Rarely can I think of an instance where a sequel has taken 14 years to be made, yet it completely lives up to the expectations of the audience. The only other recent instance I can think of is 2016’s sequel to Finding Nemo, Finding Dory. While Dory may not have been better, or even as good as Nemo, it definitely lived up to the expectations of its 13 year wait and gave us a solid follow up to the Pixar classic. With the sky high standard set by The Incredibles, there was a lot of potential for Pixar to miss the mark with any sequel, especially after waiting for so long. Thankfully, however, Pixar has done it again with Incredibles 2.
The story of Incredibles 2 takes place directly after 2004’s The Incredibles, throwing us right into the fire with the Parr family’s pursuit of the Underminer. This opening is a perfect tone-setter for the film, as we see the family juggle heroics and family life all at once as they protect the city and watch after Jack-Jack. During the pursuit, the wealthy superhero fanatic Winston Deavor, voiced by Bob Odenkirk, sees the Incredibles in action. This inspires him to spearhead a movement to legalize “Supers” again, using Elastigirl as the face of his campaign. What follows is an incredibly fun role reversal from the first film, as Bob/Mr. Incredible stays home to care for the family while Helen/Elastigirl attempts to return the title of Super to one of respect through her actions.
Helen does this by hunting down the nefarious new villain “the Screenslaver,” who hypnotizes and enslaves people through the screens of their electronic devices, such as computers and television sets. The use of social commentary here is on point, if not a bit obvious with Screenslaver’s blatant monologue on the topic. The film is ripe with social commentary, from Bob’s frustration at “new math,” Helen’s feminist optimism about a woman’s place in the world, and the Screenslaver’s entire schtick. The commentary works overall and doesn’t come across as preachy or forced, but I will admit, it is a bit weird seeing the modern commentary set against the retro setting of 1962, the year in which the film takes place.
The key difference between the Incredibles films is the emphasis on story. While the original Incredibles certainly had a great story, it served mostly as a backdrop for the family to shine over, with them being the focus. Incredibles 2 instead emphasizes the story, with the Parr family’s antics taking a backseat to Elastigirl’s pursuit of the Screenslaver. In my honest opinion, I prefer the approach of the first Incredibles a bit more, but that doesn’t mean the sequel falls flat. Incredibles 2 has a fantastic story, and is definitely a worthy successor to The Incredibles.
Speaking of the characters, they’re all still great. Every original voice actor returns for the sequel, save for Spencer Fox who voiced Dash in 2004. Huck Milner does a great job taking over, and the rest of the voice cast does a perfect job recapturing their performance from 14 years ago. Bob gets some decent development as he deals with the role reversal and being sidelined, Helen does a great job with her heroics, and Violet and Dash, while definitely not as focused on, have some good scenes dealing with their normal lives while being Supers. Jack-Jack definitely steals the show in a great way, managing to bring an adorable side story that doesn’t distract too much, and doesn’t go overboard like some other cute mascot characters do.
As far as the new characters, they’re all alright if not a bit forgettable. The best new character, in my mind, is Winston Deavor. Bob Odenkirk does a wonderful job as the starry-eyed billionaire who sets the entire film in motion, and I hope to see more of him if we ever get an Incredibles 3. Beyond that, the new Supers we meet are all interesting enough, but a bit flat in my mind. Screenslaver makes for a decent villain, but unfortunately can’t hold a candle to Syndrome. They’re all serviceable enough, but they unfortunately are cursed with the task of being compared to the iconic characters of the original Incredibles.
The highlight of the film is definitely the music and animation. The animation both matches and enhances the 2004 film, fitting in perfectly while adding the extra levels of detail that 14 years of technology advancement has to offer. Each character looks better than they did, without changing the core character design drastically. The music is possibly the best part of the film, with Michael Giacchio returning to compose. The iconic theme makes a triumphant return, and his new music doesn’t just fit the film, but molds the scenes around it. Music is one of the most important parts of the film, and Incredibles 2 is a prime example of that.
It goes without saying, the film isn’t perfect. The Screenslaver has decent enough motivation as a villain, but it isn’t anything near the level of Snydrome’s character. This sort of goes back to what I mentioned about it being tough to live up to The Incredibles, because Syndrome was just such a perfectly crafted villain. The Screenslaver, while fine enough, leaves a bit to be desired in motivation, execution, and overall coherence of their plan. Another issue I have is that the Parr family takes a major backseat to Helen’s adventures as a heroine. Dash in particular I felt didn’t get nearly enough to do, and spent most of the movie as a side/after thought. When they’re all in action, they’re all great. But I’d love to have seen more of them.
In all, Incredibles 2 had a daunting task before it; It had to live up to both the standards set by the classic film it’s a sequel to, and it had to live up to 14 years worth of hype from fans clamoring for a sequel. Luckily, while different in many good ways and despite some hiccups, the film manages to entertain and delight for the two hour runtime, and make that 14 year wait all worth it. I’m giving Incredibles 2 a 4/5.