The Incredibles might be one of the 21st century’s best superhero films. Written and directed by Brad Bird, the 2004 Pixar animation centred on a family of superheroes in exile, called into action to save the world. The sequel has arrived now 14 years after the original, at a time when Pixar has struggled to maintain the quality of its output. So, the question to ask is if Incredibles 2 lives up to the original? Is it closer to the sublime Toy Story 3 than the mess of Cars 2?
The short answer is The Incredibles 2 is as good as the first. Brad Bird returns along with many of those who created the first film. The Incredibles fused nostalgia for superheroes of the 1960s with the contemporary pressures of family life. The Parr family lived in a bland suburbia struggling to hide their powers from a hostile world that has forced ‘supers’ into hiding because their interventions became unwelcome and prohibitively expensive in terms of insurance.
The sequel picks up the story right where the first film ended as the family face off against the Underminer with the help of Frozone (Samuel L Jackson). However, their actions are still illegal and the Parrs are now living in a motel facing an uncertain future. After coming to the attention of the wealthy Deavor twins, the Parrs become involved in a project to repair the image of superheroes and repeal the anti-superhero law using a positive example of a superhero.
And so, Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) goes back to saving the world while her husband, Mr Incredible (Craig T Nelson), looks after the kids, struggling with parental responsibilities. Violet’s crush Tony has forgotten her after a memory wipe, Dash is struggling with his homework and Jack-Jack’s new powers are a handful. As Elastigirl battles the sinister Screenslaver, the family face new dangers.
The Incredibles 2 surpasses the original film in some places but fails in others. The sequel is definitively funnier with more laugh out loud moments thanks in part to the increased screen-time of Jack-Jack. It is also packed with kinetic action sequences allowed by the developments in animation over the last 14 years. Villain Screenslaver speaks to contemporary anxieties about technology’s role as a mediator of experience and its consequences.
The film is perhaps a fraction too long for some younger viewers. While The Incredibles 2 is a story about a working mother, it does this at the expense of the stay at home father. There are also several plot holes which really should have been resolved.
The Incredibles 2 has already broken the record for the highest grossing animated film in the United States. Its success will likely lead to pressure for a third instalment. Certainly, there’s space for the Parr family’s story to become a trilogy. But, is it really needed? At a time when cinemas are groaning under the weight of superheroes and sequels, The Incredibles might be one superhero saga that has reached a satisfying end. It would a shame to spoil with another film.
Incredibles 2 is accompanied by Bao, a short film about a woman who gets a second chance to be a mother when a homemade dumpling comes to life. It’s a bittersweet and affecting vignette about the complexity of families that’ll affect older viewers.