Back when the modern superhero movie boom was in its infancy, Disney and Pixar took the cinematic world by storm with The Incredibles, a smart, sleek and stylish superhero-themed animated romp that served as one of the finest original superhero properties in a world where Marvel and its licenses had started to claim their dominance over the modern superhero movie landscape. It’s been a long fourteen years since The Incredibles first graced theatres in 2004, but finally, the story of the lovable Parr family is continuing. Now disregarding the originally proposed video game sequel, 2005’s The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer (and I doubt anyone will mind that this largely forgotten game is now non-canon), Incredibles 2 is the true cinematic sequel to The Incredibles that audiences have craved and demanded for over a decade!
It’s been a very long time coming, but fortunately, the wait has been well worth it. Incredibles 2 stands alongside the Toy Story sequels as an outstanding testament to what sequels can achieve when they’re not contractually mandated, and are allowed to take as long as they have to when it comes to getting their vision right. Writer-director, Brad Bird is fortunately back in both roles too, along with the majority of the lead cast (although some smaller returning characters have been recast, along with one of the leads), the soundtrack, the visual style, and pretty much any other identifier that defined the original The Incredibles as one of Pixar’s best overall offerings. Despite the recognizable elements however, this is a sequel that feels very clearly distinct from its predecessor, offering some inspired new story directions, and never creating the feeling that it’s just recycling the first movie.
Granted, The Incredibles is still an impossibly tough act to follow as one of the best Pixar movies ever made to date, and the very fact that Incredibles 2 keeps pace with it at all is very noteworthy and admirable. Incredibles 2 does fall just shy of outdoing the first movie in the end, not feeling quite as novel or profound as its predecessor did in 2004, but this sequel will still inevitably go down as one of Summer 2018’s best blockbusters, as well as another of Pixar’s best gems. If you had any love for the original, you’ll find plenty to love in the sequel. Even if you’re somehow discovering the Incredibles movies for the first time with Incredibles 2 though, or perhaps your children are, any newcomer is still effortlessly able to enjoy a flashy, fun and heartfelt superhero movie on its own merits, one that finally allows the Marvel Universe to take a breath and share the love in the realm of sublime superhero cinema.
Incredibles 2 once again revolves around the super-powered Parr family, coming fresh off of their victory against super-villain, Syndrome at the end of the original The Incredibles. Incredibles 2 quite literally picks up mere seconds after the ending of The Incredibles as well, and this means that the issue of superheroes being illegal is still very much in place in this world. Thus, following another incident that plays off of the cliffhanger conclusion of the first movie, the Parr family once again find themselves having to hide their identities and presence from the public eye, that is, until Helen Parr/Elastigirl, again voiced by Holly Hunter, gets to be part of a business deal that may start improving the reputation of superheroes. This of course leaves Elastigirl’s husband, the former Mr. Incredible, Bob Parr, once again voiced by Craig T. Nelson, to stay at home and watch the kids, Violet, Dash and the infant Jack-Jack, with Violet also once again being voiced by Sarah Vowell, and Jack-Jack once again being voiced by Eli Fucile, though Dash has been recast, with original voice actor, Spencer Fox now having been replaced by Huck Milner.
Incredibles 2 initially seems like it’s going to be a straightforward role-reversal comedy about a formerly career-driven husband having to be an overwhelmed stay-at-home father, while his wife is always away having adventures and advancing her own career, leading an exciting and outwardly fulfilling life as the new breadwinner. There are some expected jokes built around that idea for sure too. Fortunately however, Incredibles 2, like its predecessor, never settles for the low-hanging fruit with its cast or storytelling. Some of the underlying existential dread behind the original movie no longer appears to be present in Incredibles 2, which deals with a very different kind of personal conflict for both Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, but where the original The Incredibles wildly veered between crushing existential drama and colourful family-friendly fun, Incredibles 2 seems to keep things a little more purely in the realm of family-friendly optimism, which some may like, and some may be annoyed with.
