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June 16, 2018

Movie review: The Incredibles 2

Well I haven't posted here in a while... (Don't worry, the Undertale review is coming. Still working on it for release next month.)

Warning: While I tried to avoid them, this review may contains spoilers.

I don't recall posting about a lot of the films I went to see in theaters in the last year - I didn't write about Coco or Murder on the Orient Express, I didn't write about Deadpool 2... Eh, why not talk about this one.

So, Pixar brings to us The Incredibles 2, a sequel released about 14 years after the first film. Yet, it begins exactly where the first ended, with the rise of the Underminer from underground, the family putting on their masks and suits, and fighting the villain. Following this encounter, superheroes (no calling them simply Supers this time!) are at an all-time low in public opinion. The Parr family is taken out of trouble again by agent Rick Dicker, but find themselves in a worse situation than ever before... That is, until Winston Deavor, a superhero-loving billionnaire, calls them for a major pro-superhero Public Relations operation, an attempt to bring them back in the population's good graces. With the help of his gadgeteer sister Evelyn, he hopes to make Supers no longer illegal.

However, Mr. Incredible (Bob Parr, voiced by Craig T. Nelson) is the cause of the legislation that made superheroes illegal in the first place, and Frozone (Lucius Best, voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) is still a tad too destructive as well. Thus, Helen Parr, AKA Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter), is the one chosen for the operation. However, the attempt at good PR causes the appearance of a new supervillain called the Screenslaver, a hypnotist-type character using screens to control people... Meanwhile, Bob has to be the stay-at-home dad for the first time in forever, and his new tasks quickly overpower him. Not to mention Jack-Jack's powers (revealed at the end of Incredibles 1 and in the short film Jack-Jack Attack) are manifesting more and more, with the lack of control normal from a baby...

Okay, so let's get some obvious points out of the way right now: 14 years of tech upgrades allow this movie to feel very different from the original. You can see the changes in the details, whether it's the characters' hair, the fabric they wear, and various other improvements that would be much more noticeable if watching both film back-to-back.

Second, yes, this story is about Helen Parr rising to the occasion and becoming the hero, in a plot very similar to that of the original movie, except with the parental roles reversed. So it's not entirely new of an idea, but the film definitely takes more time exploring this change of dynamic, how Helen deals with her role as a savior as a sort-of celebrity, and how Bob deals with raising three superpowered kids, with one going through heartache and the other showing off a new superpower every 5 minutes. (And for the record, Jack-Jack revealing his powers to his dad is not a spoiler - it made it into the first trailer.)

The story is well-written, each main character gets an interesting story arc, Edna Mode is there again and is a highlight again (of course she is!). I feel the villain is rather generic, as hypnotist supervillains have been done very often before. Though, honestly, this is a very good movie. It holds up as a sequel, expanding the mythos and the family dynamics shown in the first, and bringing an interesting conflict to boot. Although, I feel that the slice of life parts, with Bob trying his best as a house father, were almost more interesting, more unique than the action scenes. Nothing wrong with Helen being the one to kick ass this time, she does it in a magnificent way and, much like in the original, her powers are used in a variety of creative ways.

It's a great movie, but I do have more points of criticism.

Okay, so first, the biggest issue: The twist villain. In most of their CGI anmated movies of the last 6-7 years, Disney has employed the plot twist villain trope, and now we've come to expect it. As soon as a certain character showed up on the screen I went, "you wanna bet that's the bad guy?" It's a tired trope now, started with King Candy in Wreck-It Ralph (By the way, the sequel better not have that too!), to the true villain in Frozen, Big Hero 6, Coco, Zootopia... The secret villain, we're expecting it now, it's overdone. And the attempts at disguising the villain to keep us guessing don't work nearly as well as the writers hoped they would.

The film features a LOT of superheroes as well, many of them with interesting designs. There's a team of about six of them that is met partway into the film, as part of Helen's PR operation. They all seem somewhat interesting, and they probably could be if they were sufficiently developed, but the movie's 2-hour runtime doesn't allow them to get all that much screentime each for this to happen. The main one of the group, Voyd (a teenager capable of creating portals with her mind), gets more development and screentime, but still feels like an overused character archetype (the shy, awkward girl with potential, with an eye-hiding haircut - sounds quite a bit like Violet from Incredibles 1, no?). Even though she's advertised more than the others, it still feels like she doesn't get enough time to shine. Lots of missed opportunities.

Similarly, there was Tony Rydinger, Violet's love interest from the first movie, a guy at school who notices her at the track competition she attends because Dash is participating. Turns out, he sees her without her mask but in supersuit early on and has his memories of Violet erased. The film thus misses an opportunity to explore that dynamic, one that's been hinted at between Lucius and his wife (a Super married to, or dating, a non-Super). How would this develop between two teenagers? Maybe an Incredibles 3 will center around this... On the other hand, considering how much was going on already in Incredibles 2, I guess not having that extra side-plot is better.

Final critique, another major one: The Screenslaver uses a lot of black and white flashes in his hyponism tricks, a lot of strobe effects, sometimes filling up the entire screen. Worse even, these sequences can last anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes, as a full combat scene takes place in a room made entirely with screens projecting the strobe effects. If you're epileptic and you're having doubts, don't go watch this movie in theaters. If you fear it would affect you, cause you to go into a seizure, then skip this movie. Wait for the home media release. However, shame on Pixar for not knowing better. You'd think they would avoid doing stuff like that considering how often this sort of effect has led to epileptic people needing treatment. Seems that Porygon episode from Pokémon still isn't famous enough.

Oh, and as a final note, the short preceding Incredibles 2, titled Bao, is also very good.