An outdated Incredibles 2 Review

It’s not the one year anniversary or anything but I’m uploading this anyway…

There are spoilers beyond this point so if you belong to the last 31 people on Earth that haven’t seen it yet be warned. To start, keep in that I adore Pixar. When they’re at their best they create some of the best films of all time. Yes, that includes whatever grey-scale dad-bod Oscar bait is gonna roll out this year. I believe Pixar movies are on a spectrum, some are better than others. However, that spectrum is above and beyond the spectrum of their competitors. Pixar pleases us with bright and colorful entertainment while challenging us intellectually and emotionally. They have proven this time and time again.

For that reason I rate Incredibles 2 as a great family summer superhero blockbuster, but unfortunately not a great Pixar film. The first was both of those things. I scrutinized and critiqued the first Incredibles for years now. But this sequel teaches me the hard way why that first film was so successful and why we eagerly awaited for a decade and half for this one.

For better and worse this film echoes and shares a lot of same material as the first one and therefore serves as a familiar grading metric going forward.

OH HOW CAN YOU HATE INCREDIBLES TWO IT WAS SO GOOD YOU’RE JUST A HATER. That’s the thing. This is by no means a “bad” movie. This isn’t a Transformers 5 or a Fant4stic. There are so many things in this movie to commend and give credit to. Starting with the visual appeal. YOU CAN’T JUST GIVE A BIG BUDGET MOVIE A THUMBS UP BECAUSE IT LOOKS GOOD. If we have learned anything in the last 20 years it is that a studio can have all the money in the world and the film can still look like hot garbage and be stylistically bland. Yeah, the new character models take time to get used to, but the quality of the animation and attention to detail, from the shadows in the apartment to Violet’s hair, were indicative of the time and care put into making this movie an undeniable dynamic spectacle. Every setting and character had an appropriate touch to it that serves a purpose to the plot. I could go on. But visually this film went so far beyond “ooo look at us we have state of the art technology and 200 million dollars.”

These actions sequences are amongst the best the genre has to offer. Pixar knows that there is more to a these scenes than Superman brainlessly hurling mountains to blow up the moon or whatever. No. Characters utilize their abilities in creative and interesting ways. Some moments feel like Overwatch or League of Legends, where skillsets play off each other in intriguing synergies. Each sequence, though some feel clichéd (oh no we have to stop the train….. again), had a distinct atmosphere and rhythm to them. Pixar takes simple, easy to follow powers and identities and explores the possibilities of them.

Both of these positives should be praised, no matter what you think of this movie. Pixar didn’t have to do this. They could have easily just let the computer crap out glossy animation with no spirit or artistic flare to it. They could have easily just had loud, noisy, tactless action scenes were charters just pummel each other like any normal human would. In a lot of ways this felt like a true comic book movie, as if the stills of a comic book came to life.

Oh the music? What about it? It was amazing. Moving on.

This film was “incredible.” Funny, entertaining, high-spirited, with its own unique identity. But what truly set aside the first one and what I felt was missing from this one was the quality of the storytelling, character development and emotional depth that defines Pixar.

It’s not the WHAT of this plot that I have a problem with so much as the HOW. These aren’t bad ideas, but the grace and subtly of storytelling Pixar executes on a regular basis just isn’t there. The structure and pacing of the first movie is very underrated. The characters and audience discover information in an organic and gradual progression. In this film it seems major plot points and solutions to problems are just monologued to the audience or Elasta-Girl simply Jimmy-Neutron brainblasts to unravel mysteries. Everything comes so fast and so easy. The film seems to rush its way through A-plot material in order to get to the next Jack-Jack scene or the next snoring Mr. Incredible shot. I normally don’t discredit a movie for the premise of the story it tells. But swapping the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Incredible isn’t enough to distract from the fact that this is very familiar territory. There we so many highs, so many exciting thrilling moments of triumph but they didn’t land with the sense of reward as in the first… why? They weren’t as earned. I’m not saying every movie needs a dark edgy moment like when Mr. Incredible belived that his family was murdered or he discovered a superhero genocide, but this time round the sense of adversity or danger was definitely lacking. We didn’t really grow with these characters because for the most part they didn’t grow themselves. And by the end of the picture we end up exactly where we started thematically, visually, world-status-wise-ish, and in terms of character arcs.

I’ll start with Dash. I actually loved his character in the first one, he’s annoying and cringy yeah but there is something endearing and sadly very real about a gifted confused child that is held from what he loves to do because of societal norms and standards. I was disappointed that in this film he is mostly around to just set up or deliver punchlines, almost like the Bruce Banner in Infinity War.

I’m probably in the minority here, but I actually really enjoyed Violet’s subplot with Tony and Mr. Incredible. It was the few times that the cost of being a superhero directly impacted a personal life in an original way and tangible way. It also gave Mr. Incredible the chance to use what he learned in the first movie to be a better parent.

