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CINEMASCOPE: INCREDIBLY SUPER

July 01, 2018

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To say that a lot has changed since Pixar and Director Brad Bird wowed us with the superhero animation The Incredibles in 2004 would be an understatement. The whole superhero-on-film landscape is now unrecognisable. From Christopher Nolan’s game-changing Dark Knight trilogy that began with Batman Begins (2005) a year after, to Marvel’s incredible construction of its cinematic universe that started with Iron Man (2008), to even the animated superhero movie we didn’t realise we needed in The Lego Batman Movie (2017), the genre is packed tighter than a comic book convention in San Diego where Gal Gadot is signing autographs all day and all the merchandise is half-off.

Perhaps this is why I was skeptical of The Incredibles 2. After all, Pixar is usually only in the business of serving excellence and I felt it would be a challenge to stand out in the crowd. The first Incredibles was certainly an outstanding film, working well as an action/comedy that paid homage to classic superhero families such as the Fantastic 4, but it was also leading the charge at a time when, save for the first two X-Men films, the canvas was relatively untouched. Could The Incredibles 2 really have something new to say when just about everything’s been already said?

The Incredibles 2 opening salvo didn’t leave me with much confidence when the narrative presented a world where superheroes have been banned and can’t be trusted. Our heroes, Bob Parr/Mr Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Helen Parr/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) and their children Violet Parr (Sarah Vowell) and Dashiell ‘Dash’ Parr (Huck Milner), as well as the toddler Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) bungle up in an incident that results in tremendous collateral damage. Soon, they are reprimanded by the authorities as the story asks us if the world really needs superheroes.

The Incredibles 2 dons a familiar outfit, but it understands that it is what’s behind the costume that truly matters

Ho-hum, I thought, been there seen that in Watchman (2009), The Dark Knight (2008), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Captain America: Civil War (2016), to name a few. But here, the tale quickly takes an interesting turn when our heroes are approached by their family friend Lucius Best/Frozone (Samuel L Jackson) with an offer from business tycoons Winston (Bob Odenkirk) and Evelyn (Catherine Keener) Deavor to remarket their brand. Here, the pair picks Elastigirl to lead the campaign by proving her value on camera. This is much to the displeasure of the jealous Mr Incredible who, according to the statistics, is far less reliable than his wife as far as mission success and causalities are concerned.

To be honest, the plot continues to be derivative and predictable throughout as far as Elastigirl’s story goes. Without giving too much away, it borrows a thread from another superhero movie, M Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable (2000), though it is still quite engrossing thanks to the gorgeous moody art direction and atmospheric storytelling. The supervillain, Screenslaver, is quite creepy and the scenes involving this adversary and Elastigirl reminded me of one of the greatest superhero animated series of all time, Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995).

One sequence, where Elasticgirl saves lives jumping between helicopters all the time while unraveling Screenslaver’s next move, is as intense as they come. As you’d expect, the production values are top notch. The animation is gorgeous and the old-school jazzy score by Michael Giacchino is amazing, adding power and zeal to the often-breathtaking action.

On the other end, Mr Incredible learns the trials and rewards of being a stay-at-home dad in the most funny and heartfelt pieces of the film that sleepy-eyed parents will most identify with. It is here, like its predecessor, that the film truly finds its groove as a family drama. Sure, The Incredibles 2 dons a familiar outfit, but it understands that it is what’s behind the costume that truly matters.

Rated PG for action sequences and some brief mild language

Published in Dawn, ICON, July 1st, 2018