It has been fourteen years since the Parr family, including Bob (Craig T. Nelson), Helen (Holly Hunter), and their three children-Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner), and Jack Jack (Eli Fucile)-were introduced to audiences through the magic of Pixar and the imagination of writer/director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, and arguably the best Mission: Impossible movie-Ghost Protocol). In those fourteen years since the first Incredibles film Pixar has steadily upped its output of sequels going from only a single sequel in Toy Story 2 as of 2004 to Incredibles 2 being the seventh Pixar sequel of some sort. Does this say anything about the studio outside of the fact they enjoy making money and are not immune to capitalizing on IP's the same way every other studio does? No, not really, but it does always feel like something of a missed opportunity when Pixar releases something that re-hashes a striking original rather than releasing what is hopefully another striking original. This is all to say that while The Incredibles always seemed like the most obvious choice for sequels, it was also a stand-alone film that didn't necessarily require any type of continuation. Thus bringing us to what is probably the most impressive thing about Bird's Incredibles 2 in that not only does the film seem to effortlessly pick up right where the original left off, but it validates itself thoroughly and makes its case that not only is its existence justified, but rather that the original needed this extension of the story to exist. And while this is impressive for obvious reasons it is the ideas the film dolls out as well as the engaging if rather complex without actually feeling convoluted premise that will earn Incredibles 2 this sterling reputation as a sequel that both earns its place alongside the original as well as one that improves upon it. Incredibles 2 will undoubtedly please the generation that grew up on it and are now entering their early twenties, but as someone who was among the Toy Story faithful, Pixar blossoming just before we did, I was getting ready to enter my senior year of high school when The Incredibles was released and feel no inherent connection to that original whatsoever. Due to this and the fact we live in a time where the market is saturated by super heroes it was genuinely surprising how much joy came from watching a family of super heroes strike a balance between feeding the machine and rebelling against it. Which, as Pixar sequels go, is par for the course. 

Evelyn Deavor (Catherine Keener), Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Evelyn's brother, Winston (Bob Odenkirk), meet to discuss the resurgence of super heroes.
Photo by Pixar - © 2018 DisneyĆ¢€¢Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
Incredibles 2 feeds the machine simply by virtue of existing, but it rebels against it by being the furthest thing from a carbon copy of that original film or even following the beats that would have been easy to concoct and let play out for the sole purpose of profit. Instead, Incredibles 2 actually takes this idea of being a part of the capitalistic machine and turns a blind eye to it by having the gall (or balls?) to have a discussion per the film's villain about how society has become engulfed in the packages prepared for them within their screens and how so much of people's lives are lived through watching and consuming experiences rather than having them on their own (mind you, this is being telegraphed as we watch a profitable property on a massive screen). There is something to be said about how dependent on these things we've become and how entranced we are by the apps and opportunities offered to the point we spend more time catering to our online persona more so than we do living an actual life that might accurately reflect that representation, but it's difficult to gauge if Incredibles 2 really wants to discuss this issue or if it simply wants to suggest to the kids in the theater that after they finish watching the film to be sure and go outside and play pretend rather than going straight to their phones or video games. Either way, it is touches such as this-the villain having a heavier weight to them than simply wanting to take over or destroy the world-that make Incredibles 2 and Pixar in general a sharper set of eyes. By lending the smallest and broadest strokes a fair amount of detail so as to add a greater weight to how these factors play into the climax both thematically and in terms of the action that is executed out of obligation these touches inherently lend some meaning and emotional investment. Speaking of emotional investment, it is here that Incredibles 2 falls off the Pixar wagon as it lands comfortably in line with Cars 3 and the majority of Finding Dory which had zero to very few instances where the film provided any such situation or character moments that really tugged at the heart strings. Naturally, if you're familiar with these characters you will be invested in their plight, but it's not that we don't care about the characters, but more nothing happens with these characters that causes us to sit up straight and reassess our life choices as most Pixar films will and it doesn't seem Incredibles 2 cares to do anything of the sort. This isn't necessarily a pre-requisite or anything, but it has become such a trope that Pixar will play with your emotions that one expects as much and so, when a movie like Incredibles 2 skimps on the emotional investment to instead try and simply make a few different statements via keen observations it's only natural it feels lacking. Furthermore, while the story itself goes an unexpected route the narrative twists and turns taken within are rather predictable and therefore slightly disappointing.

