Monday, June 18, 2018

Review: "Incredibles 2" is a worthy, fun-filled, and brilliant follow-up

Incredibles 2 Review

Pixar has been a champion box office machine, but its also been a studio that has kept creativity and storytelling front and center for many of its movies. It's a studio that has earned the right amount of clout that, even as a 29-year-old man, even though they specialize in family films, I'll watch anything they release, without a trailer, bar none. They have earned that right, and not many studios nor individuals have garnered such an honor.

But I will admit, its been a chore to watch some Pixar films, yes you read that correctly. Ever since the turn of the decade, Pixar has been playing the sequel game. Besides the "Toy Story" sequels, the slew of sequels that Pixar has created have been less than amazing. I don't care that much for the "Cars" sequels, and I thought "Monsters Anniversary" was a wet blanket. I also didn't think "Finding Dory" was anything that special. After making the perfect trilogy in "Toy Story," I had faith that Pixar could even do sequels, but that faith has been tested mightily already. Now, I am very uneasy about a "Toy Story 4" coming out next year.

Easily my favorite of the Pixar films has always been "The Incredibles." You can probably blame my lifelong fascination with superheroes on that, but I can't help myself. "The Incredibles" is for a lack of a better word, incredible. It's such a clever take on the superhero genre, a fun spin on how the superhero movie works, and yes, even had a great message about being special in this world, and what exactly that means. While I've secretly wanted a sequel for a long time, I was worried that Pixar may not do it justice, and just shell one out a sequel just for quick cash. When it comes to their sequels, they seemed to have abandoned the one thing that made them special as a studio, creativity and storytelling. 

Alas, an "Incredibles" sequel got made. It's fourteen years later, and I've always had a theory that the more years you move away from a certain movie, the less relevant it becomes. There have been plenty of sequels to movies that were twenty or even thirty years old that just didn't feel right because they were so far removed. This plus the trouble Pixar has with sequels left a very bad taste in my mouth, and I was ready to right the whole thing off. It didn't help that the trailers made the film look like a mere clone of the first film.

Maybe it was lowered expectations, maybe it was my genuine love for the original film, but I left my viewing of "The Incredibles 2" with a huge smile on my face. Not only is "The Incredibles 2" a worthwhile sequel, not only is a good movie, Brad Bird has directed and written another incredible installment of this series. Brad Bird wrote and directed the first film too, and he seems to have a good handle on the characters he created, and time seems to not have slowed down his ideas and how this wonderful family of superheroes work. Bird cooked up another solid story to pit these characters against and mixed with the colorfully brilliant animation that we've come to expect from Pixar, you are in for one wild ride.

So remember The Underminer from the first film? He showed up right as the credits began to roll? John Ratzenberger from "Cheers" provided his voice? Well keep him in your thoughts because "The Incredibles 2" begins with that showdown after Dash's track meet. The fight with The Underminer goes less than well for The Parr family and they fail to stop The Underminer from robbing a bank, causing serious damage in the process. While the city appreciated that the superheroes defeated Syndrome in the last movie, the idea of damage and accountability are still fresh, and the Parr family have to relocate again. The leaders of the world are planning to come together to discuss the fate of all superhero activity and all the Parr family can do is wait.

Soon after relocating, Winston Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk) of DEVTECH has a plan for a publicity stunt to get public favor back for the superheroes and he plans to use Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) in a new city for this stunt, she's picked because she's the least destructive of the entire family. So Elastigirl goes on these secret missions while Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) stays home with the kids. He's a little jealous at first that Deavor doesn't want to use him, but if his wife is the only way for him to get back into a super suit to fight crime, then he firmly stands next to his wife. This all leads to a showdown with Screenslaver, a mysterious villain who is connected to the plot.

That's all I'll say about the plot. So many sequels are built on the spine of the previous film and while "The Incredibles 2" may look like it does that to a certain degree, there is so much fun to be had, so much that is still so creative that I couldn't help but love it. Sure, you could look at it at a service value and just say that its like the first film but Elastigirl is going on the missions instead of Mr. Incredible. But the movie's story works as a new challenge for the family as a whole, not just one parent keeping a secret from the rest of her family. The villain twist from the first film felt a bit obvious, whereas the villain twist here isn't who you'd expect. The movie doesn't really deal with the more of the same regarding relocation acts or anything, instead it plays similar to "Captain America: Civil War" where the movie's general theme is whether or not superheroes are a force of real good in the world. Screenslaver works kind of like Zemo did in "Civil War" excepts with brand new motivations and a slew of new gadgets at his disposal. While you may see a similar connection from the first film, its not something that derails the movie.

Plus, more Jack-Jack. It's just amazing. The scene where Jack-Jack, the literal infant of the family who somehow has an over-abundance of superpowers, fights a raccoon is the highlight of the movie. Jack-Jack literally steals the show. So much so that if Brad Bird goes for three, I'd love a slightly grown-up version of Jack-Jack, in a "Legion" type movie, but that will never happen so I'm essentially talking out of my ass. I just love Jack-Jack so much in this movie. 

In conclusion, it seems like Pixar has put my theories of sequels to bed. Maybe Pixar can make a fun, daring, and yes creative sequel if they really put their mind to it. "The Incredibles 2" is the movie I hoped for for over a decade. I am so glad that we got another adventure with this family, and now I can only hope we can continually check in on this family, seeing how they are doing as the years wear on. Pixar has once again gained my faith back and they continue to keep me curious about all of their work.


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