WARNING: HEAVY SPOILERS AHEAD
Fourteen years after the release of Disney’s Pixar hallmark Incredibles, everyone’s favourite super-family comes crashing back into theatres in the form of its long-awaited sequel – a slick, smart, laugh-a-minute rollercoaster that picks up right where its predecessor left off in 2004 and doesn’t look back. Having already opened to a huge box office success and pretty positive reviews from critics and fans alike, anyone worried about the curse of bad sequels can rest assured that Incredibles 2 certainly lives up to expectations as a worthy continuation of the beloved franchise. Writer/Director Brad Bird’s script balances an accessible, kid-friendly narrative with a pleasing amount of maturity and wit that will appeal to all the big kids out there who have been waiting over a decade to see this film.
After incidentally destroying most of Metroville whilst defeating the bank-robbing Underminer, the Parr family are forced into hiding as backlash from anti-superhero protesters and politicians renders their vigilante crime-fighting illegal. Tensions grow in their tiny motel room, as the kids protest having to hide their abilities from the world, having had a taste of the superhero life when teaming up with their parents to save the day in the exhilarating climax of the first film. Bob (Craig T. Nelson) and Helen (Holly Hunter) consign to the possibility of a ‘normal’ life, getting real jobs and attempting to raise their kids with their powers untapped. However, Elastigirl, Mr Incredible, and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) are soon recruited by wealthy pro-super Devtech CEO, Winston Deaver (Bob Odenkirk). Along with his sister and designer Evelyn (Catherine Keener), Winston has invested in body-cam technology that would provide evidence of the good work supers do. Thus, the Incredibles are given the opportunity to prove to the world that supers are more than just mindless vigilantes with a laundry list of expensive collateral damage.
Considered the lesser liability of the three, Helen is chosen to take part in a small-scale publicity mission which ends up in a race to save a newly unveiled high-speed train from derailing. The culprit is revealed to be our brand-new villain, Screenslaver, who is able to hypnotise people via hacked computer screens. Suddenly, Elastigirl is catapulted back into fame – the good kind – and must leave home to get back to crime-fighting and press-junketing full-time. This presents an immediate source of conflict in the central narrative; Bob’s ego renders him unable to swallow the notion that his wife might be better than him at their work. Meanwhile, Bob is met with the challenge of looking after the three kids at home, juggling homework, boyfriend problems, and a baby with an ever-growing plethora of uncontrollable superpowers. Rather than admitting his parenting struggles to Helen, hilarity ensues as Bob tries to deal with their multiplying, highly flammable, dimension-hopping baby, who manages to steal just about every scene he’s in (and he can’t even talk yet). Jack-Jack’s powers were first teased to the audience at the end of the first film, and the full extent of them seems almost incomprehensible, much to the delight of our good friend Edna Mode.
Besides the return of our favourite characters from the franchise (see: cameo from the voice of Honey, Frozone’s wife), the introduction of our two new featured characters, Winston and Evelyn, provides a welcome new direction in the story. Where Winston is the enthusiastic, corporate face of Devtech, Evelyn is the brains behind the technological designs of their company. The budding friendship between Helen and Evelyn is an interesting one; Evelyn’s languid confidence and cynical candour provides Helen with a new perspective and adds another layer to the girl-power focus of the narrative. There’s also some definite queer subtext at play here; Evelyn’s edgy style and flirtatious mannerisms have some more-than-incidental gay vibes to them (back me up here queer women). However, the film’s major plot-twist sours this notion a little – any possible queer-coding of Evelyn’s character is ultimately problematized by the reveal that she is the mastermind behind Screenslaver, whom Helen and the rest of the supers must turn against to defeat. Disney’s problem with queering their villains is no great secret, and with retrospect, it’s a considerably predictable turn of events. After all, a positive alliance between two powerful and astute women is usually too good to be true, right?
That being said, it’s hard to dislike the delightfully cunning Evelyn. She’s certainly a complex and largely non-traditional female character, and even the motivation for her villainy is quite grey, which is interesting to see in a film genre based on a pretty black and white good vs evil dichotomy. Female villains are absolutely entertaining, especially ones as unapologetic as Evelyn.
On the moral flip side, it is the kids who get to shine at Incredibles 2’s climax, as Violet and Dash try to prove their parents wrong by coming to their aid when things begin to go south at Devtech. Despite Helen and Bob’s worries that their children will only put themselves in danger by using their powers, Violet and Dash step up to bat with zeal, though they still possess the amusing immaturity that makes them believable as tween characters (who’s watching Jack-Jack?). Accompanied once again by our favourite jazzy, toe-tapping score by Michael Giachinno, the final extended rescue and fight sequence is a hugely entertaining collaborative effort that goes to show that the Parrs, as resilient as they are individually, can only be truly incredible when they work together as a family.
Incredibles 2 was, to my immense relief, outrageously good fun. Bird and Pixar have outdone themselves, effortlessly matching the youthful energy and cleverness of the first film without recycling too many gags, and still manages to feel completely unique within the over-saturated superhero genre. It left me feeling that a third Incredibles film wouldn’t go amiss, although we have learnt from far too many exhausted franchises that we should probably be careful what we wish for.
By Megan Wilson
Megan is a northerner currently studying film in London. She likes cats, old musicals, and films about lesbians who don’t die. Her favourite films include Carol, Moonlight, Singin’ in the Rain, and Matilda. Twitter: @bertmacklln