Claude’s Column: The Incredibles 2 Review

Warning: This article contains major spoilers for “The Incredibles 2.” If you intend to see the film and don’t want to be spoiled, turn back now.

   Ever since I was a young lad, “The Incredibles” was always my favorite Pixar/Disney movie. It had everything a boy could want to see in a superhero flick. It had flashy action scenes, a scary villain, giant robots, cool costumes and adult jokes that flew right over my innocent head.

   However, it wasn’t until I grew older that I saw the brilliant writing, complex characters, and interesting commentary on family dilemmas. All tied together with breath-taking action, and a musical score that gives me chills to this day.

   One would think that such a successful film, and academy award winner for best-animated picture in 2005, would warrant a sequel right away. But as we know, that was not at all the case. Years went by, and five Pixar sequels were made, two of which were Cars 2 & 3.

   Yet not an “Incredibles” sequel. But in the year 2015, Brad Bird broke the news to the world that “Incredibles 2” was in production. Since then, anticipation was high, and speculation began amongst Pixar fans.

   What would become of Baby Jack-Jack? How many years would have passed since the first film? And who on earth is the Underminer? Such questions plagued us as we waited impatiently.

image_62683322   Well ladies and gentlemen, the wait is over! After 14 long years, everyone’s favorite super-family returns in “The Incredibles 2.” This film was once again written and directed by Brad Bird, and picks up right where the last “Incredibles” movie left off with our heroic family standing in a parking lot ready to confront the Underminer.

   When I was young, the ending to “The Incredibles” always fascinated me. My curious mind desperately wanted to see more of the Incredibles world that Brad Bird had created. So, as you can imagine, I walked into this movie with HUGE anticipation. But was it really able to live up to the hype?

   This movie has been tasked with living up to over a decade of fan expectations, make up for the financial failure of “Solo: a Star Wars Story,” all while attempting to hold a candle to the first Incredibles Film. In most ways it did. In others ways, not so much. With that said, let’s take a look at the most anticipated animated sequel of all time, “The Incredibles 2.”

   Right off the bat, this film opens with Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) in hot pursuit of the Underminer (John Ratzenberger) underground. After breaking into his drill, the two engage in combat, with the Underminer using his jackhammer-like fists to keep up with Mr. Incredible’s super strength.

   Sadly, this fight scene was short lived, with the Underminer escaping, boring into the ground in an escape pod-drill. With the mysterious miner nowhere in sight, it’s up to the Incredibles and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) to stop his out-of-control robot-drill from digging straight into City Hall. They successfully do, but are immediately arrested afterward because supers still are illegal.

underminer   While this was a solid opening to the film, the opening fight scene left me somewhat perplexed. Frozone stopping the drill with a wave of ice was fantastic, and the rest of the family did their part rather well. My only problem with this scene is the Underminer, or lack there-of. Rather than a long drawn out fight with Mr. Incredible, the Underminer was reduced to only two minutes of screen-time. Now I was never expecting him to be the main villain, but I at least wanted to see him do battle with the Parr family.

   Considering I waited fourteen years for this fight, I guess it was good to see him, I just wish I could’ve seen more.

   After being chewed out and interrogated by the police, the family is bailed out by an old family friend, Government agent Rick Dicker (Johnathan Banks). Rick informs the family that the Superhero Relocation Program has been shut down, and sadly he can no longer help them. Down and out, and with nowhere to go, the Parr Family retreats to a motel, for their house was destroyed in the last movie.

   With only two weeks left in the motel, Bob and his wife Hellen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), retreat to the pool deck to discuss their future. There they are confronted by Frozone, who informs the couple that all three of them have been invited to Devtech headquarters to meet with a man named Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), and his sister Evelyn Deavor (Catherine Keener).

   Winston is a huge fan of superheroes, and desires to cooperate with Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl and Frozone to make supers legal again. He proposes that to legalize hero-work, they must change the public’s perception of superheroes, focusing on the lives saved over the property damage.

636644287348684952-I2-RGB-z292-205a-cs-pub.pub16.377   The only catch is that he and Evelyn want to only send Elastigirl on a series of missions. Bob naturally gets jealous and even frustrated when Hellen isn’t sure if she should take the job. Back at the motel, we see the two arguing about the future of the family, whether Hellen should take the job offer or not. After Bob says he can take the kids, she agrees and Devtech moves the family into a luxurious super-house that would impress even Tony Stark.

   So, it’s up to Mr. Incredible to watch Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (now played by Huck Milner), and Baby Jack-Jack while Elastigirl is off saving the world one train rescue sequence at a time.

   Like I said in my “Incredibles 2” prediction article. This is a pretty typical Mr. Mom setup. But what sets this apart from every other stay at home dad comedy, is the fact that they’re superheroes. Violet, for example, takes off her mask in frustration during the opening fight, in the process revealing her secret identity to her crush, Tony Rydinger.

Jack Jack   What normally would be a boring soppy teen romance is now made much more entertaining by the inclusion of superpowers. As things start getting more and more out of control, Bob eventually discovers through a series of events, that Jack-Jack in fact has powers, many powers. The only catch is that he has little to no control of them.  Bob is thrilled by this revelation, but his joy quickly turns to sorrow as he is up all night trying to keep the baby from destroying everything in sight.

