The goal of a film critic is to encourage people to go and see high quality movies while steering people away from titles that aren’t very good. To do this, the critic watches a film, then dissects it like an expert surgeon, analyzing it for plot holes, characterization, quality of CGI, music selection, theme, and at least a hundred additional items. With so many variables, a film can receive vastly different reviews depending on the reviewer. And to make things even more interesting, theater-goers may feel differently than the critic when the credits roll.
In the case of director Brad Bird’s latest film Incredibles 2, I believe the two groups will agree the film is a fantastic way to spend a couple hours in an air-conditioned theater. Whether I2 holds up to fourteen years of waiting will depend on your personal perspective.
If you recall, the end of The Incredibles found the Parr family—burly Bob (Craig T Nelson), Stretch-Armstrong-like Helen (Holly Hunter), teenager Violet (Sarah Vowell), lightning-fast Dash (Huck Milner), and baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile)—preparing to take on a burrowing villain called the Underminer. In Incredibles 2, we finally get to see how the battle turns out.
It’s not pretty. At least half the town is destroyed, including cars, freeway overpasses, buildings, and at least one character’s emotional stability. As a result, the Supers are forced underground yet again (and the Parr family into living out of a hotel room). But there may be some hope in the form of Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), a multi-billionaire who has been fascinated with superheroes his entire life (even singing their theme songs). He meets Bob, Helen, and Frozone (Samuel L Jackson) in order to reveal a plan to get Supers back on the good side of the general public. But in a surprise to Bob, Winston wants Helen to be the face of positive public perception, leaving him to stay home and take care of the kids.
Helen, in her Elastigirl outfit, immediately has to deal with a runaway monorail in New Urbem that showcases her talents as well as the new motorcycle Winston’s sister and uber-talented Evelyn (Catherine Keener) designed. Her success leads to more Supers coming out of hiding, including Void (Sophia Bush), a superfan of Helen’s who creates interdimensional portals out of thin air. But there’s a more sinister villain than the Underminer on the loose—one that always seems to be a step ahead of Helen. The Screenslaver hypnotizes people who are looking at video screens into obeying their commands, threatening to destroy Supers once and for all. Helen thinks she’s got the villain figured out—but is sorely incorrect.
Meanwhile, Bob struggles mightily to be an effective full-time dad. Dash can’t figure out his math homework; Violet is an emotional mess regarding a boy; and Jack-Jack keeps Bob up at all hours while harboring multiple superpowers that are beginning to manifest themselves. It all exhausts Bob, leaving him gruff and unshaven, and in one of the craziest scenes in the film, asleep while Jack-Jack combats his new arch enemy—a territorial raccoon. Thankfully, the kids intervene in the form of Frozone and a diminutive yet pugnacious fashion designer named Edna Mode (Brad Bird himself).
In order to defeat the Screenslaver, it’s going to take more than Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl. As a result, the final portion of the film is an action-packed spectacle I won’t spoil for you. When the credits rolled, the crowd applauded and cheered loudly.
In the end, I felt Incredibles 2 was just as good as the original film. Michael Giacchino’s score delivered the right amount of gravitas while keeping pace with the action onscreen. All the actors did well with their roles, but I’ll single out Vowell for her emotional portrayal of an uncertain, surly, yet teenage Violet who needed some form of support from her parental unit. Animation has always been one of Pixar’s hallmarks, and Incredibles 2 is no exception. They’ve come a long way in fourteen years with gradation, shading, water effects, and sense of speed.
As for the film itself, Dash seemed to fall to the wayside on a few occasions and was a bit one-note with his performance. Jack-Jack stole each scene he was in, but was surprisingly tame in the final sequences. But when he and Edna were on the screen together, it was absolutely electric. I wanted more. The Screenslaver was a worthy villain and provided caution for each of us about devoting our lives to video screens—be they televisions, tablets, phones, or computers. Another line that struck me was when Evelyn said, “People will trade quality for ease every time.” Perhaps we all need to up our standards in our daily activities and not settle for second best when something better is available.
The focus of Incredibles 2, despite the superhero title, remains the family. In many ways, I saw in the Parrs a microcosm of my own family. Not everything in life goes the way we would like it to (and often doesn’t). We struggle, we run away, we argue, we lose hope, but we always fall back on each other when the day is over. And in that, the Bible reminds us to “encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception” (Hebrews 3:13 HCSB). The world can be a very evil place, so we must make sure we’re not falling captive to the issues around us while making a difference for good wherever we go. Together we rise; apart we fall.
That’s something all film critics can agree with.