It took over a decade for Pixar and writer/director Brad Bird to return to the world of The Incredibles, but it was worth the wait. Incredibles 2 lives up to its title, as this super-duper sequel packs in all one would want as far as following up one of the animation studio’s most action-packed and snappiest. Now in a world where superhero films are commonplace, the strengths of the original have not changed here. The sequel provides laughs, thrills, wit, and enough slam-bang action to make anyone happy. Incredibles 2 works well as a summer blockbuster and still has plenty on its mind as far as subverting the expectations of what it means to have superpowers.
As an unabashed fan of the original (it’s tied for my favorite Pixar film with Finding Nemo and WALL-E), knowing that Bird would be returning for a sequel gave me plenty of hope. While I figured it would be difficult to match the sheer joy that came from The Incredibles, Bird is a smart enough filmmaker to know how to make a proper sequel. That proved to be accurate, as the setting and story do enough to keep the audience aware of what transpired in the first and who these characters are, but without having to rely on repeating what worked the first time.
Wisely, Incredibles 2 picks up exactly where the first left off. A great joy of the animated world means not dealing with the difficulty of actors’ looks dramatically changing, so we can have Bob and Helen Parr (Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter), along with their kids Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner), and baby Jack-Jack, looking and acting exactly as who they were the last time we saw them. It also means seeing the story continue from the intriguing place we had last left the world.
The Incredibles established a world where superheroes existed but were forced into retirement. This sequel is about how to bring them back. While the opening action sequence involves the rise of the dreaded Underminer (voiced by Pixar’s good luck charm, John Ratzenberger), the damage caused only serves to remind the public of what kinds of destruction super heroics can create. Enter Winston and Evelyn Deavor (Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener), a successful brother-sister team who have plans to bring supers back into the world by reconfiguring the public perception of them.
Whether or not directly inspired by the devastating events that take place in many live-action superhero films these days, it is easy to see how this story serves as a natural follow-up to the first film. The Incredibles toyed with specific ideas concerning the celebration of mediocrity, following the public’s turn on those seeking to help people by thwarting evil. Now, in a time when eliminating evil continually involves lots of property damage (which has rightfully become a concern in recent years for the big comic book movies as well), here’s a story about creating an icon that can be seen as a positive thanks to the risks incurred and impossible choices made at a moment’s notice.
This level of story works as a perfect way to change up the dynamics of the series by placing Helen’s Elastigirl front and center. Some sly commentary is played up here as well, but the film doesn’t overplay its hand at putting Mr. Incredible on dad duty. This isn’t the dated idea of a dad having no idea how laundry works; it’s more about adjusting to the life he’s had a major hand in creating from a new angle. As a result, Incredibles 2 works as a way to further strengthen the themes involving family and finding great ways to include every member of the family in the process.
So, Incredibles 2 is a well-thought-out sequel that deals with the politics of superheroes, the strength of family, and, to a lesser extent, celebrating what it means to be the person you were born as, as we see more supers revealing themselves. But is there also an entertaining action-comedy to be found here? Of course there is! Take a step back from the messaging, and there’s still a giant amount of fun to be had in all the ways Bird and his team thought up to make this a terrifically enjoyable experience.
With plenty of time no doubt spent on how to really take advantage of a world full of people with superpowers, the action sequences are spectacular. They are never confusing or feel unnecessary. Instead, we have a filmmaking team that understand what it means to work with a variety of superpowers and figures out ways to explore how that can be displayed through wonderful fights, cooperative moments, and in hilarious ways. For good reason, a lot of comedy comes through in the display of superpowers. Jack-Jack has a hysterical sequence that revolves around elaborating on what he’s capable of. That in mind, showing off these abilities provides a lot of thrills as well.
It may be fun to watch Samuel L. Jackson’s Frozone use his freezing abilities to make an ice snack for Jack-Jack, but the way the film smoothly changes things up when its time to emphasize the danger element comes just as easily here. One sequence involves a motorcycle chase with Elastigirl. The motorcycle has a unique design to work with her stretching abilities, making for a wildly fun chase to watch that’s not without its stakes. For all the delights had in Incredibles 2, it’s great to see how well it can make the threats feel real, without betraying the spirit of the story.
As one would expect, Incredibles 2 looks great. With more than a decade having passed, the technology has clearly advanced, and there is no shortage of amazing visuals to behold. Still, the unique character designs and retro quality of the world these supers occupy allow for a stylized portrayal of what’s taking place that looks as amazing as possible right now. Having Michael Giacchino back to provide another upbeat, high tempo, jazzy score only pushes things further when it comes to getting across just how well this production soars.
There’s honestly little to wince at with this film. Beyond, perhaps, a lack of freshness given familiarity with the original and all the superhero films that have come since, Incredibles 2 has so much working in its favor. From the sharp script that allows the whole vocal cast to shine and a proper story to take place, to the astonishing designs that continue to build out this world and allow for fantastic action, this is a film that is pure joy from start to finish. At nearly two hours, that could feel like a lot for other movies to handle, but with the amount of zippy fun taking place, amidst the smart ideas underneath the surface, I’m already ready for another couple hours with an Incredibles 3: Days of Supers Past.