That said though, all of the character writing, performances and personality humour in Incredibles 2 is largely spot-on across the board. Incredibles 2 makes some clever callback gags regardless, especially with the well-calculated return of fan-favourite characters like Samuel L. Jackson’s Frozone and Brad Bird’s own Edna Mode, who now have an effectively evolved schtick that makes them feel faithful, but undeniably evolved as characters since the original The Incredibles. For the most part however, Incredibles 2 always goes the extra mile to delight even die-hard fans of the original The Incredibles with unexpected and clever character turns that you won’t expect, whether for comedic or dramatic effect. This is particularly true with Jack-Jack, whose many superpowers begin to manifest right as Mr. Incredible is forced to stay home and indefinitely babysit the Parr children, creating an effectively distinct and comical scenario wherein the Parr family patriarch quickly becomes humiliated and exhausted at his own constant inability to keep Jack-Jack alone under control, let alone Dash and Violet, who obviously have their own problems.
Well, it’s mainly Violet, actually. If you felt that Violet was under-utilized in the original The Incredibles (and she kind of was to some extent), being blatantly overshadowed by her brother, Dash, then you might be surprised to find that Incredibles 2 actually seems to flip this around. In the sequel, it’s Dash that feels more often nudged into the background, essentially standing as another hyperactive gag character alongside Jack-Jack, while Violet is the one anchoring most of the dramatic storytelling for both of the Parr children. This comes by way of Violet being excited about a boy that likes her at school, only to discover that the boy’s memory has been wiped due to the family’s earlier superhero actions in the original The Incredibles and this movie. Obviously, this creates the one throwback to the crushing existential struggle that defined much of The Incredibles, while also providing a good excuse for the otherwise calm and good-natured Violet to be perpetually fed up and furious with her family. It’s the kind of great storyline that Violet deserved a bit more of in the original movie, even if it now seems to come at the expense of Dash having any meaningful character development in the sequel, beyond struggling with his math homework.
As for the new characters, they manage to be great additions, particularly Bob Odenkirk’s sunny, smooth-talking influencer, Winston Deavor, who is determined to overturn the law declaring superheroes illegal, and picks Elastigirl to make that happen. Catherine Keener also provides an effective balance to Odenkirk’s character as Winston’s more grounded and cynical sister, Evelyn, who provides a strong device for a naysayer to be won over by the hard work of Elastigirl. The only weak link among the new personalities is, sadly, the movie’s villain, Screenslaver, a masked hacker of sorts that wants to weaponize technology in order to show people how easily the media controls them. It’s a trite and predictable villain arc that’s been done in too many other recent Hollywood movies, and while there is something of a twist attempted with Screenslaver’s real identity, Incredibles 2 does nonetheless tip its hand fairly early on as to who this character is, and that in turn just makes the villain’s motivations even more questionable when you really think about them.
Even if Syndrome is quite extensively missed in this overdue sequel though, there are plenty of other funny, emotional and clever character moments throughout Incredibles 2, so it’s tough to dwell too much on its disappointingly lame villain. The movie’s core struggles between Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl feel especially inspired, crafting a great message about how being a stay-at-home parent and family person is no less heroic than going out and conquering the world as a career-driven champion. Neither Mr. Incredible nor Elastigirl are portrayed as being right or wrong, or having a blatantly easier or more difficult set of obstacles, and if anything, Incredibles 2 actively mocks and belittles the idea that anyone would ever think so. No matter what your current station is in life, Incredibles 2 will feel entertaining and inspiring with its lovable characters, all of whom don’t feel like they’ve shed any appeal, even after the long fourteen year wait for their proper big screen return.
Incredibles 2 mercifully avoids the predictable desire to simply become a parody and send-up of modern superhero movie cliches, and instead stays true to the universal, family-friendly spirit of its 2004 predecessor. As I said, Incredibles 2 is also careful to avoid recycling the previous movie as well, having just the right amount of references, without going overboard and feeling like it’s just going to regurgitate the exact same formula that nonetheless led to one of Pixar’s top masterpieces with the original The Incredibles. In terms of the kind of The Incredibles sequel that you probably wanted, Incredibles 2 delivers it on pretty much every front. Some of the darker elements behind the original The Incredibles’ storyline may be slightly toned down in the follow-up, but the same great sense of heart and inspiration is still all throughout Incredibles 2, making it another of Pixar’s finest stories to date.
