Even though Incredibles 2 may not equal the energy or imagination of that first one, it’s an enjoyable revisit 14 years later, a reminder of what superhero movies were like prior to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Incredibles was accepted as Brad Bird’s frolic spoofing Marvel’s Fantastic Four, the first heroic family that all other Marvel heroes orbited.
It’s still the same world where superheroes are outlawed, unable to appear in costume in public lest they make non-super powered people feel inferior. But with its basics previously established, this plotline is practically barebones.
Bob Parr, aka Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), has been recast as a house-husband taking care of baby Jack-Jack, who may or may not be showing signs of manifesting superpowers like other infants cut teeth. Bob and wife Helen (Elastigirl) are convinced by two fannish tycoons – Winston Deavor and his sister Evelyn, who’ve developed a campaign to make heroes legal again – to reboot their brand with Helen out front, and she subsequently makes some well-orchestrated headlines preventing a runaway train disaster. One of my biggest complaints with this sequel is that whenever Helen speaks, Holly Hunter bleeds through, burying Elastigirl.
So the story is pretty much halved between her new solo career and Bob’s balancing act, making it more Make Room for Daddy than Make Mine Marvel!
In its amalgamated timescape, judging from its John Barry-inspired background score and the TV showing The Outer Limits and Jonny Quest, this is a futuristic flashback. And of course, there are a couple of Max Fleischer-esque villains on the loose. In the opening segment, burrowing from beneath the streets comes The Underminer who manages to draw the secret super team family into battle, accompanied by old friend Frozone (voiced again by Samuel L. Jackson). Later, Screenslaver poses a more substantial threat, using hypnosis to get revenge.
Added to the mix is a cache of fanboy heroes in waiting, hoping to get in The Incredibles’ spotlight. Reflux, who regurgitates justice! Voyd can open time and space breaches! Helectrix is a self-described electro hero. Etc. They are sort of a Robby Reed dial-up team from the House of Ideas!
Featured in the first movie, Edna Mode makes a brief appearance as a babysitter, if only to remind us of the Ayn Rand underpinnings: The Incredibles are living proof of the paraphrased adage, “It’s not a question of who’s going to let me, but who’s going to stop me,” when it comes to using their powers!
Which brings us to the essence of Incredibles 2. It’s as though there’s no need for a story to be told. Instead, this one is about how the next generation, unaware of government rules, just lets its newly emerging powers burst out! Facing a nocturnal raccoon, Jack-Jack becomes demonstratively territorial. Violet, the teenager, has been taught that displaying her powers is socially improper, and is embarrassed by them. Meanwhile, dad copes with dirty dishes and the utter absurdity of Common Core math!
In other words, the responsibilities are there whether you have or are permitted to use those great powers!
In 2013 Disney gutted its hand-drawn animation department and set about making agenda-prompted featured like Frozen and Moana, leaving Pixar with task of continuing Walt Disney’s objective: making films that could appeal to both children and adults such as Wall-E and Up. Incredibles 2 is not so much a superhero movie as it is a movie about families pulling together – which was the original concept for Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four, and to some degree FOX’s The Gifted.
It has more in common with Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron,” a short story about how in 2081, those who are too physically attractive are forced to wear disfiguring make-up and bulbous red clown noses! Anyone deemed smarter than average was obligated to wear deafening earphones designed to disrupt deep thinking. And those with enhanced physical abilities wore heavy weights so they wouldn’t be any stronger or faster than someone else.
Like the superheroes in Incredibles 2, Harrison just wanted to live unimpeded by government restrictions!
But then, hey, that’s in the subtext of The Incredibles and Incredibles 2, which are really just movies for kids. And how!