FILM REVIEW: The greatest villains in "The Incredibles 2" are our expectations
In 2004, I waltzed into the first The Incredibles movie as a sugar high six-year-old. In 2018, I paced into The Incredibles 2 as an overly caffeinated adult. The sugar highs and popcorn munching had been replaced with aromatic bitters and theatre lobby chit-chat. The audience - kids when the first one was released - consisted now entirely of adults. A sight which must have given the Disney representatives a cold shiver; did they make the movie for us or the next generation?
Nearly fourteen years have passed since the release of the first movie. The Incredibles wowed all ages with a gripping story, a shocking twist, exceptional voice acting, and vibrant, stylish visuals. Despite nearly a decade and a half of technical evolution, The Incredibles still holds up, and genuinely couldn’t be any better.
The Incredibles 2 spends little time coaxing you back in with nostalgia. Instead, it immediately shows you what happened next as if the first film never ended. It's not Mr Incredible’s brute strength that heaves the gargantuan expectations off the film's shoulders, though. It is Elastigirl who stretches through every nitpick and takes centre stage.
We begin exactly where we left off, with the Incredibles facing off against The Underminer and in doing so attracting the attention of a wealthy entrepreneur Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) who's determined to end the prejudice against Supers by employing Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) at the forefront of his PR campaign. Meanwhile, Mr Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) faces his toughest challenge yet: looking after three kids, all of whom are advancing into tumultuous stages of life.
Great care has been taken in many aspects of the film. First and foremost, the animation is superb. Not only is it sleek and top of the line, it retains that classic Incredibles style, which is further enhanced by genuinely astounding production/animation design, architecture (I seriously want to live in their house), and lighting that would make Dario Argento jealous.
Secondly, the cast pulls no punches with their fantastic voice acting (I rate the first The Incredibles movie as the holy grail of voice acting performances). The ensemble doesn’t sound fourteen years older, and nor does their dialogue sound out of place with what we know and love about the characters.
Plot-wise, the movie's overall storyline is a bit shaky. Whereas everything else looks and feels like the fourteen-year gap was spent perfecting and polishing the animation, the story feels like a mix and match of different, not totally connected ideas. Incredibles 2 opts for bigger and bolder spectacles, as most sequels do, but somehow they’re never as thrilling as they could be, nor do any of them match the stakes of the first film. And seeing as this is a direct sequel and I waited fourteen gosh-dang years, comparisons are fair.
For a brief moment, we have a villain who is quite gripping and frightening. But like a Scooby Doo villain, once the mask is off and the jig is up, we’re left with a slightly disappointing villain who continues being diabolical to diminishing returns.
This sequel isn’t as gritty as its predecessor - let's not forget, that our villain was a Superhero serial killer, many of his guards died in fiery explosions, and we had a montage of Superheroes dying in horrific accidents - and it drops the first film's suave spy aesthetic. However, it does just fine without the edge, and takes into account that real heroes don't let anyone get hurt.
Luckily enough, the few problems the film has are not enough to weigh it down entirely. It is still a pleasure and a joy to be invited back into this world and to see our heroes in action once more. And the film doesn’t assert itself as an action film, as it predominantly focuses on the characters' development and how their day to day lives are affected by their powers - which is almost always more gripping than any set piece.
Cameos and callbacks to the original are minimal. The usuals like Fro-zone and Edna make their appearances to childhood glee and glorious scenes. And of course, we get volume two of "Honey, where is my super suit?".
The Incredibles 2 offers us some insightful social commentary. It spends a considerable amount of time illustrating that no role is defined by gender and every person should be given the opportunity to thrive. Elastigirl is a fantastic solo hero who is as entertaining to watch as she is important. And this time, Mr Incredible is our stay-at-home parent, a role which is occasionally played for laughs but always sincere in showing us his devotion. It’s a role reversal of the first movie, of course, but it works incredibly well.
So, fourteen years. Was it worth the wait?
Incredibles 2 could never entirely live up to the mounting hype and our personal expectations, nor could it improve upon its borderline perfect predecessor. However, it stands as a worthy and welcome sequel that never belittles its origins and feels comfortably familiar in the best way possible.