The biggest narrative twist Incredibles 2 has to offer though has already been given away in the trailers. This, of course, being the fact that Helen's Elastigirl has come to be the center of attention in the wake of their own little revival rather than Bob's once iconic Mr. Incredible. Picking up soon after the events of the first film it becomes immediately clear that society is still not ready to accept super heroes back into the mainstream or as a part of their lives given the perception they ultimately end up making things worse and causing more destruction than they do actually helping or, heaven help us, preventing bad things from happening. Bird and his team treat the audience to a fantastic and visually inventive opening sequence that features Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and Samuel L. Jackson's Frozone coming face to face with old arch nemesis The Underminer (the always present John Ratzenberger) as they try to stop him from robbing a bank as Violet and Dash trade off babysitting duties with Jack Jack while trying to assist their parents in their super hero duties. The Underminer gets away though, the bank having been heavily raided, and with untold amounts of property damage behind them it seems The Incredibles have done little to sway public opinion around themselves or super heroes in general. Government agent, Rick Dicker (Jonathan Banks), who has been tasked with keeping the Parrs mundane and undercover is getting set to retire after his department has been set to shut down allowing him to only be able to offer the family of supers a two week stay at a cheap motel after which, they are on their own. As Bob and Helen weigh their options, Frozone AKA Lucius is approached by Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) a wealthy fan of super heroes who now runs his family's telecommunications business with his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener). Winston and Evelyn want to bring back the "supers" by re-vamping the public's perception of them and believe their best bet is to first re-introduce the world to Elastigirl. This relegates Bob to being on daddy duty, but fortunately this isn't played for laughs in a shticky way as much as it is for relatability with the added bonus that these children have super powers. From here, Bird (who is once again the sole writer of the screenplay) toggles back and forth between the domestic struggles Bob experiences in trying to understand and relate to his three children while remaining patient and supportive for his wife who is out in the public eye attempting to earn back the public's trust in super heroes. The Deavor's invest a lot in this mission to reverse the law that made supers illegal, but with the appearance of a big bad who calls himself Screenslaver (Bill Wise) this may not turn out to be as simple as either they or Mr. Incredible might have hoped.

Jack Jack (Eli Fucile), Dash (Huck Milner), and Violet (Sarah Vowell) are surprised at the aptitude of their father as a father.
Photo by Pixar - © 2018 DisneyĆ¢€¢Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
It is in this switching of the gender roles that Incredibles 2 fits squarely into the 2018 climate where women are truly beginning to, if not see equality in greater ways, are at least making serious strides and becoming unafraid to take what they so rightfully deserve while at the same time making a seemingly obvious point in the fact that there are two sides to every coin, that different versions of the same thing can both exist and be ridiculous, and that it takes two contrasting ideas battling one another to really understand something as a whole or really glean any wisdom from it. More than the rather self-righteous aspect dealing in screen time, Bird seems to have placed his thematic eggs in this basket. In a time where tensions always seem high and anxieties run aplenty Bird has crafted a tale that involves acceptance or support of a balance of a degree of social equality. Yes, Elastigirl is the chosen star of the show here and the film takes advantage of this set-up to discuss not why women are just as capable as men, but more how men and women can be good at the same things in vastly different ways-this goes for being both a parent and a super hero. As much as the movie teaches Mr. Incredible a lesson about putting his assumptions aside because he was once deemed the biggest super hero around while learning to share the spotlight with his equally gifted wife it also tells Elastigirl to not assume that the moment she leaves her domesticated bliss that everything will fall apart at the hands of her husband. Moreover, Incredibles 2 doesn't place Elastigirl at the lead simply to make a point, but rather it places her there in order to display two ends of an opposite spectrum; those two conflicting ideas that must be taken in relation to the other in order to make sense. While Elastigirl is a beacon of hope, a person who does good because she can and because she has been given powers that would dictate all men were not created equal she is naturally opposed by a woman who sees the second coming of the super heroes as a way to show society just how destructive they really are. There is no favor, no kindness shown to one sex, gender, persuasion, or whatever might be the case without something or someone to balance those expectations and create a well-rounded portrait of the world we sometimes forget is out there. Of course, this all sounds a little provocative for a mainstream animated film aimed at kids, but that it works on this level of societal assessment while also being a tale of silver-aged comic book heroes in the vein of a retro James Bond flick that ultimately leads to a lesson surrounding the familial bond is what makes Incredibles 2 as engaging as it is entertaining. Take all of that as you will, but all you really need to know is that Jack Jack steals every minute he's on screen and is the real star of the show. Now, go buy a ticket.

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