Way back when Disney first acquired Marvel Studios in 2009, many a fan lamented that this meant the MCU would become too family-friendly (i.e. nearly everything to certain kinds of men). But it was 2004’s The Incredibles that showed us crime-fighting could indeed be a family affair as Bob Parr a.k.a. Mr Incredible (Craig T Nelson) and Helen Parr a.k.a. Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) struggled to raise a family while trying to figure out what it meant to be a superhero.
I’m happy to say that all the charm and humour of The Incredibles remain intact in the sequel. Director Brad Bird is once again at the helm of a movie that shows the struggle of trying to balance superhero life with family life. After an attempt to stop a villain from carrying out his devious plan, the Parrs find themselves homeless, jobless and without the protection of the superhero programme that recruited them.
In steps one Winston Deavour (Bob Odernkirk) and his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener), a billionaire pair who hire Elastigirl. They plan to legitimise supers again by capturing the villain called Screenslaver, who uses screens to, well, enslave people. Meanwhile, Mr Incredible has to play Mr Mom and tries to keep the home fires burning while Violet (Sarah Vowell) struggles with dating troubles and Dash (Huck Milner) puzzles over math problems. Oh, and there’s also Jack-Jack’s developing powers to contend with.
While I enjoyed Avengers: Infinity War (see our review), it was nice to watch a movie with a much smaller scope. And while Screenslaver isn’t out for intergalactic domination so much as to prove a point about how much society relies on screens, the real villain of the movie is Real Life and all the responsibilities it entails.
Incredibles 2 strikes the strongest chord when Bob and Helen Parr are trying to figure out how to build a world where their children don’t have to keep their powers a secret, where they have a choice to fight for the greater good instead of being forced to go underground.
In the best tradition of Pixar films, The Incredibles 2 has much deeper concerns behind its apparent family-friendly face, taking on heavy and complex issues of government intervention, the ethics of vigilantism and yes, even feminism. Where the first movie focused on Mr Incredible, the sequel focuses on Elastigirl, and the movie is all the better for it.
As Bob Parr keeps repeating to himself throughout the movie, for him to succeed, his wife needs to succeed. It’s a progressive message that fits in nicely with the current cultural zeitgeist. Sure, the plot does drag in one or two places, but you’ll be laughing too hard at Jack-Jack’s fight with a raccoon to care.
Thanks to the looong 14-year wait between the two movies, Incredibles 2 really benefits from better animation techniques. The art is stunning and shiny in turn, and I really wish we had more time in the movie to appreciate all the beautiful detail. But one thing I was very glad to see was the return of super-designer Edna Mode (voiced by Bird himself), who bonds with Jack-Jack in the most delightful of ways.
People always say the sequel is never as good as the first one, but in this case, I think it at least matches the humour and charm of The Incredibles. You really can’t go wrong with taking the family out to watch The Incredibles 2, even if you’re suffering from superhero movie fatigue.
The Incredibles 2 is playing in Singapore now.