It’s kind of crazy The Incredibles came out in 2004, just three days after George W. Bush won a second term – which seems like a lifetime ago. Kids who were two-years-old that year will now be able to drive themselves to see Incredibles 2. It all kind of feels like this because The Incredibles has become such an institution. It doesn’t feel like a movie that was released in any year, really. It’s one of those movies that kind of feels like it’s always been around. As family movies go, The Incredibles is canon.
Which is why it’s remarkable it took this long for a sequel. Director Brad Bird has been asked about a sequel since pretty much the first one came out and he’s always seemed open to it, but his answers always included some variation of “getting the story right.” And since the release of The Incredibles, the superhero movie business has exploded. It’s tough to make a film that subverts the superhero genre in 2018 when that’s what a lot of actual superhero movies are already doing.
And now, finally, Incredibles 2 is here. And instead of any kind of grand statement about superheroes, it’s almost as if Bird decided instead, “Let’s just have a lot of fun with this one.” And there does seem to be a message at play here, but it’s not really much about superheroes.
Incredibles 2 picks up right where the last one left off – which makes sense because it’s hard to peg when these movies take place anyway, so why mess around with it being “14 years later” or something like that. (If it’s been awhile since you’ve seen The Incredibles, the setting shows us characters driving cars and using tech that looks like it’s from the mid-1960s, yet everyone talks and uses slang like it’s in the present.)
After battling The Underminer (where the first movie leaves off), The Incredibles are apprehended by the authorities because, like in the first film, superheroes are still illegal. But Winston Deavor (I have no idea if doing voice work is fun, but Bob Odenkirk sure sounds like he’s having a lot of fun) wants to change all this! Winston loves superheroes and he, along with his sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener, who also sounds like she’s having the time of her life), develop body suit camera for superheroes to wear so that the normal person can get a sense of what they do and learn to appreciate them. Winston enlists Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) to be the first heroes to test out this new technology.
Citing collected data that Elastigirl seems to cause the least amount of collateral damage during her rescues, she’s tapped as the first to go public with her footage. It’s going to be the best from a PR standpoint. Her first test is a speeding train headed the wrong direction, which sets up a thrilling chase sequence as Elastigirl zigzags through the streets on a motorcycle as she tries to keep up with the out of control train. This is such a great scene and makes us remember why we’ve been waiting 14 years for this sequel.
It’s soon discovered that the villain behind the runaway train, and other recent events, is a mysterious person called the Screenslaver who has the power to hypnotize anyone who is looking at a screen. The Screenslaver gives a whole big monologue about how we are all now slaves to a screen and that’s why all of these terrible consequences are happening. Now, Screenslaver is a pretty good villain! But the Screenslaver’s motivations are a bit, let’s say, “ahead of their time,” because not many people in the world of The Incredibles are really looking at many screens. You know, putting my thinking hat on, I think this message may be more for us, the viewer, than anyone in the movie. (And if you’re reading this, you are looking at a screen. The Screenslaver caught you! As I’m typing it, I am looking at a screen. Boy, I think the Screenslaver has a point.)
While all this is going on, Mr. Incredible is at home (Winston gave the family a giant new “modern” house) trying to take care of the kids. He has to re-learn math to help his son, Dash (Huck Milner). (This scene is both hilarious and horrifying. The thought of trying to re-learn math right now makes me anxious.) He has to help Violet (Sarah Powell) as she navigates her feelings toward a boy at school. And, best of all, infant son Jack-Jack now has a wide array of powers that is used to set up unlimited hijinks. Anyway, pretty much every scene of Mr. Incredible at home is dynamite.
I do wonder if the 14-year wait between movies will have people expecting something “grandiose” or “important.” That’s not really what Incredibles 2 is or what it’s trying to be. Instead, it feels like a direct extension of the first film. It feels like a movie that could have easily come out in 2006 as opposed to now, which is what makes Incredibles 2 so fun. It doesn’t belong to a time, so ten years from now both of these installments will just seem like they’ve always just kind of been here. Incredibles 2 will now take its rightful place alongside the first film in the “family canon.”
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