Incredibles 2 was...well...gorram incredible
(See what I did there? But yeah, there's gonna be spoilers.)
Sequels tend to be hit or miss. Sometimes they turn out to be a terrible idea, and sometimes (rarely) they actually end up being better than the original. “Rescuers Down Under” was my favorite movie growing up, and I always liked “Fivel Goes West” better than “An American Tale.” Sometimes reviews are mixed, with some elements of a sequel bringing out the best of established characters, but there are moments that stall or a storyline that falters.
I fell in love with the first Incredibles movie immediately. I had posters, towels, underwear. It remains one of my favorite movies of all time. Something about the depth of character development, the inventive story, and the well structured plot stood out to a lot of people.
Superhero movies weren’t that popular when it came out, so it felt innovative and original. If it had come out now, in the days of the MCU and DC moviescapes, a sequel would have been assumed. But for some reason it took 14 years for them to come out with another Incredibles story. I know I haven’t been the only one waiting, but many people don’t even remember when the first one came out.
And now the wait is over. And boy, was it worth it. (Not really, though. I would have taken this one a few years earlier.) (Also, for the record, I read the junior novelization before seeing the movie. But although I technically knew what was going to happen, the movie made everything way, way better.)
This is one of those sequels that is solid, both in story and in progress. Animation has come a long way since 2004, and it shows. One of the things that really stood out to me was the body language. There were these tiny little details that really made the story come alive; facial expressions, a shifting of shoulders, a tapping of toes. It felt like there were real actors on the screen.
The vibrancy of this world is also extraordinary. There’s this cool 60’s vibe that was present in the original, but only as a backdrop. Now we get a real sense of the world these characters live in, and it’s fast and bright and hip. It doesn’t feel affectatious, it feels natural and realistic.
This is also evident in the way this world is populated. Much of the story in the first film takes place outside the scope of civilian life, and the background characters were drab and uniform. But in this updated world, the city was filled with people of all races and genders and body types. It gave the story a sense of realism, that this is a city I could actually imagine myself in. I could have used a little more diversity in the main character cast, particularly with the new characters, but it was nice to see attention being put into creating a diverse population. I especially enjoyed seeing the new Supers from other areas of the world. There were Asians and Black people and an Indian Super with a bindi! I only wish we could have spent a little more time with them.
And there were female characters everywhere. From Helen front and center, to Evelyn, to Voyd, women were central to the story and the universe. And even though there was a “gender swap” story, where the father now has to stay home with the kids, it never felt forced or stereotypical. Bob was frustrated about not being able to be the one leading the charge because he has always struggled to find fulfillment in life outside of hero work. There was humor, of course, but it wasn’t a cheap shot at typical gender roles. Bob was having a hard time with the kids because they were going through a hard time, not because he was a man and therefore had no idea how to be anything but the breadwinner.
And Jack Jack? Jack Jack was definitely one of the highlights. The timing of his scenes were hysterically perfect, and his time with Edna may be a stroke of genius. The writers definitely knew how best to have the whole family play off each other and their sometimes strained relationships, and the result was an imperfect family working together toward a common goal. Which feels grounded and honest, and where many other superhero films fall short.
Now can we talk about Evelyn? Evelyn is a treasure. Her sense of fashion is amazing, her style is casual and cool, and she definitely read as queer to me. She and Helen develop a really interesting and dynamic relationship that highlights the importance and positivity of female friendships (even if it turned out Evelyn was just using Helen).
And while she is very different from Syndrome, I think that worked in the film’s favor. Syndrome was bombastic and kinetic, and demanded your attention through displays of power and pompous speeches. Evelyn was a slow burn, playing the long game. She demanded a different kind of attention, one based on isolation and self-reflection. And they essentially wanted the same thing. Syndrome wanted everyone to be equal, to have access to technology that would make Supers obsolete. He wanted recognition. Evelyn’s desire to get rid of Supers came from a place of anger and regret, that caused her to see Supers as a handicap to progress and strength. These two felt like a smart and well crafted dichotomy of the ends justifying the means. This is not a world full of Super Villains and Evil Masterminds, aliens or gods. It’s a world full of people, who have goals and desires that are sometimes misguided, stemming from jealousy or greed. Some of them just happen to be technological wizards or have special powers.
I think what I enjoyed most about this movie is just how self aware it felt. I don’t think it is a coincidence that they decided to make Elastigirl the main character, in a world where fans are clamoring for more female leads. She’s a “better sell,” and it allowed for a more nuanced and interesting storyline.
I also thought the Screenslaver had an interesting point about “needing” superheroes. I love superhero movies, but it can get tiresome when the same old characters get origin stories or spin-offs when all we want is something new and exciting. The idea that we are “slaves to our screens” is not new, but the approach didn’t feel tired or cliched. It felt reflective. I don’t necessarily believe Supers make us “weak,” but there is something to be said when most of us would rather go see “Infinity War” than call our senator or volunteer at a local shelter.
I would highly recommend this film. The first movie introduces us to some great characters, and this movie gives them room to grow, with a well-crafted story and dynamic animation. Go check it out, and remember to always wear your helmet! (I am also looking at you, Captain America. Kids look up to you.)