Forgive me for getting political in the first few lines of a film review but its 2018 and I live in Britain. It’s hard not to take a look around and notice that there is anarchy both at home and abroad and the problems developing today are going to be the problems of the future and my generation and the generation after are going to be responsible for some of the most important decisions of the next century. You might wonder why I say this in a review for a family friendly Pixar film, something designed to make you forget your woes. To the people asking why I say the following, have you seen the film?
The Incredibles 2 follows on directly from the first instalment with the Parr family recovering from their actions in the first film and trying to settle into a new status quo now that kids Dash (Huck Milner) and Violet (Sarah Vowell) have embraced their powers. However when Helen (Holly Hunter) is offered a role in reversing the anti-super law she jumps at the opportunity and leaves Bob (Craig T Nelson) at home to take care of the kids, including baby Jack-Jack whose burgeoning powers are becoming a problem.
While this is Disney at its core, Incredibles 2 is more than the sum of its parts. It is also a film split into four parts. Firstly it plays it straight as an action comedy with all the trimmings of the first. The other quarters are more ponderous with each acting as social commentary. Be it the story of the role reversal society has seen in recent years shown through Helen serving as the main breadwinner or Jack-Jack’s story of early advancement. These takes on societal issues add a sprinkle of something special to proceedings but its the final quarter where the film finds the jam in its doughnut.
While you would be forgiven for thinking Helen/Elastigirl is Incredibles 2’s main character, the one who takes on the responsibility of progressing the plot and moving the family forward, if you look closely enough the films major moments belong to Violet as she steps up, well before the films super conclusion, to protect her siblings as well as her father. This allegory for today’s youth, my generation included, is sculpted into the bones of the film. Violet takes the problems of growing up and today’s society in her stride, never once dragging the film into some sort of debate taking away from the sheer joy of the film.
Director Brad Bird seems game to play with this idea through the films structure as well with Helen and Bob becoming less relevant as the film moves on. You might expect this change to cause a loss of pace but Dash and Violet more than make up for their missing parents in their absence with the films finale far surpassing the opening film, both in terms of character and thrills. If anything the film justifies why this series could continue for many years to come with the transition of roles on display and the social relevance you rarely see in an animation.
It wouldn’t work though if not for the comedic elements as Bird has built the soul of his universe around the feel of the film and the laughs on offer from even the smallest of characters. The heroes here are the funny ones, the ones that make you laugh and forget your problems. Sure there are superheroes around to do the heavy lifting but it wouldn’t be as fun without the people. Be it Violet’s forgetful boyfriend Tony (Michael Bird) or Super Protection Agent Rick Decker (Johnathan Banks), these small roles remind us of whats real in a world of the fantastical while making us smile along the way.
Bird has always been a director to watch for me both for his animation and his work in live action with standouts like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and The Iron Giant showing him adept at crafting a compelling visual along with an emotionally compelling story. Incredibles 2 follows this trend but suffers from sequel syndrome as the look seems oddly stale. The feeling of been there, seen that proves a problem but the addition of some new supers helps offset the issues the film has. Be it newcomer Voyd (Sophia Bush), a riff off Blink from X-Men, or Reflux (Paul Eiding), a lava spewing super, Bird fights sequelitis through his visuals, every now and then stumbling a little.
It isn’t without it’s flaws but it more than proves why a sequel was warranted and then some. In the end you get exactly wanted from a sequel without every really feeling the fatigue they often come with. This may be because of the 14 year gap between films or the fact that Bird and Co have constructed a film that stands up all on its own. It doesn’t really matter which one it is, all that matters is that this is a great animation and an even better film.