Cinema has changed since Pixar’s The Incredibles burst onto the scene in 2004. Whereas that year’s only other major superhero movie was Spider-Man 2, the sequel arrives in a landscape dominated by the MCU, X-Men, Deadpool and whatever turgid nonsense DC are currently churning out.
In this crowded marketplace, there must have been the temptation to take Incredibles 2 in a different direction - to make it more of a conventional superhero movie or, as lesser studios (we’re looking at you DreamWorks) would do, make a gag-filled send up of the current cinematic landscape.
But Pixar have never been obvious, and it’s refreshing to see that Incredibles 2 has nary a Batman joke in sight. In fact, it’s got something serious to say about people’s need for superheroes, and it’s not entirely a positive message.
Picking up exactly where the first movie ends, with the family facing off against the nefarious Underminer (Pixar lucky charm John Ratzenberger) the movie hits the ground running, and never lets up. This time round our heroes are recruited by billionaire Winston Deavor (Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk) and his tech genius sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener). Deavor adores superheroes, and wants to see them restored to their rightful, legal status. Or as he puts it “Make Superheroes Legal Again” and if that doesn’t set off alarm bells, nothing will.
Using Elastigirl (Hunter) as a figurehead, his plan is to show the world the good work they do, not just the devastation that the news focuses on. Due to a not-very-likely-coincidence, this coincides with the rise of a new supervillain, the Screenslaver, who is hypnotising people via - as the name implies - a variety of screens.
Whereas last time, Incredibles was ahead of the curve, with the film’s villain Syndrome embodying toxic fandom a decade before the term was even coined, this time round the villain seems timely. Using screens to hypnotise people and turning them into mindless automatons makes Screenslaver the perfect villain for a generation who rarely look up from their phones. A pity then that he’s not as memorable as Syndrome, and one of the few weak points in the movie.
If all of this sounds a bit serious, then no need to worry. While Elastigirl is off saving the world, Mr Incredible is left looking after the kids. Although the role reversal and fish out of water concept may be a tad conventional, the execution makes up for it, and while kids Violet (teenage girl, boy trouble), and Dash (possible ADHD, quite annoying) are fun, the Parr family’s baby, Jack Jack is the standout. As the end of the first film revealed (along with the hilarious accompanying short, Jack Jack Attack) revealed, the youngest family member also has the most powers, varying from laser beam eyes, levitation and randomly bursting into flames.
It's Mr Incredible’s attempts (not to mention Samuel L Jackson’s underused Frozone) to look after his youngest offspring that provide the film with its most memorable moments. One scene, where Jack Jack gets into a fight with an unfortunate racoon is a strong contender for the year’s best scene.
If Jack Jack is the film’s MVP, a close runner-up is the returning Edna Mode (director Bird), who puts in another memorable appearance, kitting out the youngster and proving more adept at babysitting an exploding infant than you’d think. New short, Auntie Edna hilariously expands on their time together, and while it doesn’t quite hit the heights of Jack Jack Attack, it packs more laughs into five minutes than most films do into 90. Also included are the charming Bao, which accompanied the film in cinemas, and a lively commentary from Brad Bird.
While Incredibles 2 isn’t quite the instant classic the original was, it’s a worthy follow-up, and proudly stands alongside any of the current crop of superhero movies. After the temporary blip of Good Dinosaur and Cars 3, the double whammy of this and the astounding Coco show Pixar are still a force to be reckoned with. Their next movie, the long-awaited Toy Story 4, can’t come soon enough.
THE INCREDIBLES 2 / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: BRAD BIRD / SCREENPLAY: BRAD BIRD / STARRING: HOLLY HUNTER, CRAIG T. NELSON, SARAH VOWELL, HUCK MILNER, SAMUEL L JACKSON, BOB ODENKIRK, CATHERINE KEENER / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 12TH