Fourteen years is a long time to wait for a sequel, but The Incredibles has one huge advantage: Being animated, Incredibles 2 isn’t tied down by the advancing age of the franchise’s actors, like other long-awaited sequels, from Star Wars to Blade Runner. That lets Incredibles 2 pick up right where the original ended, and after a brief cold open, it’ll be like you never left this vibrant, superhero-filled world.
You’ll still notice a difference–the past decade and a half has seen animation technology improve faster than a speeding hover train, particularly at Pixar, a studio that’s almost always on the cutting edge of new advancements and techniques. Incredibles 2 may pick the story and characters right up, but visually and aesthetically, it’s by far superior to the original.
In the world of Incredibles, donning a disguise and fighting crime has been illegal for years. Bob (Craig T. Nelson) and Helen (Holly Hunter) Parr–formerly the superheroes Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl–are raising their two superpowered kids, Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner), as well as baby Jack-Jack, whose powers are just beginning to emerge, in boring mid-century suburbia. Adventures ensue as the family attempts to fight crime in secret while not stepping too far outside the bounds of the law.
Given that Incredibles 2 picks up just minutes after the original’s conclusion, that core conflict hasn’t changed at all. In fact, it only gets worse when the family teams up in the opening scenes to stop the Underminer, a mole-like villain who emerged at the very end of the first Incredibles, wrecking half the city in the process. And after that explosive beginning, Incredibles 2 starts to feel a little slow, as it re-hashes that same old conflict through several scenes of exposition.
The twist this time is that it’s Helen–AKA Elastigirl–who’s coming out of retirement, and she isn’t doing it in secret like Bob did in the first film. Businessman Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) recruit her to be the face of a highly public PR campaign attempting to get superheroes legalized. The movie’s pace picks back up as soon as she hops on her extremely cool, break-apart-at-will “Elastibike” and starts going up against the new supervillain, the Screenslaver. From there on, Incredibles 2 is just plain excellent.
The B-plot–and arguably the even more entertaining one–is Mr. Incredible’s earnest struggle with being a stay-at-home dad. As we saw in the original, Bob Parr would rather be back in spandex, although dealing with Dash’s math homework, Violet’s boy troubles, and Jack-Jack’s increasingly unmanageable powers proves an equally daunting task. Highlights include a fight between Jack-Jack and a raccoon in which the baby starts to use his new powers–from laser vision to multiplying–while Bob sleeps unaware nearby, not to mention a visit to fan favorite Edna (voiced again by writer and director Brad Bird) to get the infant’s powers under control.
Between Incredibles 2 and last year’s phenomenal Coco, it’s clear that the talented artists at Pixar have never been more sure of themselves when it comes to creating an all-encompassing aesthetic. Incredibles 2 uses its setting in a generic mid-century metropolis (it’s literally named Metroville) to much greater effect than the original. Every scene is packed with vibrant colors, while the family’s new house (their first having been destroyed in the original) is a high-tech marvel of retro modernity. The animation during action scenes like Elastigirl’s high speed chase or later fights featuring multiple new super-powered characters is unbelievably creative and fluid, while the Screenslaver’s hypnotic screens hark back to schlocky comic book hypnotism of decades past.
Samuel L. Jackson’s Frozone is another returning face, while Elastigirl’s superhero activism prompts an entire new generation of powered individuals to don masks and emerge with their own hero identities. Characters like Voyd (Sophia Bush), who creates portals, and Reflux, who barfs acidic goo from his oversized gullet (“Medical condition or superpower? You decide!”), get less screen time than they deserve, but they make an impression nonetheless.
The plot ultimately revolves around the identity of the Screenslaver, which the movie unfortunately telegraphs with a little too much clarity. But even so, Incredibles 2 is yet more proof that Pixar is currently at the top of its game. The original is a favorite among fans, and given the state of superhero movies today compared with 2004, it seems downright prescient in retrospect.
Making Incredibles 2 now, in a post-Avengers world, no doubt came with a whole new set of unique challenges. It even puts the sequel at a slight disadvantage; Incredibles 2 being a better-than-decent superhero movie isn’t as novel as it once would have been. There are a half dozen of those coming out every year, now. Thankfully, Incredibles 2 is much more than simply better-than-decent–it’s beautiful, creative, smart, funny, and more fun than a barrel full of Jack-Jacks. It was well worth the wait.
|The Good||The Bad|
|Picks the story up effortlessly||Slow first act|
|Has a lot of fun with the setting and new characters||Telegraphs supervillain’s identity too early|
|Fluid animation and beautiful aesthetic|
|Creative and fun action|
|Great sense of humor|