The Incredibles 2

VERDICT

While the animation is beautiful and the aesthetics are intriguing as always, the themes and story are completely jumbled. It’s not bad – just disappointing. If you’ve got kids, take them. If not, wait for streaming on this one.


REVIEW

What Works: Nobody pairs animation and aesthetic like Pixar.

It’s almost boring to say that Pixar movies look good.

They invented “looks good” in computer animation. This isn’t news. They’ve been crushing the game since 1995’s Toy Story.

So, yes, obviously, they’ve done it again. Incredibles 2 is beautifully animated, making fantastic use of the medium in action sequences especially. One fight scene, in particular, is almost shocking to the senses and brutal for Pixar’s standards.

But what really stands out about this franchise is its aesthetic design choices. The world is set in a mashup of 50s retro-aesthetic and modern technology, giving it a sense of timelessness – it’s a world for any age. It’s unique, especially in this genre, when the typical aesthetic is “concrete grey modern city.”

Beyond the beauty of it all, Incredibles 2 is just plain funny. There is some brilliant comedic timing here, both slapstick and situational. While Dash is the expected jokester, and though he delivers, the beats also come from unlikely sources, especially Violet.

What Doesn’t: Far too many stories are being told, and none of them say anything.

The first movie was sharp to the point of perfection. Each character had a story arc, with the minors weaving well with the majors. The plot supported the story, never one taking from the other.

The sequel does not live up to this bar. Most disappointingly, it doesn’t even come close.

There is no sense of which story is the primary – who are we supposed to follow? It builds like it should be Elastigirl, who is taking over as breadwinner and the face of all superheroes. But she mainly fights her way through the plot while Mr. Incredible gets deep character development and drama.

And then Mr. Incredible’s story abruptly ends. Just like that, perhaps 2/3 of the way through the film, it’s just solved. His development has no bearing on his wife’s. Her plot does not affect him in any way.

Violet has a fairly sizeable chunk of the runtime devoted to her conflict: she’s finally confident and believes in herself, but the rest of life is really getting in the way of her being happy, specifically whether the cute boy from school will go on a date with her.

Her story ends up being one of the more defined, and it spans the runtime. But if she’s not a “major” character, which she is certainly not supposed to be, then why does it overshadow everyone else’s arcs?

Dash is only there for comedic relief, as is Jack-Jack and Frozone. Interesting visual beats, good jokes, and nothing more.

It’s final black mark: the villain is very predictable. This isn’t helped by the fact that it’s the same basic plot as the first film. Family movies always need a semblance of predictability – it makes it easier to follow. But the only “surprise” here is so plainly obvious there may as well be an X marks the spot.

This isn’t to say the product is atrocious. It’s fine, perfectly digestible mediocre family film, with some real highlight moments. But this is Pixar, and we expect so much more from the house of Coco and Inside Out.

Beyond the Screen: The marketing lied – but maybe that doesn’t matter.

One of the strangest parts of Incredibles 2 is its departure from what was so clearly expected. This isn’t the fault of the audience, but the marketing.

Going in, it is obvious from the trailer, posters, even the synopsis below and picture above this review: this is Elastigirl’s movie. She’s taking over. And this was really exciting – beyond the girl power of it all, it was a rare chance to see a mother take the leading role as a literal superhero.

And she is there, they didn’t exactly lie. But they also didn’t deliver. It’s almost set dressing. There is no actual statement being made, no story to be told. It’s just there for the plot.

Despite this, there are several moments where the dialogue seems to skew to “here’s the point!” Elastigirl talks to a few other women characters, and it heads in the direction of saying something, for some good reason. But it doesn’t – it’s just some lines that seem to fill the time, have no effect on any other part of the film, and almost comes off as performative.

But. Maybe that doesn’t matter.

Because if the passel of kids going to see the movie over the next few weeks are inspired or excited by, or even just kind of like seeing Elastigrl as the “main” character?

Then fantastic. Who cares if it’s misleading? Out of the mouths of babes and all that.


Synopsis

“Everyone’s favorite family of superheroes is back in “Incredibles 2”–but this time Helen (voice of Holly Hunter) is in the spotlight, leaving Bob (voice of Craig T. Nelson) at home with Violet (voice of Sarah Vowell) and Dash (voice of Huck Milner) to navigate the day-to-day heroics of “normal” life. It’s a tough transistion [sic] for everyone, made tougher by the fact that the family is still unaware of baby Jack-Jack’s emerging superpowers. When a new villain hatches a brilliant and dangerous plot, the family and Frozone (voice of Samuel L. Jackson) must find a way to work together again–which is easier said than done, even when they’re all Incredible.” -Rotten Tomatoes

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Originally from the bear-infested schools of Wyoming, but now lives in Chicago. More importantly, he achieved minor Twitter fame once and hasn’t stopped bringing it up since. He has a healthy obsession with Star Wars, Wonder Woman, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Bulbasaur. Please validate him by following him on Twitter, @ericsmorals

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