Incredible is a subjective term,
As critics and colleges can confirm.
One man’s amazing and top-of-the-class
Is another’s mundane because people, alas,
See things either clearly or through rosy glass.
Incredible is a desirable word,
So rarely deserved yet so commonly heard.
At times, there’s consensus for some shining star,
But mostly we just must agree on the bar
And how we compare them decides what they are.
MPAA rating: PG
Of all the studios churning out long-awaited sequels, Pixar has arguably the best track record. Whether it’s Monsters University, Finding Dory, or Toy Story 3 (I mean 4), the decade-waiting sequelization of their canon is well underway and, with the exception of Cars 2, has turned out surprisingly well. (They’re all weaker than the originals, but they’re by no means bad, except Cars 2.) Yet strangely, Pixar has made fans wait longest for the follow-up to the one film in their oeuvre that was actively crying out for a sequel, namely The Incredibles. Perhaps due to the influx of superhero franchises since 2003, director Brad Bird finally delivered, and I’d say the fourteen-year wait was worth it.
Picking up immediately where the first film left off, The Incredibles 2 reminds us that, even after saving the world from Syndrome, the Parr family still have to deal with the fact that superheroing is illegal. After their battle with the Underminer goes south, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter) and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) are approached by millionaire entrepreneurs Winston (Bob Odenkirk) and Evelyn Deavor (Catherine Keener), a brother and sister team who are actively trying to bring supers back into the spotlight. Due to her less destructive abilities, Elastigirl is the new face of their law-bending campaign, and while Bob deals with the headaches of parenting at home, Helen faces off with a mind-controlling villain called the Screenslaver.
There are certain elements borrowed from the previous film, such as the family disagreements on how to handle hiding their powers, and if you suspect their new benefactors aren’t entirely on the up-and-up, you’d be somewhat right. Yet The Incredibles 2 does an excellent job at differentiating itself from the first and from other superhero films in general. Chief among the differences is the inclusion of other supers joining the crusade for superhero legality, and their presence allows for added creativity in the battles and actual super-vs.-super fights rather than the repeated super-vs.-robot fight of the first. Anyone who wanted more Elastigirl and Frozone shouldn’t be disappointed, and while Bob seemed sidelined by suppressed egotism and Mr. Mom franticness, it wasn’t as bad as the trailers implied. Ultimately, even with some mature themes being broached, this is still a film for and about families, with Bob’s first-hand struggles with superpowered child-rearing offering a nice counterpoint to the more action-packed beats with his wife.
One thing that seemed like a retroactive change is that the Parrs apparently didn’t see baby Jack-Jack use his powers at the end of the first film, allowing for all of them to be surprised again by his multifaceted abilities. Jack-Jack even steals the show at times, whether he’s paired with an ornery raccoon or fashionista Edna Mode (Brad Bird). Likewise, Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner, seamlessly replacing Spencer Fox) get their fair share of screen time, especially after the villain is revealed. Speaking of which, the Screenslaver may not have as compelling a backstory as Syndrome, but the philosophy spouted by the shadowy figure has a point in denouncing people’s reliance on computer/TV screens and lack of responsibility. It’s the kind of motivation that works well for a supervillain, bearing a kernel of truth but taken to a malevolent extreme, which actually offers a legitimate threat against the supers.
I’ll be honest: I intentionally had very low expectations for The Incredibles 2. Others I know have said they had enormous hopes for it, but when you’re dealing with a film as awesome as the first Incredibles, it’s going to be hard to match. Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it so much compared with one of my disappointed coworkers, who likely had too many preconceived notions of what the perfect sequel should be, not unlike Star Wars fans of late. Yes, The Incredibles 2 doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor: It lacks the meaningful character arcs of the first film, its villain mystery is semi-predictable, and it raises more thematic questions about right, wrong, and responsibility than it even tries to answer. Yet it was so enjoyable to spend time with these characters again that I didn’t mind, and it still stands head-and-shoulders above the majority of animated films nowadays.
I think I’d go so far as to call it the best Pixar sequel since Toy Story 2, at least in recapturing the spirit of the original. The action scenes are as cool and polished as anything in the MCU, and Michael Giacchino’s bombastic score is still the perfect complement to its comic book world. It’s not above some complaints, but if you compare The Incredibles 2 to Cars 2 rather than the first Incredibles, I think you’ll agree it’s an “incredible” sequel. Pixar does it again!
Best line: (Edna) “Done properly, parenting is a heroic act. [Glares at Bob’s exhaustion] “Done properly.”
Rank: List-Worthy (joining the first film)
© 2018 S.G. Liput
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