Nostalgia is a powerful thing, especially when it comes to beloved Pixar classics from our youth. The Incredibles returned this summer to bombastic 1950’s style fanfare, a whole fourteen years after the ‘incredible’ (ha) smash hit directed by Brad Bird, way back in 2004. The result is an altogether safe sequel that doesn’t take many risks, but satisfies with compelling action scenes, a relatively quick pace and some fun satire of gender roles and superhero media that make for an enjoyable, if run of the mill sequel.
One might assume that the introduction of a time gap of fourteen years would be a no brainer to incorporate into the narrative for a change of pace and a different approach story wise. One would, however, be wrong. The time jump is purely for our dimension only, as for the Parr family, mere seconds have passed since the thrilling cliffhanger conclusion of the first film. What follows however, is a decent progression of the narrative that does manage to successfully drive the story into new directions, but unfortunately, many of those directions are ‘incredibly’ (I’ll stop soon I promise) predictable. I don’t think anyone is going to have too many issues working out who the ‘surprise’ villain is, for example. However, as a member of the nostalgia infested horde, moaning orgasmically for the latest Pixar sequel like a walker craving brains, I must remind my ‘revertigo’ infested brethren that this is in fact, a film meant for children. As a film for the kids, it entirely works and will be satisfying. It may not succeed as a totally compelling follow up, but still provides enough meat for fans of the original to enjoy and more than enough for their spawn to sink their millennial teeth into.
Director Brad Bird brings a trademark wit to the film and its humour is its greatest asset. Many of the jokes had me chuckling in self reference, particularly those that make a mockery of humanities greatest atrocity: maths. Parents around me also audibly (to my extreme annoyance) voiced acknowledgment and approval of the stress of being a single house parent. This combined with the reintroduction of baby Jack Jack’s newfound powers, make for some truly hilarious scenes, so kudos for that. If the first ‘Incredibles’ is about a mid life crisis and escaping the mediocrity of the working world, then ‘The Incredibles 2’ is about acknowledging the difficulties of juggling work and family and how exhausting it can be. This is where the film truly shines; ironically, I found watching the ‘B storyline’ of the powered family just live their lives to be far more engaging (and admittedly, hilarious) than the antics of Elastigirl in the ‘A storyline’. The performances are all largely solid too, though Bob Odenkirk is largely just being Bob Odenkirk and I was surprisingly underwhelmed by Brad Bird himself as fan favourite, Edna Mode, who sadly seemed inappropriately shoehorned in for some disappointingly dull fan service.
What isn’t disappointing though, is Michael Giacchino’s phenomenal score. Perfectly blending elements of Bond, Batman and hell, even a bit of Austin Powers, the score is sensational. Many themes are, naturally, reused from the first instalment, but this only cranked up my nostalgia dial up to eleven and had me beaming like a cheshire cat in some of the climactic fight scenes. Though what is good music without good animation? ‘The Incredibles 2’ need not concern itself with that question, as it has both. The CGI models of the original have only been slightly tweaked and still look recognisable and slick. The approach is clean but stylistic, with a strange but awesome kind of idealised American utopia vibe to it, where every building is pristine and huge, with sharp, jagged edges. This, in juxtaposition with the comparatively simple character models, gives the skylines their own personality and gives the film a unique and frankly, cool look. It was like walking into an simple, expressionist, 1950s painting with a New Orleans jazz band playing in the background; I loved it.
In review, ‘The Incredibles 2’ is a solid film, though not quite on ‘Parr’ (sorry) with the original. The story is basic, but still compelling and funny and the action is spot on (Bird does more with Elastigirl’s powers than any Fantastic 4 film has ever dared to with Mr. Fantastic.) While I find the lack of use of the time jump to be a misstep, what is produced instead is still wholly entertaining and enjoyable and I’m blogging about the movie I saw, not the movie I had planned out in my mind. While I won’t say it was absolutely worth the fourteen year wait, it is clear that the team behind this took their time to create a sequel worth seeing. The ending also leaves the door open for further adventures with a more expansive world, so perhaps the ‘Incredi-verse’ I was hoping for could be coming with a third instalment. If it keeps to this level of well written jokes and amazing, animated action, it would be most welcome.