Although The Incredibles was released fourteen years ago, Incredibles 2 picks up fourteen seconds after it left off with the appearance of mole-themed villain the Underminer, and launches straight into an energetic action sequence where the Parr family – super-strong dad Bob, stretching mum Helen, invisible and forcefield-projecting teenage daughter Violet, and speedster young son Dash, battle him using their newfound cohesive combination of their powers. After the fight they face repercussions for their illegal superheroics, prompting their recruitment by Winston and Evelyn Deavor, sibling tech entrepreneurs who want to change the public image of superheroes and push for their re-legalisation. Helen becomes the poster girl for the movement, leaving Bob at home to look after the kids while she is away on missions, all the while a sinister new supervillain emerges from the shadows.
By all rights, Incredibles 2 is a film that shouldn’t work nowadays. The first movie was a nigh-perfect blend of Silver Age superheroics and family dynamics, but 2004 was a point halfway between when comic book superhero movies had begun to grow in ubiquity but before the rise of the MCU took them to a new and complex level. Traditional superheroes and their moral rigidity are a thing of the past, so a story seeking to mine that tapped vein risks seeming pre-emptively dated. Fortunately for all involved, Incredibles 2 is a whole lot of fun, with just as much action, mystery and family dysfunction as before.
The switch of Helen being front and centre instead of Bob avoids the danger of repeating the first film’s structure. Her kinetic and exhilarating solo action sequences – featuring a runaway train and a helicopter rescue – are executed with precise elegance through making full use of her stretching power and agility, especially when contrasted against Bob’s wrecking-ball super strength.
While Helen handles the heroics, much of the humour comes from Bob’s time at home as he discovers that dealing with the likes of Violet’s boy trouble, Dash’s academic struggling, and baby Jack-Jack’s need for constant attention is just as much of a challenge as battling supervillains. Lone parenting is a situation it’s reasonably safe to assume he’s never faced before, and he tries to be supportive of his wife’s new success despite it clearly frustrating him that she has been handed everything that he himself wanted, leaving him still yearning for the opportunity to relive his past glory that now tantalisingly hovers inches from his frustrated grasp. There is also the issue of Jack-Jack’s newly emerging litany of powers – including laser eyes, shapeshifting, electric blasts, flame form, teleporting and phase shifting – which provides no end of physical comedy (his fight with a racoon raking through the bins is a particular highlight).
The villainy this time around comes in the insidious form of the Screenslaver, a nebulous figure able to hijack broadcast frequencies and transmit mind-controlling signals onto screens, giving a different kind of danger to overcome. The first film’s villain Syndrome, with his indestructible Omnidroid and paralysing zero-point beams, was a purely physical threat, but as has been extensively explored throughout comic book history, no amount of raw power is a defence against mental invasions, particularly in this case when they have limitless range and can utilise any number of innocents and heroes alike as quite literal puppets. The Screenslaver also joins the small rank of the best kind of villains, one whose motivation is not only understandable, but also when you take a moment to think about it you have to concede they actually have a point.
The film is not quite as narratively sublime as Pixar typically manages, with a key plot point being too much like a retread of a similar development in the first film to not feel at least a little disappointing, and the location and scenario of the third act confrontation is too heavily signposted to come as the slightest surprise. However, they’re nevertheless minor issues that do little to detract from the spirited fun of everything else, and only the most cynical will find nothing to enjoy.
While not quite matching the highs of its predecessor, Incredibles 2 is still an energetic ride of excitement, adventure, humour and heart, and one that establishes plenty of scope for progression should Pixar wish to continue the series. Let’s just hope they don’t leave it so long next time.
INCREDIBLES 2 / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: BRAD BIRD / SCREENPLAY: BRAD BIRD / STARRING: CRAIG T NELSON, HOLLY HUNTER, SARAH VOWELL, HUCK MILNER, SAMUEL L JACKSON, BOB ODENKIRK, CATHERINE KEENER / RELEASE DATE: JULY 13TH
Expected Rating: 9 out of 10