*Spoiler alert for Incredibles 2.
Where do I begin on reviewing a film that took fourteen years to come out? The first Incredibles film came out in 2004, and such was its popularity, that even now, so many years later, fans waited with baited breath for a sequel. Sequels don’t always do that well in this movie franchise world. Often, after the first film dazzles, the second desperately tries to live up to the glory of its predecessor … and fails (looking at you Avengers: Age of Ultron). Incredibles 2 though, could be a study in how to do a sequel right. Do I think it was as good as the first epic film? No. The first Incredibles is so perfect in every way that it would be nearly impossible to match it (or top it for that matter), but this sequel comes damn near close.
So what do we have in this film about the beloved super family? For one thing we have flipped gender roles. The Incredibles has always been great at putting its female characters front and center, right alongside its male characters. “Come on ladies,” Holy Hunter’s character Elastigirl says in the first film, and is repeated in this one. “Leaving the saving of the world to the men? I don’t think so.” The sequel, however, pushes it even further than the original. Not only do we get to see her get out there and kick butt, but watching Mr. Incredible struggle to do all of the household and parenting things that she does handily on a daily basis, shows how adept she is at conquering anything that’s put in front of her, whether at home or out in the field.
We also got a female villain in this film! If you think female superheroes are rare in the Marvel and DC universes, female villains are just as sparse. It’s nice that here we didn’t have to wait sixteen films (ahem Marvel) to get one. She’s also not a caricature. She’s got a backstory, a complex psychology, and is an evil genius. My only issue is that it turns out her brother, the rich guy who’s too genial to be true, is actually just a good guy. He’s a weak character, and frankly, the movie could’ve done without him.
Speaking of things that are complex in this film, I like how the movie plays with the idea of happily ever after. The first Incredibles ended with Violet getting the guy, Dash getting to play sports, and the Incredibles family eager to suit up and fight crime together. When this movie starts, we’re reminded that it’s not that simple. After all, supers are still illegal, their home blew up so they’re living in a motel, and fighting crime with a baby in tow isn’t always the easiest. I appreciate the nuance, but I do a feel a little bit like we spend the whole movie having to relearn the lesson of the first one, which is that they’re strongest when they’re fighting together.
One of the most fun things about this movie, if you know the original really well, are the constant callbacks to the first film. From visuals (a train tipping over the tracks as it narrowly avoids crashing) to specific lines, this movie was a treat packed with easter eggs. It managed to make me feel the nostalgia for the first film, without relying on it too much.
While I enjoyed the family dynamics as always – this franchise has a particular gift for mixing the mundane with the action – the family member that won this film was undoubtedly Jack-Jack. The baby with the unlimited powers is the new Baby Groot, mark my words. He’s the character who’s just so adorable and funny, that you can put him in almost any scene and get instant laughs from the audience. The difference is, that while I often felt like Baby Groot was a crutch that often distracted from the action for the Guardians sequel, here Jack-Jack was implemented beautifully into the plot, and was a delight at every turn. The combination of the comedic timing and the animation of the powered baby made the entire theater laugh out loud every time Jack-Jack appeared on the screen. Remember how I mentioned earlier that it’s hard to fight crime when someone needs to watch the baby? Turns out this baby can hold his own. (If you do ever need a babysitter, though, for your super-baby, Edna is the best.)
I will say, something I missed in this movie was character development for the two older kids. In Incredibles 1, Violet and Dash both had big arcs. We got to see Violet find her confidence, and Dash was acting out due to having to keep his powers a secret. We also got to watch them bond as siblings, and learn how to use their powers. This film they were mostly relegated to the background, and had small, kind of shallow subplots – Dash struggling with his math homework, and Violet struggling with dating as a super. Since this is a film about a family, it would’ve been nice to see all of the kids have arcs worthy of their characters.
We also got to see some new supers this movie. And when I say new, I don’t just mean new to us, I mean new to the world of the movie as well, since these are supers who weren’t heroes back when it was legal, but have found out since then that they have powers, and have had to keep it a secret. Chief among them was Void (voiced by Sophia Bush), who fan-girls all over Elastigirl. It was fun watching her learn how to use her powers and see a mentorship develop between her and Elastigirl, which is definitely something I’d like to see more of in a future film (if they make one).
In terms of female representation, the only thing this movie was missing was us getting to meet Frozone’s wife, Honey. It’s a running gag that she yells at him from off-screen, but we never get to meet her. However, it feels like another example of a woman of color being deliberately kept to the side (in a predominantly white cast too).
So, how does the Incredibles 2 measure up? It was laugh-out-loud funny, entertaining plot-wise with plenty of action and family squabbles, E killed it as always, it effectively brought in new characters, was pretty woke, nostalgic for the first film, but had legs of its own. All in all it was pretty great. Is it a classic? It’s too early to tell.