One of the perks of my new job at a cinema is that now, I get to see movies for free. So, I have made immediate use of this new benefit to catch up on lost time. I haven’t been out to see a newly released film in quite a while, so it was odd finishing my shift and heading inside the screen to be on the other end. The film I chose is one I have been meaning to see for a few weeks. In the USA Incredibles 2 has been out for some time, but owing to the world cup, we Brits have waited for a long time to get our hands on it. Now that I have seen it, I’m glad I hadn’t been buying into the hype surrounding the film.
I want to preface this review by stating that I did enjoy Incredibles 2; I thought it was fairly funny and entertaining. However as a sequel 13 years in the making to one of Pixar’s greatest films, it does fall a little short. It like the previous film, was written and directed by Brad Bird, who has directed many films I’ve loved over the years, such as Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol. Bird is a stellar director, both in his comedic style and his flair for flamboyant action, but in this case, I can’t help but think he phoned it in a bit. Before I go on, I must say that to talk about my problems with this film, I am going to have to spoil it quite a lot, so if you still have yet to see this movie, skip to the last paragraph where I will summarise my feelings.
Incredibles 2 is fine, except when you consider that it is really just The Incredibles again. The family are struggling under a system where Supers are illegal, until a mysterious group arrives to offer one of the parents a chance to be a hero again, while the other stays at home to look after the kids, before they all come together at the climax to fight the big bad. The plot is more or less the same, except that some of the roles are reversed. Now Bob stays at home with the kids while Helen pursues a mysterious villain as Elastigirl. I thought that more interesting things could have been done with the role reversal, but Bird opts for the tired trope of the dad who can’t keep up with taking care of his kids full time, but refuses help out of pride. The films seems to forget that the whole of the previous movie was already about the characters coming together to fight crime as a family, so it just resets everyone. This means that the cliffhanger with the Underminer is resolved with Dash and Violet getting told to look after Jack-Jack and keep out of the way, and afterwards, the Parrs go back to being a regular family. This misses what was exciting about a sequel to The Incredibles in the first place. After I saw the movie as a kid, I remember thinking how cool it was to finally see the whole family come together to fight, and how great a sequel would be if it spent more time with this, maybe took place a few years later once the kids were older. But no. Instead the rest of the family spends two thirds of the film in a house, doing not much of importance to the main plot at all.
The whole time Elastigirl was saving runaway trains and facing off against the villain, I kept thinking how much better it would be if the whole family were taking part in this. Speaking of villains, I regret to say that the reveal in this film is not a patch on Syndrome from the first movie. Screenslaver is a hypnotist trying to discredit heroes in order to keep them illegal forever, believing they make humans weak and dependant. This is yet another concept that could have been great if given more time, but unfortunately it ends up just feeling very perfunctory. I think too much time is spent on the amusing but ultimately pointless antics of the rest of the family, especially Jack-Jack. His scenes are adorable and funny, but come at the expense of time that could have been spent developing the villain, giving her more screen time and therefore more presence.
Elastigirl ends up working for a brother and sister who are campaigning to bring supers back legally, Winston and Evelyn Devour. The two are interesting characters and polar opposites personality wise, but when Evelyn is revealed as the Screenslaver, it falls a little flat. Syndrome was such an engaging and intimidating presence because he had a large personality to match the supers, as well as a deep personal connection to the protagonist. Evelyn, outside of a few conversations with Helen, just can’t have the same impact. She sums it up perfectly herself when Helen calls her out for her betrayal: “You don’t even know me.” Outside of some rushed backstory about her dead parents, her motivation comes across as arbitrary, based on nothing more than cynicism with the populations complacency. So when she has a short monologue to Helen about the problems with Supers, we as an audience just don’t care enough, as she hasn’t been tied to Helen closely enough for their struggle to feel intense. She also is a quiet, subtlety sarcastic character, which works fine for a bit part, but doesn’t engage the viewer as a main antagonist.
Coming back to the rest of the family, Mr Incredible sits most of the film out as an exhausted stay at home dad, which is fine, but it has been done before, many times in other films. The only thing that keeps it from being completely stale is the introduction of Jack-Jack’s many powers, which leads to some great comedy scenes. Violet has to spend the film overcoming boy trouble, as the guy she was going on a date with has his mind erased, meaning she has to win him back all over again. Although she doesn’t struggle with confidence in this film, so I can’t say she is repeating her arc from the original, she doesn’t really go through a new one this time around. Apart from taking control at the climax to save her parents, she has little to do most of the way through. One could almost say that her crush losing his memory, forcing her to win him back is a metaphor for the sequel rehashing so much from the original. Dash is relegated to a side character, simply delivering a few funny lines here and there. Frozone is underused as well. Edna at least, has a fantastic scene and I wouldn’t change anything about her part. She works best in small doses anyway. The film simply spends too long on mundane things that the audience won’t really care about, and the action really only gets going in the last act of the film. The climax involves the family working again as a superhero team to save a boat full of people, but it just wasn’t enough for me at that stage. I thought that this scene should have been the opening for the film. The previous movie’s climax was a battle between the family and an unstoppable robot that has killed many supers, and was unleashing devastation on a whole city. A boat nearly crashing doesn’t have quite the same impact after that.
To summarise, I enjoyed this film, having kept my expectations low, but I couldn’t help but think of all the ways it could have been so much better. If the villain had been more fleshed out and interesting, if the family had spent more time as a crime fighting unit, and if the story had skipped ahead a few years to let the characters change a little, it would have been a much more rewarding and unique experience. As the sequel stands right now, it’s a perfectly fine remake of the original film, but that wasn’t what we were all waiting thirteen years for. I don’t think for a second that this film took thirteen years to write. I don’t think it took two years to write. This a half-baked follow up, and it’s a real shame because I have seen Brad Bird’s other movies so I know he can do so much better, but I just don’t think his heart was really in it. Oh well, at least I saw it for free.