A lot’s changed since Pixar’s beloved superhero flick, The Incredibles, was released in 2004.
It’s easy to forget that it predates the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe by as much as four years, and the DC Extended Universe by nine. It even a came a whole year before Batman Begins, the first chapter in Christopher Nolan’s legendary Dark Knight Trilogy. In short, we’ve come to expect a lot more from our superhero movies in the last 14 years. Superhero Fatigue is real, and as lesser offerings such as Suicide Squad and Justice League have shown, if a new movie isn’t up to scratch, fans and critics will show no mercy.
Pixar itself has also come a long way in the last 14 years, with The Incredibles predating fan favourites such as Up, Inside Out and Ratatouille. An Incredibles sequel isn’t just standing on the shoulders of giants. It gave the giants their podium.
The bottom line? 14 years ago, The Incredibles was ahead of its time. But is there still a place for it in the hearts of 2018’s audiences?
All that being said, I felt strangely at ease as I took my seat for the long-awaited Incredibles 2. If Pixar has demonstrated anything with Toy Story’s 2 and 3, Finding Dory and Monsters University, it’s that the studio knows how – and when – to launch a good sequel. I’m pleased to say it hasn’t let me down.
For starters, the studio has outdone itself with this film’s animation. With sequences such as an incredible runaway train chase, proving more engrossing than many that I’ve seen in multi-million dollar live-action superhero films, I’d go so far as to say that this is some of the best animation I’ve ever seen in a Pixar film.
Jack-Jack, who took a backseat in the first movie, will quickly become everyone’s favourite new Pixar character, stealing the show in every scene that he appears. He’s cute, he’s funny and I’ve no doubt that he’s going to be many viewers’ highlight of the film. Never mind Batman vs Superman; Jack-Jack vs racoon is the superhero throw down that everyone will remember.
One of my favourite parts of The Incredibles 2 though, is the way in which the dynamic in the family is completely tipped on its head. If the first film was Mr Incredible’s movie, its sequel is Elastigirl’s chance to take the spotlight; undertaking a mission to help prove the benefit that superheroes have to offer society, while Bob stays at home to look after the kids. It’s a wonderful reinvention of the dynamic that we saw in The Incredibles, erasing any concern I’d had about re-treading old ground.
Elastigirl herself is, in my view, even more entertaining to watch than Mr Incredible; finding endless ways to use her stretching abilities to fight crime, where Mr Incredible would simply have smashed his way through. A particular favourite sequence sees our hero use her own arms to slingshot herself high above the city skyline, before morphing into a kite and gliding gracefully through a beautifully realised canvas of skyscrapers and billboards.
The fact that Elastigirl’s the one taking a lead on the action this time around doesn’t mean Mr Incredible gets an easy ride, though. It quickly becomes clear that Bob’s never spent any time alone with his children and it’s a joy to watch him grapple with single fatherhood, as he tries throughout the film to connect which Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack.
While the new dynamic within the family is certainly fresh, one of my only complaints with The Incredibles 2 is that its villain is less so. The secret identity of new nemesis, The Screenslaver, is pretty clear from the off and their motivations felt far too similar to those of Syndrome in the first film; bottling down to another megalomaniac with a gripe against superheroes.
Likewise, while the film’s climax is entertaining and well-executed, it does feel like it’s been lifted from straight from the pages of ‘Comic Book Movies for Dummies’.
I can’t complain too much, though. We loved The Incredibles in 2004 for its characters, and they’re all on top form this time around. As with all Pixar films, it’s got plenty of heart, and that’s what will keep us coming back for more.
Verdict: More of what made the the first film so special, but with just enough reinvention of the original dynamic to keep it fresh, this is a truly incredible sequel.