Incredibles 2 – movie review

by James Robins / 02 July, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Incredibles 2 movie

The return of the family of crime-fighting superheroes still thrills, but Incredibles 2 feels a little cluttered.

In the world of the Incredibles family, not much has changed since the first film. We pick up where we left off. Helen (alias Elastigirl, voiced by Holly Hunter) is still stretchy. Her husband Bob (Mr Incredible, Craig T Nelson) is still buff of shoulder and slim of leg. The youngest addition to the superpowered clan, baby Jack-Jack, is still adorable even when he combusts into a raging purple ogre. And the setting remains quaintly mid-century, back when visions of the future were gleaming and optimistic.

There were many delights in Brad Bird’s original, not least the family’s powers: Helen’s flexibility was a clever riff on the stressed juggling of housewives. Daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell), a moody adolescent, could do what all moody adolescents yearn for and simply become invisible. Most importantly, its central theme was balanced against action of a kind that only animation can pull off.

But in the 14 – count ’em – years since the first Incredibles, the world of superheroes has ballooned. In 2004, Christopher Nolan’s noirish envisioning of Batman was still a year away, and Marvel’s now fully developed empire was just an accountant’s chart on the back of a napkin. Incredibles 2 is competing for our attention in a very crowded market.

Cue tycoon Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), who wants to overturn the international ban on “supers” and return them to their rightful place as saviours of the universe: “The powers! The costumes! The mythic struggles!” he cries, harking back to an age when grown men unashamedly wore undies on the outside of their trousers.

In Incredibles 2, that theme is one of many. Family life is key, with Bob taking up parenting duties and soon succumbing to exasperation, but it’s mingled with weightier considerations. There’s a quickfire debate about the nature of law: should unjust rules be broken for the greater good? And one villain, Screenslaver, is a lecturing Luddite who wants to rob people of their hypnotic televisions. “You don’t talk, you watch talk shows,” he bores.

When all this is rammed between the action sequences – which are still thrillingly whizz-pop, by the way – it feels a little cluttered, out of breath and somewhat confused.

It’s not enough to sink the picture, thankfully. Genius prevails. And perhaps for the first time, I found myself wanting some origin stories, especially for one hero who looks like a pensioner. His skill is to vomit lava. He introduces himself as “Reflux – superpower or medical condition, you decide!” More of this, please, and on the double.

Video: Disney Pixar

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★★★

This article was first published in the July 7, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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