However, both of the kids were given a similar challenge to do as in the first one. Yes, the odds were stacked high up against them and it was pretty hype to watch them use Jack-Jack and the Incredicar or whatever to save their parents. But in terms of character they were simply rising to the occasion and maturing into superheroes as we’ve seen them do before without the personal obstacles they had to overcome in the first one.

Mr. Incredible was confusing in a way. And this has to do with some peculiar logical inconsistencies I’ll delve into later. I suspend a lot of disbelief while watching movies, but I can’t really buy how he is THIS incompetent and reluctant of a father on his thirds superhero child. I know its for comedic affect but considering that he wasn’t superheroing for 15 years and presumably just sitting around his house all day it’s strange to see him THIS overwhelmed. I‘ll need to see the movie one or two more times but he seemed to take too much of a back seat for me to really care for him. There are moments where he demonstrates growth in his character arc and other points where he oddly relapses. Luckily for all them they can reunite and bond as a family by punching bad guys instead of really solving their problems and differences.

Frozone was great woohoo. So were the secondary characters. I’m not into Jack-Jack humor but there’s plenty of it if that’s your thing. Elon Musk or Winston Deavor or Saul Goodman whatever you want to call him was cool, even though it was strange how he didn’t know what his sister was up to or that his absence in the first one is never explained. His flashback story was interesting but pretty forced in presentation, whatever… back to what’s more important.

This was supposed to be Elasta-Girl’s movie.  There is no problem with that. But undergoing a Mr. Incredible-esque mid-life crisis/return to the spotlight without the freshness or nuance off the first one is a disservice to the character we have come to know over the course of time. What really makes her intriguing is how she moved on from her role as the IT GIRL superhero in order to focus on being a mother. It felt odd to me that after everything that was set up about her in the first one that she would just be like “oooo wowie a motorcycle lol im such a hypocrite haha” then just cycle off. OH BUT JAMES SHE HAD THOSE LINES ABOUT-

And that’s my biggest problem with this movie and a lot of the characters. As well as its thematic substance. They just say things and hint at things. They just kinda ramble about what they are feeling but never do anything to express and confront those concerns until time runs out and they have to boom boom pow the villain.

Now about this villain. I’ve heard so many times around the internet that this is a film that harkens back to an era when superhero films focused on the hero and the adversary was more of a formality. That’s fine with me. But in those movies the villain is simple, coherent, and effective. The screen-slaver had a lot of potential. I liked her surface personality and character model. The themes, ideas, and motivations were fresh and interesting in comparison to like… Steppenwolf or some shit. Her capabilities made for thrilling action sequences that were different from the first one. However, the way she carried herself as a villain and the way she explained herself made her out to be the kind of villain Syndrome and the heroes would make fun of and parody during the first one. “YOU SLY DOG YOU GOT ME MONOLOGUING” “AND THE WORLD WILL SOON BE HIS” For being a crafty, enigmatic, idgaf-type person she was far too straight forward and transparent to Mrs. Incredible. I know there was an attempt to make them seem like two sides of the same coin. They were painting her as the villain FOR Mrs. Incredible but the fact that a lot of that connection rode on quips and witty dialogue scenes that fly by in a matter of moments, they’re final confrontation just doesn’t feel earned or personal.

Now I guess I’ll just go on a rant about random nitpicks that didn’t make much sense to me. I don’t usual critique a movie this way. This is pretty low brow. How the hell do they not know that Jack Jack has powers? Why didn’t the agent guy that looks like Tommy Lee Jones tell them they had to mindwipe the baby sitter and they need to watch out for Jack-Jack? On the voicemail Mrs. Incredible listened to in the first one how did she not realize that was what the babysitter was screaming about? How did they not see Jack-Jack messin with Syndrome at the end of the first one? The screen-slaver’s hypno screen thing is so overpowered. But those googles came off in like 2 seconds. Why don’t just brainwash the lawmakers into making the supers illegal? Why bother using the boat as a weapon? Just have them do something bad on the ship.

Sigh.

What makes me most “upset” if you will about this movie is that it was so fun at the same time, and it deserved better storytelling and emotional weight. It was “Incredible” but it just wasn’t as good as 14 years could have been. I’m not saying don’t go see it. See it. Again, it’s wildly entertaining and funny. It introduces new ideas that opens the door for a lot of possible stories in the future. The theater was poppin. There was an event-movie atmosphere in the room that Infinity War was supposed to have but just didn’t. I’m happy the audience has found the enthusiasm to eat popcorn and enjoy a family film again.

Pixar isn’t in some creative slump or spiraling into mediocrity. But this could have been something truly compelling. Yeah, we go to good movies to laugh and have a good time. But Pixar, and Incredibles 2, can be so much more than that.

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