   As the movie progresses, Elastigirl continues to make progress improving the public image of superheroes with Winston and Evelyn. Along the way, she meets a Super-wannabe named Void (Sofia Bush), along with a bunch of other young supers.

   However, things soon get complicated when a mysterious villain calling itself the Screenslaver starts causing chaos with its mysterious hypnotic powers. Determined to take down this elusive new enemy, Elastigirl, with help from Evelyn, tracks the Screenslaver’s TV signals from an apartment and ventures there to take him out. Once she arrives, she finds her way into his lair atop the building, where we are then treated to a rather suspenseful scene with Elastigirl wondering through what appears to be an abandoned laboratory.

   After a minute of investigating, she finds herself trapped in a cage face to face with the Screenslaver. The two duke it out in a bizarre fight sequence, where Elastigirl must fight with her eyes closed, lest she be hypnotized by the mesmerizing strobe-effect lights surrounding the cage in which they fight. Despite her disadvantage, she managed to pull it together and best the masked menace. She unmasks him to discover it was a pizza boy, who was under the Screenslaver’s spell and used as a decoy.

images   Confused and concerned, Hellen opens up to Evelyn on how she thinks the Screenslaver is still out there. As the conversation continues, she discovers a clue inside the mysterious mask. As she puts the pieces together, (big shock) Evelyn hypnotizes and captures Hellen before she can break the news to anyone of her startling discovery. Hellen wakes up in a containment unit, and is greeted by Evelyn Deavor.

   The devious dame explains her plot to prevent supers from ever being legalized again by hypnotically controlling them to run their reputation, along with Winston’s, into the ground. Eventually with Frozone and even Mr. Incredible under her control, it’s up to Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack to snap their parents and all the other supers out of their hypnotic state before it’s too late.

   Much like the first movie, one of the real strengths of “Incredibles 2” is the writing. Brad Bird knows how to make movies that have plenty of action and humor for kids to enjoy, but possesses a much deeper story for adult viewers to sink their teeth into. All Bird’s animated films like “The Iron Giant,” “Ratatouille” and “The Incredibles” films are mostly seen as children’s films. None of them are perfect movies, but they never pander or talk down to their audiences like so many animated films do today.

   By treating the audience with intelligence while still keeping a light-hearted tone, movies like “Incredibles 2” will resonate with people of all ages in ways that a film like “The Emoji Movie” never will.

   As far as the characters go, despite fourteen years passing, each member of the Parr family still feels as fresh and third-dimensional as they did in 2004. I find it interesting how the first movie focuses more on Bob and less on the rest of the family, and the new movie focuses more on Hellen and the kids and less on Bob.

Elastigirl-Bike   I bring this up because the only real issue I have with the first “Incredibles” is the fact that most of the focus is on Bob’s mid-life crisis, and less on the other members of the Incredibles family. It isn’t until the last third of the film that we see all of them work together to take down the Omnidroid.

   That set-up worked for the story Brad was telling, however it did leave a lot of our favorite characters like Frozone off screen for quite some time. The sequel on the other hand, balances all the characters much better. And while I wish new characters like Void could’ve gotten more screen-time, for what we got, I enjoyed the new characters, mostly.

   This brings me to my main problem with the movie, the villain. I hate to say it, but I think Pixar may have played their trump card too early with Syndrome. Whereas Syndrome had a personal connection with the main character and felt like a part of the story form the start, Evelyn isn’t introduced until about 25 minutes in. She isn’t given enough time to properly form a strong character arc before she is revealed as the villain.

   Now to be fair, let’s look at some of the good things about her. She and Winston have a pretty interesting backstory, with their parents being murdered before the supers could save them. And her reasons for hating the supers and the public’s over-reliance on them is understandable.

   The thing is that her plan to get rid of supers for good didn’t necessarily make sense. She worked with her brother to make supers legal again, only to brainwash them into causing havoc so they would be outlawed again?

incredibles-2-wannabes-art-1101838   Now it is established early on that supers are already illegal, so why not just stop Winston Deavor from bringing them back? In fact, if she cares so little for Winston, why not just kill him? Now you could argue she wanted to use him to bring supers into the limelight to cause chaos while under her spell, preventing supers from ever being considered for legalization. But even then, why not just hypnotize Elastigirl and a couple other supers off the bat? Why not just use them alone to prevent supers from being brought back instead of helping make them legal?

   Why bother tearing them down, when they’re already torn down?! I guess looking at some of Marvel’s villains, it could’ve been worse. Brad Bird shared in an interview with Collider that the villain was changed several times over the course of production. Given that information, I think maybe one more rewrite could have made her a more compelling and threatening character. Her motivation to get rid of supers is fascinating, however her plan to do so had as many holes as a fine Swiss cheese.

   All in all, despite a lackluster villain, “The Incredibles 2” was a very epic, fun and entertaining film that may not have quite surpassed the original movie, but still expanded the world and characters in new and exciting ways.

   It still suffers from the sequel effect of not being as good as the original, however, it did what a good sequel should do.  It continued the story, further developed the characters, upped the ante with its action sequences, and best of all, left me satisfied yet wanting to see more. “Incredibles 2” was, well, incredible! And I guess that’s good enough for me.

Rating: 8/10

Samuel Claude

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