If you’re a devout Pixar fan, then there’s no doubt that you will have wanted this sequel to happen for a very long time. The first Incredibles all the way back in 2004 took many people by surprise. The story and characters that felt like they had been pulled out of a comic book with that same level of excitement provided a vastly entertaining film at a time when superhero films were becoming very serious. Despite my obvious hype for this film, I was worried that Incredibles 2 would be a sequel for sequel’s sake. For all the positivity surrounding Pixar’s practices, they have gained a recent reputation for putting out sequels that can nowhere near live up to its predecessor. Incredibles 2 is, therefore, the turning point because, after all these years of pondering and speculation, this film lives up to the first and improves on a number of things.
Let’s begin with the characters, in a nutshell, they have become more impressive in every way, you see this through the character roles of Mr Incredible and Elastigirl as the two have essentially swapped roles. In the first film, we saw Mr Incredible out doing all the superhero stuff while Elastigirl stays at home with Dash, Violet and Jack-Jack. Incredibles 2 switches the narrative around and we get to see how these characters act out of their typical roles. The moms and dads in the audience are going to feel like they’re looking into a mirror, the family aspect of this film might even surpass the first Incredibles. As it blends family drama and superhero action perfectly that reaches audiences regardless of age. There is, however, one character that steals the show completely, Jack-Jack. His scenes will often consist of him either doing something adorable or cheeky, or both at the same time. Most of the film’s comedy, of which there are plenty, come from discovering what and how Jack-Jack uses his powers for.
Pixar being the juggernauts of 3D animation continue to knock it out of the park with quality. Admittedly, there are no major innovations in the animation itself like in previous Pixar films, shading and movement have gotten a lot slicker giving the animation a more polished look. The fabrics of the super suits are more detailed so you can see the actual texture. The Incredibles feel more like a classic comic book strip than ever before.
Following the comic book feel, the comic book action is more inventive now that Elastigirl stands in the superhero spotlight working as an advocate to make superheroes legal again. We are also introduced to the Elasticycle that can split into two unicycles utilizing Elastigirl’s stretch powers. Just adding that one element makes the action scenes involving Elastigirl more exhilarating, and with the fast camera tracking, adds just enough wildness to mesmerize the eyes. Brad Bird has proven with every project that he can direct great fast-paced action scenes and every animated film he has done for Pixar feels like a live-action film.
Something I felt was the weakest part of the film is the new villain Screenslaver who can hypnotize people and control them. In no way is this character living up to Syndrome. In the first Incredibles Syndrome is an obsessive, egotistical mastermind but on the level of the audience, he is also tragic. In a way, it is easy to have some sort of pity for him because his plan to giving his technology to the people so everyone can be superheroes is more beneficial than evil, aside from the getting rid of supers part that gave him villain status. Screenslaver, on the other hand, is purely a villain for the sake of being the villain of the story and has very little depth and complexity. There is a moment where Screenslaver takes over a broadcast to talk about how people have become consumers rather than experiencers which are completely out of blue and feels way ahead of the films setting.
Edna Mode quickly became an unlikely favourite for many who saw the first Incredibles film because of her obvious satire of big fashion designers. Incredibles 2 leaves her in the dust almost, she is only present for two scenes, but this is the case of a character filling her role despite it being minuscule.
Not only was the Incredibles a family fun superhero film, it wasn’t afraid to take a jab at the superhero genre in general as tropes and clichés like monologues were torn apart and made fun off, characters would also be self-aware that they were committing these clichés. Incredible 2 could have done with more of that. The superhero genre has changed drastically to the point where what it once was is entirely different from what It is now, in turn, new clichés and new tropes have been invented to fit the genre. This provides an ample amount of opportunity to make another element of the Incredibles fresher, I think the film missed out on this massive opportunity resulting in a loss of that light-heartedness.
I am nonetheless ecstatic with the amount of entertainment Incredibles 2 provided, it is a narrative of constant joy that exudes so much positivity everyone can connect to it. The characters, the setting and tone feel just as squeaky clean new as it did before. an easy contender for one of Pixar’s best sequels but if one thing is guaranteed, Incredibles was a demand and supply film that lived up to years of expectations and a feel-good film that can be enjoyed by anyone.
As with every Pixar film, I will always review the short film that plays before. Bao is directed by Domee Shi and is the story of an Asian mother who makes a dumpling that comes to life and raises it as her child. Ultimately this is a story of motherhood and the struggles that come along with that responsibility. Our main character already has a hint of empty nest syndrome which makes the tug-of-war narrative all the more connective. She wants the dumpling to be safe and the dumpling wants to be more independent, a classic mother/son struggle that plays out beautifully that mirrors a Chinese take on the gingerbread man fairytale.
The score that dominates the film respects both the cultural and traditional values of Bao whilst almost having just enough familiarity to make a cinema room of westerners comfortable. Simple, well-done stories like Bao are universally recognizable and appreciated. Composer Toby Chu has done remarkably well for achieving that comfort. The music also has a secondary effect of making emotional scenes feel heavier thanks to the disappearance of dialogue.
Bao carries so much emotional weight; every stage of the dumplings life becomes much more tragic as the relationship the dumpling and mother once had, starts to turn ugly. Both children and parents can be changed by this story through its values. Both taking care of a child and letting him/her go are an essential time for mother, but what is realized is that no matter the direction a mother takes, the bond that was made in the beginning is indestructible.
The animation is done in a typical Pixar way which is a shame because these short films are a way of Pixar showing off the technological advancements they have made in their filmmaking and progression in turning anything into a story. Bao is simple and effective but done before and the animation never shoves at the boundaries, I had to think hard about how the animation felt different. Looking at the poster for Bao I would have been just as happy if the animation style had matched it.
The first Pixar short shot by a woman is a great achievement in simple but effective storytelling that is sure to spark epiphanies amongst the mothers and children of the audience. For myself, I always look forward to Pixar’s short films more than the main feature because some Pixar main features can be disappointing, Pixar short films, however, rarely let me down, so I can always leave a cinema after a Pixar film feeling happy.
Final Result (Incredibles 2): 9/10 – Excellent
Final Result (Bao): 8/10 – Very Good
Have you seen Incredibles 2? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again