What is the greatest Disney/Pixar animated film of all time? One of the imperative questions of our lifetime. For some, it’s Toy Story (no consensus on whether it’s 1, 2 or 3); for others, it is The Lion King (definitely not 2 and 1½). Perhaps it is The Hunchback of Notre Dame or Beauty and the Beast or Wall-E? All the movies mentioned are awesome and undeniable cinematic achievements, though I have something else in mind.
You see, The Incredibles isn’t just the best Disney/Pixar animated film of all time, it is the best animated film, period. It is also one of the best superhero films of all time. Before Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy sent geekdom into a frenzy and the Marvel Cinematic Universe began its hostile takeover of the pop cultural landscape, this Disney/Pixar flick was the magnum opus of the genre. Yes, I watched Batman (1989), yes, I watched Superman (1978), no, I am not retracting my statement.
What was the point I was trying to make again?
Right, Incredibles 2. I was psyched for it! But I also had to remind myself that sequels, especially sequels that come out years and years after the original, usually sucks donkey ass. Zoolander 2 and Dumb and Dumber To, anyone? Besides, Pixar hasn’t always brought their ‘A’ game when it comes to sequels, either. Sure, Toy Story 2 and 3 are great, but the quicker we erase Cars 2 and 3 from our memories, the better. I slapped myself in the face and told myself to Hakuna my tatas. So, naturally, my expectations were sky high heading into this film.
After years of hoping and months of anticipation, it brings me absolute joy to say that Incredibles 2 is a worthy sequel. But it’s also a sequel that perhaps should have come out much, much earlier (more on that later). Incredibles 2 picks up exactly where the first one left off. We’re immediately thrown into a giant battle sequence, as we witness our favourite superhero family (sorry Fantastic Four) take on the wretched robber that is The Underminer.
The opening sequence is a lot of fun. An exciting, breakneck action set piece that is sure to get your adrenaline pumping and make you feel like a kid again. It sure as hell made me feel like a wide-eyed 11-year-old again. Sometimes you watch a film’s opening and you just know it’s going to be a good one — as if the director reaches out through the screen, puts his hand on your shoulder and says, “don’t worry buddy, I got this.” This is one such movie. Director Brad Bird hasn’t lost his touch. The action sequences that take place throughout its close to two hours runtime are a lot of fun, each distinct and memorable.
But Brad Bird also understands that this isn’t what makes The Incredibles great. Just like its predecessor (and many other movies crafted by Pixar, a studio that can do no wrong), Incredibles 2 has layers. On the surface, Incredibles 2 is a kinetic superhero motion picture, with riveting action sequences and creative combos that would only work in an animated format — kids are going to light up with impish glee watching Elastigirl stretch into a giant trampoline, as Mr Incredible launches himself of it like a cannonball.
But underneath the ass-kicking, lies a deeper movie for young adults and adult adults. Beyond the variety of powers and the cool outfits, is a story about marriage and parenthood. In The Incredibles, Mr Incredible sneaks off to superhero duty, leaving Elastigirl at home to take care of the kids. Here, Brad Bird flips the script. Recruited by a renowned marketer, Elastigirl is tasked to kick ass with minimum collateral damage in order to change public perception of superheroes, while Mr Incredible stays at home and takes care of the children (#2018). As Mr and Mrs Incredible will soon realize, taking down bad guys like Syndrome, The Underminer and Screenslaver aren’t nearly as tough as being in a marriage with three kids. My parents would agree.
Mr Incredible may be the toughest superhero in the world, but here he learns that he can’t punch Dash’s homework away, he can’t kick Violet’s boy troubles in the gut and he most definitely cannot crush Jack Jack to bed. It’s not easy being a mom. But it isn’t just childcare that’s bothering him — it’s his ego. Mr Incredible is used to being in the spotlight; used to being the breadwinner; used to being ‘THE MAN’, that when it’s Elastigirl and not him who gets called up for superhero duty, he gets jealous.
