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Incredibles 2: A worthy sequel to an exemplary superhero family film

Stanley Widianto

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Tue, June 12, 2018  /  08:17 am
Incredibles 2: A worthy sequel to an exemplary superhero family film

Sticking together: The beloved Parr superhero family returns in Incredibles 2. (Pixar/File)

Helen Parr (Holly Hunter) moonlights as Elastigirl, the shape-shifting superhero. Her superpowers do not stop when her costume is safely stored away. She is a loving mother, a patient wife and a tireless warrior. The Incredibles, the exemplary superhero animated-film that came out almost 14 years ago, gives her a worthy partner, her loving husband Bob who is also the powerful Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson).

It has been more than a decade since the Parrs brought home an Oscar for Pixar Animation Studios. Back then, superhero movie fatigue had not reached our shores yet.

The Incredibles was not only a delight, but a testament to Pixar’s reliable heart -- one that floats a house with balloons, sends a clown fish on a rescue mission and lets toys speak. Both domesticity and the speed (throw in the tremendous character Edna Mode and we have a deal) of a superhero movie were the things that Pixar offered us with The Incredibles.

Elastigirl’s family consists of Bob, their oldest daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell) who becomes invisible and conjures up a protective shield; son Dash (Huck Millner) who possesses super speed and baby Jack-Jack whose many powers (17 of them, at least) have only started to develop.

Incredibles 2, the sequel, puts Elastigirl front and center. Right after the end of the first installment, where the Parrs attempt to stop the villain The Underminer, the supers are declared illegal. They are stuck inside a motel and the program that they are enlisted in, the Supers Relocation Program, is being shut down. As Violet remarks, the whole point of their missions is a way for the family to have fun -- and let us, the viewers, have ours.

A telecommunication company, DEVTECH, led by tycoon Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), who is helped by his sister Evelyn Deavor (Catherine Keener), comes a calling. Elastigirl, Mr. Incredible and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), the family’s long-time friend, are now advocating for the supers’ ban to be overturned.

Since Elastigirl can ease up on insurance claims the most, she’s picked for a trial run. So she’s off, fighting bad guys and being interviewed on live TV. Bob, meanwhile, is alone in the house, fighting his own demons: Dash’s math homework, his and Violet’s relationship issues and Jack-Jack’s volatile, infant powers.

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Sequels run the risk of tainting their beloved predecessors. Thanks to the deft hands of Brad Bird, its writer and director, Incredibles 2 fills the shoes of The Incredibles perfectly and runs with it. It is a thematically gorgeous, complex movie. Do the Parrs get barred because of the collateral damage they cause? Could it be possible that politicians are not used to seeing good being done with no dividends being paid?

When I saw that Bob does the stay-at-home thing in the trailer, I thought it would merely expose his feelings of being emasculated. But Incredibles 2 gives him more depth. Of course he is successful out there as a superhero and there are still people who are able to sing his theme song. But in the house? With the kids? Being upstaged by his wife might be shocking at first, but his worries lie elsewhere -- becoming a good parent.

Since Incredibles 2 is still a superhero movie, we are also introduced to the villain, the Screenslaver. This time, villainy does not take form in complex weaponry. It takes form in hypnosis and the one thing whose ubiquity should not unnerve us: screens; phones, computers, televisions. There is a scene where Elastigirl hunts down the Screenslaver in an apartment complex -- the muted air to it is perhaps one of my favorite moments in any of the Pixar movies.

So yeah, the fun of seeing the Parrs dance with villains remains as reliable as we left them. But Incredibles 2’s greatest strength is the exploration of the Parrs and Helen in particular. When she is out of the house, her breath is not one of relief – it is one of worry for her family. The dynamic between Helen and Bob is still relatable, when their circumstances do not always make sense.

It may be a tall order to give everybody their part, but the family members get each of theirs, which melt together as the movie hands them a bigger fish to fry.


Incredibles 2

(118 minutes; Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios)
Director: Brad Bird
Screenwriter: Brad Bird
Cast: Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Vowell, Brad Bird, Samuel L. Jackson, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, Huck Milner, Sophia Bush