There are obviously many plot elements that are intentionally being kept vague in the marketing for Incredibles 2, and I’d certainly be remiss to spoil them. Several of the movie’s best twists and jokes do work best when you don’t see them coming for sure. That’s especially true of the humour in fact, which is some of the best in any Pixar movie to date, even when stacked against the original The Incredibles. As much as Incredibles 2 still features a handful of more serious and dramatic story moments, when it wants to make you laugh, it will have you rolling in the aisles! There’s a sublime balance struck between the many emotions at play throughout the story of Incredibles 2, and both children and adults alike are bound to love this movie’s overall flavour, regardless of whether or not they’ve seen the original The Incredibles or not. Those who have seen and already fallen for the original The Incredibles are still in for an especially big treat though, since this sequel just keeps building on the elements they love, while always keeping them on their toes with standout new laughs and story turns.
Brad Bird is one of the overall best animation directors and writers working in Hollywood today, and that’s as true as ever in Incredibles 2. Bird is clearly relishing the opportunity to return to this world, and for good reason, since it’s taken him well over a decade to find the right idea for this sequel. Now that it’s finally in place, Bird has armed himself with Pixar’s upgraded animation technology as well, going for even more ambition in the visual and character directing of this sequel, and in turn helping the Parr family and their world feel more alive and memorable than even the masterful 2004 original managed to deliver!
As with its predecessor, Incredibles 2 is an animated movie that’s helmed in the style of a live-action movie, exceptionally blending the real and the unreal to create a superhero movie experience that feels grounded enough to be believable, but also exaggerated enough to feel like something wholly unique. Even when Bird isn’t realizing some of the best animated action you’ve ever seen however, he still very much keeps the heart of the movie going strong with the quieter and more humour-driven moments, particularly when we spend time with Mr. Incredible while he’s at home with the Parr children. The gags with Jack-Jack are especially brilliantly directed, with audiences easily being sucked into the exhaustive, seemingly hopeless mission of Bob Parr to keep his uncontrollable super-powered infant happy.
There are just far too many amazing directing moments to sum up in one review, so allow me to simply say that Incredibles 2 is one of the most amazing testaments to animated movie direction that audiences will have ever seen to date. Even among the sky-high directing standard of most Pixar movies, Incredibles 2 stands as one of the coolest, funniest and most memorable directing efforts out of Pixar, with every scene meticulously crafted for maximum effect in terms of the action, humour and drama. The many animation upgrades that have been provided since 2004 only make Incredibles 2 feel even more, well, incredible to see unfold, resetting the directing bar not just for animated superhero movies, but even for live-action superhero movies to some extent, who will now no doubt be working overtime to try and keep up with this level of charm and power.
As fantastic as the characters and animation are, another key element that defined the original The Incredibles is its jazzy, trumpet-heavy score, which provided a novel and retro chic spy flavour to the original production. Composer, Michael Giacchino, the man behind that score, fortunately returns for Incredibles 2, and the jazzy stylings of the original movie’s score return along with him. Naturally, this leads to another standout soundtrack among the Pixar music catalogue, with some familiar themes balanced with all-new compositions, going with the direction and writing to create a musical flavouring that balances the best of the old and the best of the new. Avid fans will likely get an especially big kick out of the vocalized theme songs created for the adult leads too, which play over the credits.
The rest of the audio doesn’t pull many punches either, despite the otherwise kid-friendly exterior. In IMAX theatres especially, among other premium formats, Incredibles 2 is quite noisy and over-the-top, though not necessarily in an intrusive way. This is an animated superhero movie by Pixar, after all. There’s no shortage of overblown cartoon mayhem to enjoy in the action scenes, and even some of the lower-key comedy-driven scenes, though anyone with noise-sensitive children may want to bear in mind that Incredibles 2 sometimes has very overbearing audio, especially in IMAX showings, and some children may find it to be a bit much here and there. If you’re not bothered by some of the frantic noise in the sound mixing though, Incredibles 2 is overall a fast-paced audio delight, and carries just as much super-powered punch as any live-action superhero blockbuster worth its salt.
