In 2004, PIXAR Studios released what I consider to be the best representation of the Fantastic 4 ever put on the big screen with The Incredibles. At the time, it was probably my favourite of the 6 films they had released and I was ecstatic to hear that the story was to be continued as a video game. Having played the video game adaptation of The Incredibles on my home computer I was soon playing it’s sequel on the Playstation 2 – The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer. The game allows you to switch between controlling Mr Incredible and Frozone as you make your way through the Underminer’s tunnels and into his lair where you must defeat him. It’s been a long time since I played it, but I remember it being a heck of a lot of fun, primarily because I thought that Frozone was just the coolest. For years, this would be the only sequel that The Incredibles got until it was finally announced that an official movie sequel was underway in 2014, to be released in 2018. It was not an adaptation of Rise of the Underminer.
The plot follows Helen Parr (aka Elastigirl) as she is approached by a business tycoon who wants to help make superheroes legal again. As she attempts to defeat a new supervillain called The Screenslaver, her husband Bob (aka Mr Incredible) faces the challenge of being a stay-at-home dad with his teenage daughter Violet, son Dash and baby Jack-Jack. All of this is made infinitely more difficult when Jack-Jack begins to develop a seemingly endless number of superpowers. These new superpowers were a massive selling point for Incredibles 2, even being the first piece of completed animation shown to the general public, so you might think that it forms the bulk of the plot but this isn’t really the case. I find that the issues facing Bob and Helen balance pretty equally.
Of course, this is not the first time that Jack-Jacks powers have been seen on screen as he used several of them to escape Syndrome’s grasp in The Incredibles and to torment Kari the babysitter in the short film Jack-Jack Attack. However he has gained more powers since the original 13 and this is the first time that anybody apart from Syndrome and Kari have known about them so this is where the real fun begins. On top of this, Violet is gearing up for her first date with Tony Rydinger who, having seen her in her supersuit without a mask, has had her erased from his mind under Bob’s orders. Violet has always been my favourite member of the Parr family and seeing her rebel against them in a way that I never would have felt comfortable enough doing is kind of cathartic. On top of that is Dash’s constant issues with his mathematics homework. Ever since I was in Secondary Education, I have had issues with how the education system is structured and how lessons are taught. It is incredibly rigid and doesn’t really allow for outside-the-box thinking and, in the case of maths, will punish you for reason a conclusion in the wrong way. I feel Bob’s frustration when he exclaims “math is math” because he’s right. The main point here is that these issues (dating, maths, baby) are regular and relatable issues which makes us sympathise with them more. They aren’t a Superhero Family, they’re a family who just so happen to have superpowers.
Meanwhile, Helen’s mission to stop The Screenslaver and to help make superheroes legal again is excellently crafted. I think that the comparisons to The Fantastic 4 are a given but I feel like this sequel more closely resembles the original X-Men film trilogy. The X-Men comics had always been a metaphor for oppressed minorities but the films in particular leaned more specifically into the struggles of the LGBT+ Community. Whilst Incredibles 2 is a children’s film, it refuses to shy away from an important conversation about laws and policies and what to do if they prove to be unjust. The solution seems to be the formulation of new laws but in order to prove that would be worthwhile, the previous laws need to be broken. Society is constantly changing and, provided it is becoming more accepting of people who have been considered “different”, that’s probably a good thing. We, as a society, need to acknowledge when we have done wrong and we need to be open to healthy, positive, inclusive change. That should not be a controversial statement.
On the topic of the X-Men, I think it’s worth noting the difference between the superhero movies of yore and those of today. 2004 and 2018 and two very different years when it comes to superhero films and the public perception of them which means that The Incredibles and Incredibles 2 end up feeling tonally different from each other. In 2004, these films were a light-hearted affair that wasn’t taken seriously as a genre by the public at large. Titles like Daredevil and Catwoman had seemingly demonstrated that superhero films were a lost cause and, apart from franchises like X-Men and Spider-Man, were worth moving on from. 4 years later Iron Man launched what would become the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not only proving that this genre was worth paying attention to, but that it could be hugely profitable. This led to 2018, when Avengers: Infinity War hit our screens and quickly became the highest grossing film of all time. Both Incredibles films are reflective of these different eras with the first being fun, with a punchy score and vibrant colour palette while the second was more of an action blockbuster with a slightly muted palette. Had the first instalment not existed, I wonder if the second would have had Michael Giacchino’s brass score which evokes the Golden Age of superheroes and Richard Donner’s Superman.
There is no denying that Incredibles 2 occupies a different space than it’s predecessor. Superhero films have become a respected, and profitable, genre in their own right but I don’t feel like any of the original’s fun has been lost in this sequel. I don’t want to say this film feels more mature but it is different in much the same way that Superman: The Movie and Man of Steel are different, without losing what made The Incredibles so good. I said at the top of this piece that The Incredibles was, at the time, my favourite of all the PIXAR films and that hasn’t really changed. I still adore that film and I still love this genre, although the old ones really do excite me in a more child-like manner. At that time, Disney sequels were released directly to video but films like Incredibles 2 kind of make me glad that PIXAR never has. This deserved to be on the big screen.
Until Next Time…