.e. Incredibles 3)? Well, its unknown (at this time), but I sure do hope that they, capping off the franchise in a trilogy fashion. For now, Incredibles 2 stands another surefire win for Pixar, showcasing that despite a lengthy gap, the animation powerhouse studio can still work its “magic” in creating a superhero spectacle sequel.
4.3 Out of 5 (Highly Recommended)
Released On: June 15th, 2018
Reviewed On: June 21th, 2018
Incredibles 2 is 118 minutes long and is rated PG for action sequences and some brief mild language