It’s been 14 years since the release of The Incredibles. 14 years is a long time, so long that it’s easy to forget just how big of a deal that film was. It was received with great fanfare and critical acclaim. That led the film to grossing over 600 million dollars worldwide, which is nothing short of amazing. One could also argue that it ushered in the superhero movie take over in Hollywood since it predates all of the movies that we would credit with doing that. The film also proved to be way ahead of its time because there has yet to be another superhero movie like it. That was really the key to its greatness; the innovation, creativity and fun continues to set it apart from its peers. This all helps to make The Incredibles a favorite (for most) of all the Pixar movies and solidify Pixar as a giant in animation. With credentials like that a sequel is a no brainer, especially in today’s sequel heavy climate. But why wait 14 years for the sequel? An optimist would say they were taking their time putting together the proper script but after seeing Incredibles 2, I don’t think that was the case. As good as the first film was, it wasn’t flawless. It was overlong and lacked a true flare to make it memorable. Incredibles 2 didn’t correct those errors and lost what made the first one so special.
Incredibles 2 starts right where its predecessor left off, after Dash’s (Huck Milner) track meet when the Underminer attacks. This is an interesting approach for the returning writer/director Brad Bird. It’s a bit surprising and refreshing because most sequels don’t do this. Usually they start after a period of time has past, which helps to create new problems for the characters to deal with. It’s also a lot to ask from viewers after 14 years away from the story. Bird made the right choice because this worked. It played perfectly into the excitement and anticipation surrounding the film and threw us right into an organic action sequence. Unfortunately, this sequence didn’t work as well. The family dynamics of this sequence were the best parts. Watching the family try to stop this villain is what helps this film feel special. Their normal family arguments in the midst of a superhero action sequence is a lot of fun. That however is the only special thing about the sequence. The rest feels messy and unspectacular. The characters were acting in ways that didn’t make sense for their characters. Violet (Sarah Vowell) was using her powers in ways that were never established and didn’t make sense with the timeline. There wasn’t anything special or original about the action itself, which is what left the whole thing feeling unspectacular.
The opening sequence of Incredibles 2 was a mixed bag, which makes it a good representation for the whole film. There were parts that were a lot of fun and some that just didn’t work. This film falls short in some of the same ways that the first one did, it was overlong and for the most part, unspectacular. The film runs a little over two hours and it feels much longer than that. This is due, in part, to an uneventful second act and an anticlimactic third act. During this time there wasn’t too much substance happening other than a rather bland chase scene involving Elastigirl (Holly Hunter). The plot twist is what leads to the anticlimactic finish, because it was incredibly predictable. The biggest problem with Incredibles 2 is that we’ve seen all of this before. For large portions of this film it felt like a retread on the first. Brad Bird seemingly did away with a lot of the character progression from the first film. It fell back into a story in which Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) is upset with the anti-superhero laws and feels like he has no purpose if he’s not a superhero. He and his wife argue about their kids using their powers (even though at the end of the first film they were ok with it) and the kids were frustrated because they couldn’t use their powers. This is all from the first film. It wasn’t all that interesting then, and it was especially uninteresting for the second time.
Everything in Incredibles 2 wasn’t a retread and that’s when the film was at its best. The idea of Elastigirl being the superhero and (essentially) the breadwinner for the family was a fun twist. We’ve seen female superheroes but this was a good twist on that and the film was able to have a lot of fun with it. Making Mr. Incredible the stay-at-home dad, was smart and provided some of the best moments. It’s a great way to hide a powerful message. As much as this movie is about family, it’s also about empowering young girls (and women). Elastigirl is a working mom and a very successful one. She is the picture of the modern woman, she is a great mother, great at her job and that is something that should be celebrated, in this film it is. It is really cool to see that be front and center in this film.
Overall, Incredibles 2 just doesn’t come together the way it should. The first film was able to feel innovative and fresh. This film had an opportunity to do that again with the superhero genre, but it didn’t. There was some legitimately bad storytelling and lazy writing. An example of this are the villains. The film opens with one villain and then we never see him again, he’s never even referenced. Screenslaver is the main villain. This is the big plot twist in the story and, as I said earlier, it was horribly telegraphed. Screenslaver is a tech genius and we are only introduced to one of those in the entire film, Evelyn Deavor. It doesn’t help that she has a quiet and reserved disposition. This is uninspired and left me feeling a little flat. This is also a good way to describe how the entire film left me feeling. While it wasn’t all bad, there wasn’t enough of the good to hold it together. By the end I was ready for it to be over. Unfortunately it didn’t live up to the 14 years of expectations and it crumbled under the weight of its predecessor, which was a far better film.
3 out of 5 stars
Director: Brad Bird Writer: Brad Bird Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Miner, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk & Samuel L. Jackson Release Date: June 15th Rated: PG Run Time: 1 hour and 58 minutes Image Credit: Disney