Marvel and DC characters may rule the box office, but this century’s superhero movie boom would never have been the same, or as satisfying, without The Incredibles. Disney•Pixar’s 2004 hit was simultaneously classic and ahead of its time. It had the feel of both Fantastic Four and Watchmen and it even warned us about toxic fandom with its villain.
Incredibles 2 has quite the legacy to live up to and audiences know superhero movies can deliver more than just fun, but ultimately forgettable followups. Disney•Pixar has been hit (Toy Story) and miss (Cars) with their sequels, but there is no need to worry. Incredibles 2 is indeed a worthy addition to the franchise and might even be better than the original.
The new film picks up just seconds after its predecessor, so we have not missed a moment with the Parr family. The Underminer is still a threat and The Incredibles have to save the city from his mechanized mayhem. With this opening sequence, and every set piece that follows writer-director Brad Bird prioritizes a critical element of superhero action that is often ignored or mishandled.
Superheroes should be saving people. It’s a basic principle that we have seen skipped (Man of Steel) or addressed through telling (Avengers: Age of Ultron) in some very high profile blockbusters in recent years.
Bird wisely opts to show us this fundamental concept by offering genuine suspense and thrills in how the heroes save innocent civilians. The Parrs and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) don’t say they need to save people; they just do it. Bird proves that not every superhero action sequence has to be rooted in confrontation with a villain.
Superhero activity is still illegal in Incredibles 2, since the seconds between this and the first film were hardly enough time for new legislation to have passed. Businessman Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) witnesses The Incredibles’ derring-do and reaches out to them in hopes that a little good PR will get them all back on the streets to legally protect the innocent.
Deavor’s campaign is centered on Helen, a.k.a. Elastigirl (Holly Hunter). The decision is not driven by any agenda beyond numbers. Statistically speaking, Elastigirl is a better superhero than Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson). With Elastigirl serving as the face of the superhero movement, Bob is on dad duty of home.
Domesticity is Bob’s greatest challenge, but his transition from an overwhelmed to a high-functioning parent gives Incredibles 2 a lot of heart and even more laughs. Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner) are along for the fun, but little baby Jack-Jack steals the show. The continued emergence of his powers provides the film’s funniest moments, including one outrageous fight scene.
Elastigirl gets off to a great start in her pro-superhero campaign, thanks in part to some very cool tech designed by Deavor’s sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener). All is going well until the Screenslaver interferes to try and shake the world from its reliance on the convenience of technology, and superheroes. Elastigirl has to track Screenslaver down before anyone gets hurt and before superheroes are banned for good.
There is plenty to love about Incredibles 2. It is as engaging and entertaining as superhero movies get with a sweet sincerity that makes it more than disposable fun. It’s hard to imagine families finding a better film to enjoy together this summer.