Image: Sky Editorial Asset Centre

Incredibles 2: Review

Rating:

Incredibles 2 precedes the brilliant first film by just a few moments, offering a very similar plot that exclusively works due to the marvellous characters and humour. The film’s plot is almost too arbitrary to bother mentioning, as the family of superheroes are faced with a digitally-minded hacker villain named the ‘Screenslaver’, who terrorises the heroes by controlling the minds of anyone facing a screen, causing numerous disasters. Of course, the villain’s motivation is more complex than this, though still conventional and not particularly compelling.

the action scenes are visually inventive and exciting

Despite the repetitive and perfunctory nature of the narrative, the action scenes are visually inventive and exciting, but certainly lacking the dramatic weight of the first film. Gone also are the lushly rendered exotic locales of the first film, as well as the seemingly unstoppable threat. As soon as the villain of the film is revealed, they become ridiculously nonthreatening. Brad Bird’s skill as a director is still on show here though, as he finds unique ways to visualise the terror of what may seem quite a mundane plot.

she never really faces the same kind of drama as Mr. Incredible does in the first film

With the newly inverted parallel narratives of domestic life, ‘Mr Incredible’ and ‘Elastigirl’ lack the intense drive of guilt that Mr Incredible possessed during the events of the first film: a guilt that was brilliantly juxtaposed with the character’s indulgence in the luxury and allure of his position. This challenge to the family dynamic is now most exemplified by the role of Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), who hilariously struggles with domestic and family life while Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) fights crime. Unfortunately, her pursuits are not very dynamic and she is simply rather confident in her new role so she never really faces the same kind of drama as Mr. Incredible does in the first film.

Of course, this is not Holly Hunter’s fault, as she, as well as pretty much the whole cast, is charismatic, dynamic, and fun. Indeed, the film has been stunted and let down by the writing, constructing great individual scenes, yet feeling very loosely focused and ultimately unimportant when the heroes are forced into action. Examples of good scenes involve a tender moment of the two main heroes talking at a swimming pool, bathed in lurid and reflective fluorescent light, accompanied by a Smooth Jazz style score from Michael Giacchino.

Additionally, any scene with ‘Jack-Jack’, the couple’s multi-powered baby, is brimmed with excellent and inventive physical comedy, showing a real awareness and respect for the capabilities of 3D animation. I’m sure this is an awareness that doesn’t quite carry over to the action scenes, which, while being well-paced and often visually arresting, are simply less imaginative than those of the first film. The film also introduces new heroes, all of which are fairly uninteresting and sometimes even off-putting and trite. Within the mess of crowded battles come some stark stylised visuals which evoke comic panels in quite a subtle way, but the film remains distinctly anticlimactic.

So what if siblings ‘Dash’ and ‘Violet’ realise that they must help save their family; haven’t we seen this before?

Director, Brad Bird, juggles the two hero narratives through parallel editing, mirroring the structure of the first film, but this tying together of narrative threads ultimately feel indifferent. When looking at the film, this notion of unimportance or low-stakes drama does not seem like too much of an accident, especially with the film taking place at the end of the first film, establishing it as an afterword or epilogue. The dramatic structure of both films hinges on the importance of the separated heroes’ storylines to the others, and this is simply not as successful here, and is certainly not made innovative or even very different. So what if siblings ‘Dash’ and ‘Violet’ realise that they must help save their family; haven’t we seen this before?

My reliance on the first film for comparison is both fitting and a little unfair, as the film offers many joys for audiences, and children will benefit much more from the intelligently crafted and nuanced characters of this film than the ones of films such as Minions and The Emoji Movie. Yet, in a world where Brad Bird could have made anything, Incredibles 2 feels simply passable, and I can’t shake the fact that my enjoyment of the subplots of the film is hugely indebted to the original. Of course we care about the dating efforts of the couple’s daughter, Violet, and the appearances of fan favourites ‘Frozone’ and ‘Edna’ Mode, as well as the dynamic and humorous relationship of the couple. And I suppose if it was based on just that the first film did it so much better.

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