Incredibles 2 Review
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Opinionated Review: Incredibles 2

After a fourteen-year wait, Pixar's latest offer feels like a letdown.

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Opinionated Review: Incredibles 2

Warning: Major spoilers for The Incredibles and minor spoilers for Incredibles 2 follow.

There's a scene partway through Incredibles 2 in which a snarling, ravenous raccoon dukes it out with a superpowered child. As that scene came to a conclusion, the proverbial sinking snuck its way into my stomach. "That's it," I thought. "That's the movie's high point." And yet even the pinnacle of the entertainment the film had to offer left me with a question: "Is that it?"

That question pervaded my first viewing of Incredibles 2. Every time I thought something interesting might be about to happen, every time the stage seemed set for something really cool, the film starts heading toward the interesting idea. But every time it stops halfway there, pats itself on the back, and moves on. Battles end before they ought to. Dramatic moments end before they ought to. Even characters' roles in the film are over before they've been fully realized.

If Jack-Jack or Helen Parr was your favorite part of the first Incredibles movie, then you might walk away satisfied. But Dash's tomfoolery and Lucius's sass are barely part of the movie, because their characters are barely in the movie. Mr. Incredible isn't as incredible this time around, in part because his quick thinking, genre savviness, and critical reasoning skills, which saved him as often or more than his muscular physique in the first film, are nowhere to be found.

Why is it that this sequel, which had so much of the time-intensive groundwork for these characters laid for it in the first film, struggles to make each of them feel like a valuable and necessary part of the plot? It might be because we're introduced to an entirely new (and significantly less interesting) cast of supers (which are now called "superheroes," because Disney owns all the rights to everything).

These new differently-powered individuals are a particular sore spot for me, because in addition to having no character (why set aside screen time for multiple characters with no discernible goals, motivations, or personality traits beyond "this is my superpower," Pixar?), they violate one of the core themes of the first film: that remarkable people are, paradoxically, normal people, with all the weaknesses, jealousies, mistakes, and quirks that come with being human.

For all the amazing feats the Parrs are capable of, at the end of the day their kids can still go to school and blend in with everyone else, because they are like everyone else. These new supers? Well, a lot them don't even seen human. Again, not just because they lack the personality and motivating factors that put the character in characters, but because many of them are clearly not "normal" people.

Like, there's one who's really just an owl with a humanoid shape. And there's one very large and odd-sounding individual of indeterminable sex. And there's a squat, toad-looking man who vomits lava. Again, you'll notice I don't have anything more to say on these characters beyond the things that make them stand out. Certainly nothing like a name given enough prominence to be remembered, which is a privilege reserved for actual characters, like those in the first Incredibles movie.

One exception to this is a young super "named" Voyd, who actually does have some character and whose power is interesting, fun to watch, and should be familiar to a certain brand of cake-loving gamer. I wish we could have had her independent of all the others, because she might have actually added something to the ensemble rather than just being superpowered noise in a film with too much stuff to give anything enough time to feel important.

If the cast of Incredibles 2 is stuffed with unnecessary "people" we haven't seen before, then its plot is stuffed with unnecessary things we have seen before. The story this time around is pretty much a duplicate of the story last time around, right down to the "bad guy is technologically gifted 'normal' with a tacky name who hates 'real' superheroes because blah blah natural superpowers blah blah perceived slight.

This sequel, which had a whopping fourteen years (fortyear?) to be made, would have been a great chance to see something different. With the ending of the first Incredibles indicating that both superheroes and supervillains are beginning to crawl out of the woodworks due to the Parrs' actions, and all that movie's thematic baggage about the roles exceptional people should play or be allowed to play in our society, how cool would it have been to see an antagonist who was a "true" super? Not even a villain per say, but someone with a different belief on the part supers need to play in the world, who was willing to fight to enforce that belief? Alas, missed opportunities.

The fact that we've seen all of this before could be forgiven under the right circumstances. I had a blast with The Force Awakens, despite the fact that it was really just A New Hope in disguise. But while The Force Awakens may have stolen the plot of the original Star Wars, just as the original Star Wars copied the plot of The Hidden Fortress, it made up for its unoriginality by improving upon A New Hope in several areas. George Lucas is a very creative man, but he has never been a writer on par with Kasdan, nor a director on par with Abrams, and Episode VII reflected that.

But Incredibles 2, rather than copying the shape and improving upon the substance of the original, feels like a pale imitation of The Incredibles: the same song played on a more aged instrument. The genuinely dark and gripping moments of the original Incredibles (Bob surviving by hiding under the bones of a dead friend? Bob threatening to straight up kill the woman who enlisted him? Syndrome blowing up a child-carrying plane over a minor grievance? Violet jumping in front of her younger brother to take the bullets meant for him?) are not reflected anywhere in this sequel. Perhaps it is in the nature of dark things to not be reflected, but I digress. The point is that Incredibles 2 lacks the guts, the drama, the tension of its predecessor: possibly because, as noted above, nothing is given time to breathe.

It doesn't help that the movie commits the cardinal sin of wiping away all the progress made in the previous film, as if the narrative stakes there were never important, just so they could tackle the same issues again, in a much more annoying fashion. The whole affair is prefaced by a brief video from the Pixar team that produced the picture, promising the audience that the film took a long time to make, and that it's worth the wait. No confident film ever begins with a claimer about how great it is, because movies that are good on their own merits don't need to influence your viewing of the picture by telling you how great they are beforehand.

Side Note:Bao, the other short video preceding Incredibles 2, is delightful, and I hope you all enjoy it if you decide to see the movie.

In the end, The Incredibles was one of my favorite movies of all time, and I'm bummed that I waited almost fifteen years for The I Guess It's Okay-ibles.

One last thing I should mention before concluding my review, because I know this is something that will rub some of you the wrong way: if you were hoping you could catch a break from Trump-era soapboxes during your trip to the theater to see Incredibles 2 with your family, well…you'll probably be disappointed.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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