Pixar’s output this last decade has been largely focused on sequelization, perhaps the most anticipated is the follow up to Brad Bird’s The Incredibles (2004). It’s arguably one of the best superhero stories put to film; it had great characters, it had complex themes and content, it was funny, it told an engaging and exciting story, and the computer animation was fantastic. After 14 years, Bird and Pixar have finally released their follow-up to that success and whilst solid, it fails to hit the highs of its predecessor.
The Parr family: Bob (Craig T. Nelson), Helen (Holly Hunter), Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Hunter Parrish) and Jack-Jack, successfully defeat The Underminer from the ending of the first film, but are subsequently arrested and detained by the government, as being an active superhero is an offence. Twins Winston and Evelyn Deavor (Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener) reach out to them to help restore the reputation of superheroes by televising their honourable deeds. In a reversal of gender assumptions, Bob stays at home to look after the children and Helen acts as the public face of the twins’ plan.
Whilst picking up directly where the previous film left off could have been an issue, it benefits this film because it feels like the 2nd half of one story, which will make both films a good double feature. The story itself is exciting from beginning to end, due to a solid structure that perfectly balances the two main storylines. Character moments are allowed their own time, thankfully Bird does not pander to the attention-deficit and make everything as loud and fast as possible.
The characters are just as well handled as before and the focus is more balanced this time around; Bob is still central yet his family are given more screen time. Helen is at the forefront of the (super)heroics and has the most story focused arc in the film. Violet still longs for independence and Jack-Jack’s newfound unlimited powers make him almost god-like and he has an impish desire to unleash them whenever he can. Dash and Violet siblings are given a lot of focus in the 3rd act and it feels like a natural progression to show them acting independently. Bob’s role as cumbersome patriarch – wanting to look after his family but not knowing how to – is a surprising anchor that yields scenes both comedic and heartfelt.
Despite being lighter in tone than its predecessor, Incredibles 2 still contains a serious edge that sets it apart from other Pixar films. The first half contains a lot of ideological debate between various characters: whether superheroes should exist in society, as well as a solid commentary on media manipulation. But there is also plenty of humour and slapstick, particularly as Jack-Jack’s antics draw heavily on Hanna – Barbara comedy. The return of Edna Mode (Brad Bird) is also hilarious and does not overstay its welcome. The humour isn’t forced and largely lands well.
The voice acting is predictably solid from everyone, though the standouts are Nelson and Vowell as the father-daughter duo. Nelson is hilarious with his more comedy focused role and Vowell gets to show a wider range of emotions. The best new addition is Bob Odenkirk; he is extremely entertaining and is far more interesting than the corporate stereotype that a lazier film would present. The same can be said for Keener as Evelyn, who is taken in an interesting (If somewhat predictable) direction in the third act.
This is a beautiful looking and stylish animation that is visually engaging even during dialogue scenes. The action scenes are exciting and very creative, especially all of the vehicle chases and Michael Giacchino’s James Bond inspired score is still entertaining. It is great to see him return to this series given that the original film was his major debut as a composer.
Overall, Incredibles 2 is a solid sequel that may not be a classic like the first film but has a lot to enjoy and be entertained by. The characterisation and themes carry the story and the animation is superb. Adults and kids alike will enjoy it. Here’s hoping that the third film comes sooner rather than later.