And while Mr Incredible learns to accept his new role in the family, Mrs Incredible needs to learn to be Elastigirl again. And I don’t mean in terms of learning how to control her powers — she’s got that part on lockdown. But here’s the thing with (most) mothers. They will drop everything, sacrifice their personal happiness, their budding career and even a shot at fame, the moment they get married and have children. From then on, their lives revolve around their husbands and kids. And we don’t do anything to make their lives easier. Elastigirl’s journey in Incredibles 2 is a commentary on that, as she embarks on a soul refreshing journey of rediscovering herself. She must realise that her life isn’t defined by her husband and children, that she is more than just Mrs Incredible or “mom.” She is, Elastigirl!
On the kids’ side of things, we have Violet, who just wants to be normal. She wants to go to school, hang out with her friends, perhaps even go on a date with Tony Rydinger. And when life is anything but normal, she rages, screams at her dad and even throws her super suit in the garbage disposal. Now, having those traits alone would’ve made for an annoying character. But as proven through films like The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and not-Tomorrowland, Brad Bird knows how to pen characters. And just like her parents, Violet is a nuanced individual. While she may come off as a rebellious teenager, when shit gets real, she puts aside her teen angst and turns on her big sister switch. Despite her constantly locking horns with her dad, she also understands her dad’s predicament. In fact, Violet and her dad have the most touching moment in the movie.
And then we have Dash. Well, Dash doesn’t really have any problems besides his math homework and that’s okay. Dash is a celebration of the childhood excitement and freedom. Jack-Jack? Well, if you thought babies are tough to deal with in general, imagine one who can teleport as well as turn into a rage monster.
Incredibles 2 is also incredibly (pun definitely intended) funny. And I’m not talking about silly poop jokes and slapstick humour. In typical Pixar fashion, there are comedic bits in this movie that are going to fly right over children’s heads but will have adults on the ground laughing. Like that one scene where Dash talks about what his powers mean to him — you’ll know it when it happens. The best part is, a lot of these jokes will catch you off-guard. This is a very smartly written movie.
While the our heroes are fully realised characters, the same can’t be said about the villain, Screenslaver. In The Incredibles, the villain Syndrome, is Mr Incredible’s ghost of Christmas past. By shunning Buddy, he sent the little kid on a dark path, which then comes back to haunt him. Not exactly revolutionary, but it works nonetheless. Here the villain is bland, one dimensional, with motivations that leave a lot to be desired. There is, of course, a revelation, one that you would see coming from a mile away. It’s as if Brad Bird focused all his energy meticulously writing our heroes, he completely forgot about the villain. That said, I was completely sucked into our heroes’ journey, that the second-rate villain didn’t bother me as much.
Incredibles 2 is one heck of a summer movie. Pixar can give themselves yet another pat on the back, which is probably red and terribly sore right now from all the years of back patting. But is Incredibles 2 one of the greats? Does it sit at the same table with hotshots like Toy Story, The Lion King, Inside Out, Monsters Inc and its predecessor The Incredibles? No, it doesn’t. But that is by no means this film’s fault.
Incredibles 2 just isn’t special, the same way the well-crafted Blade Runner 2049 isn’t special. When The Incredibles came out in 2004, it was one of a kind. It was as if a hot chick had just walked into an all-boys school. Since then, we’ve gotten two versions of Batman, three versions of Spider-Man, a failed version of Fantastic Four, the birth of the MCU, an even worse version of Fantastic Four, the penultimate climax of the MCU, a talking tree and racoon combo, an R-rated Deadpool movie that grossed more than US$ 780 million at the global box office an R-rated Wolverine movie in which HE DIES and I’m merely scratching the surface here.
We’ve seen crappy superhero movies, great ones and even genre-transcending ones. And so, watching a direct continuation to a superhero story that is 14 years old, dancing to the same old (albeit much more woke) beat doesn’t feel special. But that’s okay. It’s still a very good time at the cinemas.
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Incredibles 2 is one heck of a summer movie. Pixar can give themselves yet another pat on the back, which is probably red and terribly sore right now from all the years of back patting.