After a long hiatus, the Incredibles are back! Incredibles 2 has a lot to live up to, and Pixar’s Brad Bird does his best to make the family’s return a triumphant one.
It’s All in the Family
Incredibles 2 picks up right where the last film left off, and it immediately delves more into the family dynamics of the super-powered Parr family. Each family member has their own beliefs on what it means to be super and how to live their lives. Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) wants to relive the golden years and save people, Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) thinks that they should try living a normal life, and Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner) want to have their own heroic adventures instead of being stuck with their little brother Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile, Nicholas Bird). Though the events of the first movie certainly shape this story, being a superhero in public is still considered illegal, and that settles the argument. That is until Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl get a tantalizing offer from the Deavor siblings, a duo with the money and means to make “Supers” legal again.
Elastigirl joins their initiative while Mr. Incredible remains at home to take care of the children. At first, this story point just appears to switch their roles from The Incredibles, but it gratefully becomes much more. Elastigirl works with the Deavors to paint Supers in a positive light and encounters the sinister Screenslaver in the process. Meanwhile, Mr. Incredible tries to stay sane while juggling Violet’s teenage drama, Dash’s homework problems, and Jack-Jack’s newfound powers. Speaking of Jack-Jack, he could have been this film’s undoing. Yet his story is played effectively for laughs without leaning too heavily on the novelty of baby humor or someone with seemingly unlimited power. His first encounter with a “villain” is one of Incredibles 2’s shining moments.
Each family member plays off of each other so well, and Incredibles 2 is at its finest when the Parrs are working together to solve a problem. Their dialogue is snappy and fun, even when encountering allies like Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) and Edna (Brad Bird). Now if only the villain was as fun…
The Trouble with Villains
During Elastigirl’s adventures we are introduced to a new city that is large and jungle-like. It is exciting to watch Elastigirl use her abilities here to slide through traffic, climb along cables, and jump over rooftops in an attempt to foil Screenslaver’s plans.
Screenslaver’s true identity is left a secret for most of the film. Sadly, the reveal can be spotted a mile away. If you have seen any trailers or are familiar with the plot from the first film, you may have already figured it out. It reminded me of old Scooby-Doo episodes where there were only ever one or two options for who the monster could be, thus nullifying the mystery aspect completely. Even Screenslaver’s motivations partially fall short, as they follow a path commonly seen in other recent superhero films. It is unfortunate, as the villain has such a presence on screen — in part due to Screenslaver’s use of screens to control anyone looking at one. If their identity had not been shrouded in such mystery or if there had been more possibilities for who they were and what their motivations were, the villain would have been portrayed a little better.
Messages to Save By
As always, Pixar delivers a healthy serving of complex messages with their fun visuals and characters. This time around it is a question on the effectiveness of the law and what our duty should be if it is unjust. Before taking the Deavors’ offer, Elastigirl states, “You know it’s crazy, right? To help my family, I gotta leave it. To fix the law, I gotta break it.” To which her husband replies, “You’ve got to, so that our kids can have that choice [to be Supers].” This is a deep issue in our society and for a Pixar movie to tackle. Even in Biblical times, this was a struggle. Specifically, there was an instance when Peter and the apostles were asked to abide by the laws of man rather than the laws of God, and they ultimately chose God’s way (Acts 5:27-29). Elastigirl’s decision is not nearly as dramatic as that, but it is an interesting reflection.
In addition, the Parr family tries to live a responsible Super life to convey to the public and authorities that Supers are not bad for the world. They often place their lives on the line for the greater good, even occasionally saving those who believe that they are not worth saving. By doing this, they portray a love for humanity that is reminiscent of Jesus’s statement about love and laying down one’s life in John 15:13. In moments like these, the Parrs embody the very essence of what a superhero is and set an example for how we should treat others, whether we are Super or not.
An Incredible Film
Despite Incredibles 2’s lackluster villain, the film’s treatment of the Parr family and complex issues makes this movie a must-see, particularly if you enjoyed The Incredibles. The first film came out before the rush of superhero films that are now on the market, yet Incredibles 2’s characters are still inspiring, refreshing, and entertaining. Let’s just hope that we do not have to wait another fourteen years to see more of the Parr family.