Cinematic Releases: Incredibles 2 (2018) - Reviewed

Sequels can be difficult, particularly when the original story becomes as hugely popular as Pixar’s The Incredibles (2004). With such big shoes to fill, director Brad Bird and his production team came together with the original voice cast to bring their beloved characters back in Incredibles 2, which, fourteen years later in the real world, picks up right where its predecessor left off.

After the superhero family faces off against The Underminer with his giant drill and mine explosions across the city, leaving destruction everywhere, the Paars find themselves faced with similar conundrums that they did in the first film. As “supers” are still illegal, they must again relocate and try to live their lives as normal citizens – until Winston (Bob Odenkirk) and Evelyn (Catherine Keener) Deavor, a telecommunications mogul and his technological savant sister, reach out to them with an offer they are too hard-pressed to refuse. Leaving Bob at home to take care of the household and the children, Helen dons her Elastigirl costume once again, to create better publicity for superheroes and their good deeds in an attempt to change the law that has made life so difficult for her family. Pitted against a new foe, the Screenslaver, she has her work cut out for her – while Bob must face his own challenges when he discovers that baby Jack-Jack has superpowers that he doesn’t quite understand.

Packed with tightly gripping action scenes balanced with subtle exposition, Incredibles 2 hits the ground running and keeps a good pace throughout. Much like the original, the sequel deals with a lot of symbolism, but it doesn’t need to be heavy-handed to get its point across, and it spends much more time telling a good story. The fight scenes are dynamic and fantastically animated, moving quickly and seamlessly in their comic-book violence and clever uses of character designs. With her stretching, shape-shifting body and rapid thinking, Elastigirl is a compelling character to watch move through scenes of deft, suspenseful heroism – whether she is on her own or paired with other characters. She is the clear star of this sequel, and she is a worthy one.

If there is any real criticism to be made, it is that these exciting scenes are broken up for emotional beats that don’t quite feel as absorbing as they ought to – Bob’s insecurities, as he’s left to ponder new math and adolescent crushes while his wife is off saving the world and bringing acclaim to their cause, don’t so much end up illustrating how just as much personal strength is required to handle life outside heroics as they prove how much Bob needs to be Mr. Incredible to feel truly important. He does his best to tamp down the ego that drives his envy, doing everything he can to be a good father, but he doesn’t seem to really learn anything from the whole ordeal. The strongest example of character growth in this film is Helen’s – her stringent, comfortable complacency when it comes to hiding her powers, and what kind of example she’s been setting for her kids as a result, is tested when she is called to her new mission, and as she meets other heroes who look to her for inspiration, she realizes that there is a lot more at stake than simply following the rules.

Incredibles 2 is Pixar’s twentieth feature film, and it proves that after all this time, the studio still knows how to create sympathetic characters and tell absorbing stories that reflect our world back to us, whether we’re seeing ourselves in Helen’s vindication or Bob’s frustration, Violet’s heartbreak or Dash’s confusion. They may have special powers that endow them with unusual talents, but ultimately, the Paars are just like the rest of us – seeking validation, hoping for the best, and caring deeply about the world in which they live. Pixar continues to give us heroes we can look up to and enjoy watching, with steadfast excellence in its animation, sincerity in its storytelling, and humor in its execution. We still care about these characters fourteen years after we first met them, and that is a rare gift indeed. May we be graced with even more colorful characters to cherish and marvelous stories from Pixar in the years to come, and may we all, through their magnificent films, continue to find the hero that dwells within each of us. 

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-Dana Culling