With Incredibles 2 being a Pixar movie, it should come as no surprise that its animation is nothing short of spectacular. Even among Pixar movies however, the visuals in Incredibles 2 inhabit a class all their own, easily dwarfing the still-gorgeous The Incredibles from fourteen years ago, with increased definition and texture effects, as well as even smoother animation during the action. The environments, character models and action effects are all mind-blowing in Incredibles 2, with the final product being a wondrous mix of colour, ferocity and painstaking detail. Again, those with sensory-sensitive children may want to exercise some caution with the movie’s visuals, especially since villain, Screenslaver is often accompanied by an astonishingly intense strobe effect that definitely won’t play nice with children (and possibly some adults) that have epilepsy and/or ASD. Again though, if you can handle some of the surprising intensity behind the visuals, you’ll find that Incredibles 2 is nothing short of an animation masterwork, and easily one of the most visually impressive movies that you’ll see all year, whether animated or live-action!
Unfortunately, I’m not able to judge the 3D effects in Incredibles 2, since the screening I attended was presenting the movie in 2D only. The screening was however in an IMAX theatre, so I was at least able to evaluate whether there’s any tangible improvement to the visuals in IMAX. As you can imagine, the stunning animation does benefit from the larger IMAX screen as well. Incredibles 2 is still a spectacular visual treat in a regular digital showing, but if you want to push the outstanding visuals even further, then it’s worth the handful of extra dollars for an IMAX ticket in this case, even if many of the IMAX showings don’t appear to be presented in 3D. Either way though, Incredibles 2 represents an amazing new visual standard for both Pixar movies and superhero movies in general, and it’s a new standard that definitely deserves to be experienced on the big screen by viewers of all ages!
Incredibles 2 may have taken almost a decade-and-a-half to finally materialize, but that extended wait has allowed writer-director, Brad Bird more than enough time to make sure that this is a sequel fully capable of standing with its thoroughly excellent 2004 predecessor. We almost had to wait even longer as well, since this movie was originally planned for a Summer 2019 release, before it swapped places with the still-in-development Toy Story 4, due to that movie suffering a creative hiccup. As much as Pixar’s sequels have varied extensively in quality, there’s no denying that Incredibles 2 is one of the studio’s best follow-ups as well, if not the best follow-up to date, even after losing a whole year of production time!
Providing a nicely distinct and still very appealing spin on larger-than-life family struggles and colourful superhero action, Incredibles 2 feels both faithful to its predecessor yet still very unique, as any great sequel in any genre should be. It’s really too bad that the movie couldn’t have managed a better villain than the underwhelming and forgettable Screenslaver, but much like Disney’s own Marvel Studios opuses that have themselves managed to stand tall despite some of their lacklustre antagonists, Incredibles 2 isn’t ultimately dragged down by its disappointing baddie. Instead, this is another superhero movie that’s very much about the titular heroes more than anything else, even if this has to come at the expense of what they’re up against in this case.
Overall though, Incredibles 2 is just as much of a bold, genre-defining masterwork as its 2004 predecessor, only barely falling shy of the previous movie’s legendary pedigree. This is a textbook example of how to do a Pixar sequel right, and one can only hope that the more definitive conclusion of this movie doesn’t mean the end of the Incredibles franchise. Regardless of what comes next however, Incredibles 2 simultaneously succeeds as a family comedy, a superhero movie, an action movie, and an animated movie all at once, and it demands to be seen in theatres by children and adults alike. Even as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to rule the superhero movie roost for now, Incredibles 2 proves that you don’t need Infinity Stones or post-credits teases to redefine the modern superhero landscape!
- Brilliant, funny and heartfelt new storylines for the Parr family
- Fantastic, powerful action that's complemented by universally sublime direction
- Intensely impressive animation and sound design throughout
- Screenslaver is a disappointingly underwhelming villain