Sunday, June 24, 2018

'Incredibles 2' Has Been Well Worth the Wait

Finally!  The Parrs, everybody’s favorite superhero family (sorry, Fantastic Four), is back in action.  It took Pixar 14 years – a period wherein they manage to make three Cars movies that nobody asked for – to make it happen.  But, hey, better late than never, right?

Incredibles 2 immediately picks up after the last scene of the first movie, and follows the Parr family – Bob Parr a.k.a. Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Helen Parr a.k.a. Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), Violet Parr (Sarah Vowell), Dash Parr (Huck Milner), and Jack-Jack Parr (Eli Fucile) – along with close family friend Lucius Best a.k.a. Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) as they seek to regain the public’s trust on superheroes.  Unfortunately, this proves to be more complicated and difficult than they imagine.

Telecommunications tycoon Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), a massive superhero fan, and his tech genius sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) offer to help the superheroes’ cause by starting a PR campaign centered on Elastigirl.  Broke and left with no other options available to them, they agree.  Thus, while Helen is out on her mission, which soon pits her against a mind-controlling supervillain named Screenslaver, Bob must figure out how to be stay-at-home dad and take care of the kids – especially the baby Jack-Jack, whose superpowers are emerging.
So, how does it hold up against The Incredibles?  Visually, it’s superior.  That’s understandable, considering all the technological advancement for animation in the past fourteen years.  The action set pieces are particularly spellbinding as a result.

But all in all?  The first movie is better, in my opinion.

Don’t get me wrong.  Incredibles 2 is a terrific sequel worth the wait.  It’s every bit as epic as the original in being a family-oriented superhero-with-a-mix-of-classic-spy-thriller animated feature.  However, The Incredibles’ script was simply smarter and fresher in general.

I think it all boils down to Syndrome, the villain of the first movie, who adds a profound philosophical facet to the narrative.  Meanwhile, Screenslaver is a bit superficial in comparison.  It was also very easy to guess who he was and what was his motivations.

Moreover, Bob’s “struggling househusband” arc is something we’ve seen plenty of times before in other stories.  Though, to be fair, it’s effectively hilarious and touching nonetheless.
The humor is pretty solid.  I laughed plenty of times, especially during the adorable gags involving Jack-Jack.  What I find slightly lacking however is the clever lampooning of superhero tropes.  It does have that, but nothing as brilliant as The Incredibles’ bit on superhero capes.

There were fleeting moments in the movie where I got uncomfortable thinking of the possibility that it would get ruined by some garbage liberal agenda.  The Obama and Hilary look-alikes and the mention of “Make superheroes great again” made me think that there was going to be some BS social/political propaganda on the way.  Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.  Rather, the evident messages it has are overwhelmingly positive – especially on how a family support each other and have each other’s backs, readily sacrificing personal interests and conveniences for the good of the whole; and the depiction of parenting as a supremely heroic act.  On top of that, it also offers some worthwhile food for thought through simply raising the issue, and not offering an answer, but throwing it to the audience to reflect on and discuss for themselves – specifically, the ethical dilemma of adhering to unjust laws.  Meanwhile, the Screenslaver could be a cautionary metaphor for the media and its modes of “mind control”: TV, computer, and smart phones.
All in all, I love Incredibles 2.  It’s fun, thoughtful, heartwarming, and thrilling – easily one of my top favorite movies of 2018 so far.

P.S. The animated short leading to this movie, Bao, is simultaneously cute and disturbing.  It’s charming enough.  But, for me, it’s not quite as intelligent and poignant as recent Pixar/Disney shorts.

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