Directed by Brad Bird
Written by Brad Bird
Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Miner, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, and Samuel L. Jackson with Brad Bird
Runtime: 118 minutes
Finally, after three films (including two live-action ones) and 14 years, Brad Bird has given us the next chapter in the lives of the Parrs, the super-powered family we first saw in The Incredibles way back in 2004. There has understandably been a lot of build-up to this film, as it is the sequel to an Oscar-winning original that was hailed at the time (and continues to be mentioned) as one of the best superhero films ever made, and that was before the MCU launched and we were inundated with them. Now, with a superhero film coming out every month or two, there is more to compare the first film to, and now the second. Happily, both stand near the top of the genre, with Incredibles 2 sharing a spot, tied in greatness with The Incredibles.
The story picks up right where the first left off, with the long-awaited battle with The Underminer (voiced by John Ratzenberger). This conflict is the first time the family has intervened since Syndrome a few months earlier, which catches the attention of billionaire Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), a former protegee of Rick Dicker (originally voiced by Bud Lucky, now by Jonathan Banks), who was the federal agent in charge of the Parr’s case file after the Supers were driven underground. Winston blames the death of his father on the law that made Supers abandon hero work and makes it his mission to get the law changed. His sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener), is the inventor and brains behind the company. Together, they approach Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) to be the new face of superheroes and to change the image of Supers in general. Elastigirl/Helen Parr is chosen for the first mission, as she tends to have significantly less property damage than her husband, Mr. Incredible. With Helen gone, it’s up to Bob to handle the kids, which is hard enough with a teenage girl, an irascible little boy and a baby, but now Jack-Jack, the baby, is displaying his powers and running Bob ragged, while he also has to learn new ways to do math for Dash (Huck Miner) and fix a mistake he made with Violet (Sarah Vowell)’s prospective boyfriend Tony. Oh, and there’s a villain who wants to thwart the return of the supers.
Writer/director Brad Bird goes above and beyond for this film. No one directs action sequences like Bird, especially animated ones. The opening battle with The Underminer is wonderful, but the real showstopper is the The French Connection inspired train chase in the second act. Coupled with the Underminer sequence, the racoon fight (no more on that, it would spoil too much) and the climatic battle/crisis aversion are all heart-pounding and funny in equal measure. Even with all the action Bird packs into the film, it’s not about that at all. Bird’s script cleverly gives us character development with his exposition, and roots everything in the Parr family, their dynamics and coming to terms with the possibility of being a crimefighting family.
Bird and his team of animators also do a lot of hard work to create a period aesthetic to the film. While it is never stated exactly when the film takes place, it looks like it is sometime in the ‘60s though Edna Mode (Brad Bird)’s cape tirade in the first film cites dates in the late ‘50s when Supers were still legal and active. That would put this film somewhere in the mid-to-late ‘70s or very early ‘80s, considering that superheroism was deemed illegal 15 years before the first film (and this one a few months after those events, as shown onscreen before the track meet in the first film). Bird keeps to a ‘60s look and feel regardless of when in time it would be taking place. This visual attitude makes sense when you consider that Bird based the film on the kinds of comic books and spy films he read and watched as a child in the ‘60s and they tended to carry their period look forward into time, seldom trying to consider that things could change beyond what they already understood.
It’s rare that a sequel can equal or surpass the original film, but Bird and his cast and crew deliver the goods with Incredibles 2. It was certainly worth the wait, though it should be noted that Bird did not spend 14 years developing the story or waiting for technology. He directed Ratatouille, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Tomorrowland, each taking at least a year or two to make. He also didn’t want to do something that was not up to the standards set by the first film. He could have dashed off a sequel years ago, and it probably would have been pretty good, but this feels like 14 years of care has gone into it to make sure it’s as good as it possibly can be, and if it takes another 14 years for us to get Incredibles 3, as long as it’s as good as Incredibles 2, it too will be worth the wait.