After a nearly decade and a half wait, the much anticipated sequel to Pixar’s The Incredibles has arrived. In a somewhat interesting decision, the sequel takes place immediately after the credits role in the first film with the titular family taking on the Underminer as he…undermines things. While working in the time skip could have been an interesting angle, it is by no means a deal breaker, as this second film is able to deliver in many of the same ways as the first. However, there are a few qualities that the sequel lacks which prevent it from reaching the same level as the original.
At the conclusion of the first film, it had seemed that heroes (or Supers) were well on their way back to being accepted by the general public- or at least the ones that had not been eliminated by Syndrome. The second film takes that path and makes it the primary goal of the film. Elastigirl is the one moonlighting as a hero this time around, leaving her husband behind to take care of the kids and to figure out how the heck they could have changed math. This swap in the roles along with Jack-Jack’s increased role within the film make the second a much funnier film than the first. That is not to say that the first was devoid of humor, as it had plenty, but it was a little subtler and played things more straight compared the zanier nature of the sequel.
Jack-Jack’s increased role in the film, while largely responsible for the increased humor of this film, is also one of the chief detriments of the film. One of the core strengths of the first film was the family dynamic playing out on the screen. There was a dad who was trying to relive the glory days of the past, a mother who was trying to hold things down at home, a daughter who is going through the challenge of discovering who she really is in adolescence, and a son who was being stifled by the outside world and lashing out as a result. Oh and they all have super powers too. This was the sort of elevator pitch of the first film, and it maintained a very effective balance throughout. Each character had plenty of screen time to themselves as well as with others to see these family dynamics play out in a very satisfying way. The second film cannot find the same balance as it has to devote more time to Jack-Jack. The ones who suffer the most are Dash and Violet, who do very little throughout the film with Dash going through very little character progression in particular. While Jack-Jack provides plenty of entertainment, his prominence in the film throws off its balance.
While Jack Jack certainly provides plenty of entertainment, he is overexposed and, being a baby, doesn’t bring enough character to the equation to support the increased screen time.
The other are where the second can’t quite match up to the original is through the villain. Syndrome was a very effective villain due to the combination of this actions, his motivations and his development which we are able to see play out on the screen. Introducing him early on as Buddy, the wannabe sidekick of Mr. Incredible before a reality check crushes all of this hopes and dreams gives us a complete look at our antagonist as well as a complete understanding of what he is doing. The Screen Slaver does not have such a luxury, and while we are told of their motivation, it is not as organically grown as Syndromes. The main result of this is that the Screen Slavers entire motivation behind their plot feels fairly weak, and it doesn’t create a real sense of urgency to stop this malicious mind manipulator. These aspects combine to make Incredibles 2 feel a bit more like a side story for these characters than a full-on progression. It is a very good story, but still a sideways move nonetheless.
As mentioned earlier, the biggest difference between this sequel and the original is that this one is far funnier. It is not only the presence of Jack Jack that achieves this (though his presence does play a large part) Mr. Incredible provides a large amount of the humor as he takes on a fish out of water role as the parental figure for the kids while Elastigirl goes globetrotting and chasing down criminals. His character is one of the ones that benefits the most from the role reversal, as he undergoes more growth than most of the others. There is also a plethora of new characters to enjoy, each of which bring some value to the table with Voyd standing out as the best of the new bunch.
While it can’t live up to its predecessor, Incredibles 2 is still an extremely good film, and one of the better ones to be released this year. As with virtually all Pixar films, there is a level of polish, competence and character that most other animated films cannot come close to matching. Many other animated films from less talented studios feel far more cynical in their approach that utilize cheap humor to appeal the lowest common denominator audience (Looking at you, Hotel Transylvania 3). But Pixar films always have a charm to them that no other animation studio has been able to figure out, and Incredibles 2 continues that tradition with a very strong outing that cracks 10 best Pixar films.