‘Incredibles 2’ Was Almost Worth the Wait

I’ve never understood Pixar’s apparent reluctance to make a sequel to The Incredibles (2004).  At the time of its release, it was probably their best movie other than Finding Nemo (2003).  They had already made their first sequel with Toy Story 2 (1999) and, with respect to that franchise, The Incredibles had more potential as an ongoing series than that one ever did.  Superheroes were already revving up to their current place of dominance at the box office (likely the reason why the studio was eager to make that film in the first place).

The first two X-Men movies had already come and gone.  The first two Spider-Man movies had already come and gone.  All three Blade movies had come and gone, as had the first Hellboy, Ang Lee’s Hulk and Affleck’s Daredevil.  Hollywood was only one year out from Batman Begins (2005), two from Superman Returns (2006) and four from the start of the MCU.  Additionally, Pixar began busying themselves with franchise-building of their own, with releases like Toy Story 3 (2010), Cars 2 (2011), Monster’s University (2013), Finding Dory (2016) and Cars 3 (2017).

And yet, they waited.  They worked through scripts that were evidently not good enough and projects that seemed more worthwhile.  Brad Bird his hand at live-action  And through it all, we waited: sometimes impatiently, but always raptly, eagerly.  We waited while Marvel got sequel after endless sequel and we waited while Disney remade their classic cartoons into live action.  And now, fourteen years after the first movie debuted to theaters the world over, we finally have our sequel.

And you know what?  It was almost worth the wait.

When all is said and done, Incredibles 2 is a genuinely great movie that commendably lives up to its storied predecessor.  With the possible exception to the two latter-day Toy Stories, it’s easily the best Pixar sequel.  Outside of the MCU, it’s probably the best superhero sequel since probably The Dark Knight.  And as things currently stand, it’s more than likely it will probably end up being one of the better movies of the year when all is said and done.

The animation, of course, is incredible.  It took the solid, clean-cut and dynamic art style of the first movie and layered on a decade and a half’s worth of technical innovation.  Whereas the first film, despite its crisp design, looked plasticky and weirdly empty, Incredibles 2 feels richly textured and existing within a lived-in world brimming with people and things.  The backgrounds and lighting are especially impressive, painted with vibrant colors and looking like museum-quality art in their own right.

And with just as many years of innovation within its genre, Incredibles 2 has a lot of inventive new directions to take its Supers’ power sets.  Violet – the Invisible Woman of the group – can now hurl her forcefields at opponents as projectiles.  Elastigirl gets her very own Elasticycle, which separates into front and back sections and allows for some visually spectacular action beats when combined with her stretching powers.  And then, of course, there’s Jack Jack, whose multitudinous powers from the first movie are explored in greater detail and to really fun ends here.

As for plot, it’s mostly plays out as a retread of the first movie.  Taking place in the final scene of the first movie, the aftermath of a bank robbery reminds us that, despite foiling Syndrome’s scheme, superheroes are still illegal.  Their previous adventures have gained the notice of a multinational industrialist and major superhero fanboy.  Wanting to legalize superheroes once more, he employs Elastigirl as a dash-cam’ed test-case to win back public support for superheroes by reframing the unerringly negative narrative that they had been beholden to for decades.  Meanwhile, it’s up to Mr. Incredible to take over as Mr. Mom: taking care of the now-powered Jack Jack, tutoring Dash in Math and helping Violet navigate the not-so wonderful world of dating.

Despite the A-plot’s edging tiredly up to being a beat-for-beat reworking of the first movie’s plot, it thankfully zigs at a few key moments when you would expect it to zag: veering just enough off-course, with an interesting new supporting cast of characters to work with, that it still manages to be a lot of fun (if still somewhat familiar).  While Mr. Incredible’s struggling dad B-plot goes on a little long and unevenly focuses on his three kids, it’s the source of the film’s expected comedic beats and it is genuinely fun to see working-man Bob Parr take on super-powered domestic duties.  In particular, an extended sequence in which Jack Jack fights a raccoon with his new suite of superpowers was the absolute highlight of the movie and worth every second spent on it.

While the movie comes close many times to repeating the one-of-a-kind experience of the first movie, it sadly never quite gets there: held back by a few extraneous or under-developed sub-plots, tipping its hat about a few key plot twists too early in the runtime and playing the entire production a little close to the first go-around.  That being said, though, it will undoubtedly prove to be a highlight of the summer season and another great Pixar outing.

Rating: 4/5

Buy on BluRay: If you have any love for the first movie.

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