Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Incredibles 2 - Review

Perhaps the most in demand and most anticipated animated sequel in recent memory, if not ever, is finally here. Incredibles 2 has arrived, and after fourteen long years of waiting, it’s about time. Pixar is not necessarily fond of sequels, only producing six since 1995, and their track record with follow-ups isn’t great either, only about half of those were met with praise or box office success. The odds of Incredibles 2 living up to the original wouldn’t be terribly high if the numbers are anything to go by, but we can still hope it was all worth the wait.  

Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) springs into action to save the day, while Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) faces his greatest challenge yet -- taking care of the problems of his three children.

The film moves at a fairly brisk pace, following many beats of a superhero film mixed with some Pixar heart and humor for a film that winds up being one of the studio’s best. Placing Elastigirl and her charming demeanor at the forefront seems like a natural, and painfully obvious progression, while seeing her on her own as a hero is so much fun. There are only a few marks against the film, with even fewer actually affecting the film in a noteworthy way. One minor issue that stands out is the juggling of themes that Incredibles 2 attempts. In the original, Mr. Incredible was largely the focus of the narrative, with the family taking supporting roles. In the sequel, both parents are given similar amounts of screen time and plot, making the themes and ideas a little weaker, but not so much that it’s a detriment to the overall movie.

Part of crafting a successful sequel is building upon the characters audiences loved the first time around and luckily, Incredibles 2 has plenty of those. Holly Hunter is a tremendous voice actor first and foremost, using her voice for the subtle tones of motherhood to the high-octane antics of heroism and all the beats in between. It helps that the placement of Elastigirl is at the forefront this go around, an angle that suits both the character and her heroic ways, as well as a female empowerment vehicle that allows Mom to shine while Dad stays home. And Mr. Incredible is still ever-enjoyable as a character with the inspired casting of Craig T. Nelson back to provide the voice work. Placing him in a home setting as the primary parent this time allows for growth as a character and an onslaught of comedic moments as well. 

Outside of the super-parents, a few other performances and characters stand out. The Deavor siblings, Winston and Evelyn, voiced by Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener respectively, are the newcomers here. The two provide the catalyst for the super-powered family to get back in the game, with a campaign to make supers legal again. They’re very interesting characters if nothing else, with Odenkirk’s naive optimism and Keener’s sense of disdain for her brother as she designs everything worthwhile for their company make them distinct individuals with their own motivations and goals. Beyond that, in a rare instance, Incredibles 2 manages to feature three separate standout comedic characters. From Dash, voiced by Huck Milner, and his over energized and somewhat out of control antics, to the chaotic nature of Jack-Jack’s expanding powers and a scene with a raccoon that may be one of the best things Pixar has ever animated, to the always fun appearance of Edna Mode, voiced by director Brad Bird. The battle for scene stealing supremacy is a tight one to say the least. 

If it’s even the smallest detail, Pixar has managed to improve their animation time and time again. Incredibles 2 is easily one of their best-looking films, opting for the cartoonish, comic-book style rather than a realistic feeling, a choice that only elevates the superhero goodness that few other films in this sub-genre can replicate. One thing that Incredibles 2 improves upon is the heroism from the beginning. Opening with a fight against the Underminer (that picks up right where the last film ended) and not stopping from there, the film does a fantastic job of expanding the characters and the world throughout the big action scenes and the quieter moments. Fortunately for Pixar, animation allows for the certain power sets to work where they wouldn’t in a live-action film. And thus, seeing these powers and how they and their respective characters interact is an absolute joy, one that will leave audiences everywhere grinning from ear to ear.

Overall, Incredibles 2 works remarkably well as a follow-up to the first film, literally continuing the story from the moment we left these characters and expanding their stories and personalities even further. It may not do enough to surpass The Incredibles, hardly a shock as lightning very rarely strikes twice, but the final product is still among Pixar’s best and an excellent sequel that earns the title of Incredible. Let’s just hope we don’t wait fourteen years for Incredibles 3.

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