The Cambridge Geek

The Incredibles 2

The Parr family's superheroic antics still happen to be illegal, which really isn't helpful when they find themselves fighting The Underminer (in his own version of The Mole), and causing a significant amount of property damage at the same time. As a result, their sneaky support from the government is finally removed entirely, and they are threatened with both homelessness and having to get an actual job.

Luckily, it turns out that they have a pair of super fans in the uber-rich Deavor siblings, Winston and Evelyn, whose parents were murdered just after superheroes were banned. Instead of deciding to turn themselves into Bruce Wayne, they've realised it'll be easier to sponsor a pre-existing superhero and to Bob's horror, they've chosen Elastigirl.

Evelyn is the genius of the two, and having crunched the numbers, she's discovered that Helen has the best heroism/property damage ratio of the team. As such, they want to use her as a figurehead, festooned with tiny cameras in order to allow the production of films that show heroes at their best. This will have the effect of changing the public's opinion of heroes and allowing them to be legal again.

Helen's first challenge in this new endeavour is the evil villain "Screenslaver", who uses the power of hypnosis through TVs and monitors to take over train drivers, pilots and more, and cause them to create massive havoc. He's delightfully malevolent, and has some of the best scenes of the film, particularly the mid-film fight, which has some very tense moments and a remarkably clever trap. That also allows the showing off of Elastigirl's power set, which has let the animators' imaginations run wild.

Running parallel to Elastigirl's venture into renewed heroism, we have Bob attempting to hold the family together, as puberty and the New Math cause emotional disaster and no small lack of sleep. Bob also has to deal with Jack-Jack's developing powers, especially difficult because he has a lot of them, and most of them are wildly destructive.

The film is hitting a lot of different points, and some of them suffer because of it. We've got a strong undercurrent of feminism in the film, with Helen acting as the breadwinner with the technical assistance of Evelyn, and the biggest voice in the new super-team who appear at the edges is Voyd, a hero version of Spot. This is one of the most well-realised elements, mirroring the ongoing conversation in real life about male fragility, as Bob feels somewhat emasculated.

We've then got the baby troubles, and this is my least favourite. I've never really enjoyed a "funny" baby, and this one is no exception. Edna babysitting is brilliant, because Edna is a wonderfully strong character, and her appearance is possibly one of the best parts of the film, but the overall plot of the baby is just a bit tedious. In the same vein, Dash is still annoying. Luckily, Violet is coming more into her own with a nice sideplot about youthful romance.

Overall though, the film is a little disappointing. I think there's a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, it feels like a retread of the first. We've got one partner running off to save the day, leaving the other at home looking after the family, before they all need to work together to save the day. It could be an episode of an ongoing Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

Secondly is the timing. The first film came out in 2004. It predated the entire superhero revival, and was novel both for its general content and its breaking of the traditional mould, with a villain that wasn't just trying to rob a bank or rule the world.

But since then we've had an absolute shedload of MCU films, as well as a few indie offerings that really run away from the form (Birdman, Hancock) and also a couple by DC (though we don't really talk about them, with the exception of Wonder Woman). And it feels like The Incredibles hasn't really kept up. Even Screenslaver's motivation of getting people to stop watching TV and start experiencing real life feels outdated, rather than nostalgic.

It's a well-assembled film, with nice fight/chase choreography, an excellent soundtrack (as expected) and a couple of cool moments. But on the whole, it's not exceptional.

Score 4

Tagged: Film Animated comedy Superhero Fiction Cinema