The Incredibles 2 is less of a sequel than it is a “continuation.” Don’t get me wrong, that is not a knock on the film because it is – in my opinion – absolutely Incredible (pardon the pun). However what makes The Incredibles 2 special are all the same groundbreaking elements from the original film.
The original Incredibles was a surprise for everyone. While everyone was expecting a flashy animated superhero movie – which we absolutely got – Brad Bird blindsided us by giving us something no one was expecting – a very smart, mature and real look into the everyday life of the Parr family. The film provides a look at the struggles of keeping a family together, parenthood, chasing our glory days, adolescence and what it means to truly be exceptional, all through a story that is grounded in reality.
We got a look into the Parr’s marriage which is not perfect. They fight, they disagree, they keep things from each other. They worry about their kids and struggle with the different opinions they have on what is best for them – like real couples do. The titular character (Mr. Incredible/Robert Parr) is in a rut and longs for the glory of his youth, allowing that longing to interfere with other aspects of his life – like a real father/husband might. Dash and Violet are constantly arguing – siblings, am I right? Dash wants to participate in sports but isn’t allowed to because of his gift. Violet struggles with feelings of loneliness and the pressures of fitting in, while dealing with her crush on Tony Ridinger. All this makes the main characters unabashedly relatable. As an audience we can easily put ourselves in their shoes – but more than that we want to be in their shoes because oh, right – THEY ARE SUPERHEROES!
In this loooooong awaited sequel – wait, I meant continuation – not only do we get put right back into the Parr’s family life – it picks up in the moments that the last story left off. In the universe of The Incredibles 2, no time has past. As an audience we are not given anything new about our heroic family. They are not dealing with anything that the audience (those who were alive to see the first film anyway) has to be caught up on because from our perspective the movie was simply – paused, for a really, really long time. We are simply continuing (see what I did there) to follow the Parr’s and the fallout of the events of the previous events in their lives.
“But wait,” you might say “three months have past since the end of the last story… So this is a sequel!” Well wipe that smug look off your face – the end of the LAST movie was three months after the events of the main story. We were left with a cliffhanger showing The Underminer attacking the city and our heroes preparing to do battles and save the city. In The Incredibles 2 we open with that same moment and we see how the fight unfolds along with the aftermath of the battle and the toll it takes on our heroes. But as soon as the battle is over, we are thrust right back into their family life.
***WARNING: From here on out there are aspects of the movie that may be considered SPOILERS.***
So if you have not seen the movie – WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR???? Stop here and go see it right now! Then come back and finish reading.
The Parr’s are living out of a hotel due to the destruction of their family home (that Helen had just finished unpacking!). Bob is unceremoniously informed that the government has pulled the plug on the super hero relocation program. He is facing not only the prospect of unemployment, but of his family possibly being homeless. While wrapping up with his government handler, Mr. Incredible unwittingly interferes with his daughters burgeoning love life. All issues that we as an audience can easily relate to.
Then, in a deus ex machina fashion – Frozone arrives to provide an option that could solve all their problems in the form of an opportunity that may not only allow them to return to super hero work, but reverse the ban on supers all together. Again, putting the audience in a place where we might want to be in their shoes.
This opportunity comes in the form of a wealthy benefactor wanting to change the image of supers and bring them back into public service. The twist being that instead of Mr. Incredible, they want Elastigirl. For the Parr’s this means that the role of stay at home parent now switches from Helen to Robert. While endearing and relatable – this is not exactly a fresh concept in storytelling. What follows is still an entertaining and engaging story of a family struggling with their new dynamic, parents having to realign their priorities, children adapting to a new parental paradigm – and Jack Jack. Coincidentally, this is where the movie really shines.
Behind The Scenes
In an interview with IGN, director Brad Bird states “The two ideas that were in my head as the first movie was ending, like ‘oh, this would be interesting,’ was a role switch between Bob and Helen, and showing Jack-Jack’s powers, and exploring them, and making Jack-Jack a main character rather than a side character, those were in from the beginning and never left the project, what changed is the villain plot. And that shifted endlessly. And it drove me insane.” It would appear that in terms of the villain, that endless shifting may have ended with ” Oh god… just pick one already,” because the villains storyline was horribly predictable. Also if all we got was more of the same wonderful, insightful, and emotional story wrapped in a fantastic hero action piece – why did it take fourteen years? Was it just a cash grab? Proof that the saying “Hollywood has run out of ideas” is true?
At a press event at Pixar Studios, Brad Bird addressed that very question:
“The thing is, many sequels are cash grabs. There’s a saying in the business that I can’t stand, where they go, ‘if you don’t make another one, you’re leaving money on the table.’ It’s like, money on the table is not what makes me get up in the morning. Making something that people are gonna enjoy a hundred years from now, that’s what gets me up. So if it were a cash grab, we would not have taken fourteen years. It makes no financial sense to wait this long – It’s simply we had a story we wanted to tell.”
The Long And The Short Of It
Ultimately, albeit almost a decade and a half later – Pixar’s The Incredibles 2 is a wonderful, heartfelt and exciting story of a family of super powered individuals that we all can not only understand, but on occasion we would like to be. And THAT is the secret to this franchises success. Brad Bird understands how to relate his characters to an audience and lets us know that trying to find yourself in the world, whether it’s one with superpowers or a more mundane one like our own, is a universal struggle. Even if you were a superhero, you never truly figure life out – and that’s ok.
The Incredibles 2 is in theaters now and features the voice talents of Craig T. Nelson (Bob Parr / Mr. Incredible), Holly Hunter (Helen Parr / Elastigirl, Sarah Vowell (Violet Parr), Huck Milner, Eli Fucile (Jack-Jack Parr), Samuel L. Jackson (Lucius Best / Frozone), and Brad Bird himself (Edna Mode aka E).