Incredibles 2 (2018)

Multiple choice quiz. Why did you like The Incredibles?

a) Because of the bleeding-edge animation facilitating amazing superhero fight scenes.

Then you’ll love Incredibles 2. The technical animation is still the best I’ve ever seen, even three years later — especially the amazing lighting and soaring camera. The rigging is world-class, the blend of stylized action and realistic physics is amazing.

b) Because of the superhero family sitcom fun.

You’ll be happiest of all. Domestic hi-jinks are a solid half of the movie this time, and it’s way funnier than the original. The big joke this time around is that Elastigirl is out so Mr. Incredible has to try to keep the family together, and it’s harder than he expects, especially with Jack-Jack showing more of his powers.

c) Because of the coherent and compelling story that ties these things together with urgency and freshness.

You’ll be disappointed, then, like I was. Specific moments and character beats shine, but from a story perspective, this sequel never justifies its existence, and stumbles through plot holes and thematic weirdness the original evaded.

Consider Jack-Jack’s powers — in the original, it made sense that a baby couldn’t articulate itself into an identity, but in a moment of distress would project its unrefined, uncontrollable id. Here, it’s just “haha, Jack-Jack so crazy!” when he uses his powers because, sure, it’s funny.

The overall arc of the film lacks a clear, cohesive point: The Supers are illegal and resented so… they should do more Super things publicly to change the public’s mind? And it’s supposed to be a twist when a villain turns this against them?

Worse yet, the funky, Randian politics of the original are heightened this time around. The egalitarian feminist is ultimately shown to be a two-timing, Machiavellian virtue signaller, manipulating the public message for her own personal reasons.

Ultimately, it’s a movie that’s less than the sum of its parts, but so many of those parts are really, really good. The visual work here is literally unprecedented and unmatched, and the script is occasionally great. I laughed at least fifteen times. I can’t rank this movie as top-tier Pixar; more like upper mid-tier. Not quite Top 10, but not far off.

April 2022 rewatch update:

The more times I watch this, the more clear it becomes that Brad Bird decided to tell almost the exact opposite story from what I was hoping for in an Incredibles sequel. It’s a thematic retread with shallow remixes of character development already explored in the original. Nothing nearly as challenging to the genre or conventions as the 2005 masterpiece.

(This would have been my story pitch had Pixar knocked on my door: We open with a time jump to Dash and Violet as young adults, Jack-Jack as a teenager. Superheroes have been renormalized in society. Retiree Mr. Incredible confronts his obsolescence amid the glut of trendy superheroes a la MCU. Dash and Violet clash as Violet joins a superhero reform group, arguing vigilantism inevitably leads to fascist arbitration of justice, while Dash wants to run free and unregulated with his powers. Jack-Jack is trying to decide which side he supports. Mrs. Incredible tries to keep the clan together. A new mysterious figure arises, delivering swift and brutal justice to high-profile baddies. But are they a superhero… or a supervillain? And why are the Parrs the next target?)

Thankfully, the execution of the story Pixar decided to tell is so good that it still comes close to greatness in my eyes. The animation, lighting, and set piece direction all remain the most technically accomplished and impressive that I’ve seen in CGI history (Spider-Verse as its main rival, but in a totally different visual mode).

In short, it’s simultaneously a breathtaking marvel… and a major disappointment.

Is It Good?

Good (5/8)

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