Moviegoers have become inured to waiting prolonged periods for sequels – in some instances, as long as three decades. Yet even the most patient viewers found themselves desperately craving a sequel to The Incredibles, Pixar’s much-beloved superhero film from the Noughties. It is only now that their patience is being rewarded, and are they in for a treat.
Incredibles 2 begins mere minutes after the events of its predecessor, with the Parr family – Bob (Craig T. Nelson), Helen (Holly Hunter), Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huckleberry Milner) – all donning their matching superhero outfits to thwart the villainous Underminer (John Ratzenberger). Unfortunately, their heroics prove hindering rather than helpful, leading to their government withdrawing all support for superhero activities and forcing the family back into hiding.
One person who hopes to rectify the Parrs’ situation is Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), the director of Devtech Corporation. Along with his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener), he has devised a public relations campaign to “make superheroes legal again” – his actual words – and sees Helen’s alter-ego Elastigirl as the perfect hero to spearhead his cause. After some hesitation, Helen accepts Deavor’s offer, believing it will provide her family with a more positive future.
Having rescinded his role as breadwinner, Bob must now adapt to life as a stay-at-home Dad. This proves to be a struggle for Bob, not least because his youngest son, baby Jack-Jack, is making use of his newly-discovered powers – and he doesn’t just have one, he has several, ranging from telekinesis to transfiguration. As Jack-Jack’s abilities threaten Bob’s sanity, Elastigirl is facing a threat of her own: a new super-villain known only as The Screenslaver.
Incredibles 2 comes thirteen years and seven months after the first movie premiered in theatres, a time when Pixar was yet to establish its dominance. In the intervening period, the studio’s fanbase continued to grow, as did appetite for a second Incredibles film; but the studio opted not to make one, instead penning more original stories – most of which are excellent. Pixar’s apprehension stemmed from a desire to match the original’s quality, a feat which has been achieved here, for the most part.
With Brad Bird returning as writer and director, Incredibles 2 is very much a true successor to the first picture, but a carbon copy it is not. The film contains a smaller, more intimate story than its precursor, despite having a larger presence of superheroes – here, the biggest peril our protagonists face is not a doomsday scenario or world conflict, but their survival alone. It also spends a greater amount of time emphasising the importance of family, having more scenes that show the Parrs interacting with one-another.
Although their stories are inherently different, Incredibles 2 retains many of the elements that made its predecessor so enjoyable. In terms of the cast, Samuel L. Jackson has made a return as superhero Frozone, while director Bird reprises his role as fashion designer Edna Mode; both characters make short, but nonetheless functional, contributions to the plot. Also returning to the fold is composer Michael Giacchino, who has once again written a brass-led score that harkens back to the spy films of yesteryear.
An improvement to be had over the previous Incredibles film is the animation – one would hope so, given the advancement of technology in recent years. On this occasion, the lighting is more creative, the colours are more vibrant and the streetscapes more detailed. Another benefit of the updated visuals is that they allow the superheroes to make full use of their powers, resulting in some of the most creative action sequences in any superhero film, animated or otherwise.
If there were any criticisms to be levelled at Incredibles 2, they would be put towards the villain. Whereas the first movie had a fun, interesting antagonist in Syndrome, the second film’s Screenslaver is comparatively bland, uninspiring and non-threatening. There’s also a rather predictable twist regarding the identity of Screenslaver, one which only the youngest of viewers will find surprising. Just as well then, that the other characters remain so strong and likeable.
Pixar’s Incredibles 2 is a film that lives up to its title, thanks to a combination of elements new and old. It harbours a great cast and talented composer, whilst adding a fresh script and animation of the highest quality. While not better than its predecessor, one thing is for sure: it was well worth the wait.
P. S. As is typical with Pixar’s feature films, each theatrical screening of Incredibles 2 comes with an accompanying short film, Bao, which is equally delightful.