Quite a bit has changed in the time since the first Incredibles film was released in 2004. Superheroes were nowhere near as prevalent then as they are now. There was no Marvel Cinematic Universe. No DC Comics Expanded Universe. Heck, we didn’t even have The Dark Knight Trilogy then!
Already some pop-culture gurus have written about how pointless The Incredibles 2 is in the face of that. They claim the original film’s theme of the glory of superheroes having been forgotten in a modern world that has no use for idealism in the face of technology that can bring about the same sense of wonder doesn’t work anymore. You will believe that a man can fly… because you’ve already seen a man fly in three other movies in the last year alone.
Don’t believe a word of it.
Like most truly great superhero stories, the magic of The Incredibles lies in the characters and how we relate to them – not the plots. Just as Peter Parker resonates with every geek who was ever picked on because of their intelligence and Kara Danvers appeals to those of us who feel we have to be two different people in order to function, so too do we sympathize with The Parrs. We see ourselves and our loved ones in Bob and Helen as they cope with their respective mid-life crises. Or Violet’s embarrassment. Or Dash’s impatience and bravado. On that level, The Incredibles 2 is as successful as the original.
Picking up right where the first film ended, The Incredibles 2 finds The Parr family in dire straits following their efforts to stop a super-villain called The Underminer. With the government agency that helps keep ex-superheroes under-wraps shut down and Bob still unemployed, things are looking grim. Enter Winston and Evelyn Deavour – a brother and sister billionaire team, whose father was a superhero sponsor back in the day before his untimely death on the same night the superhero ban went into effect.
With Winston’s media savvy and Evelyn’s electronics, the two hope to change the public perception of superheroes through the use of viral marketing and body cameras that will show the people that costumed crime-fighters really do have peoples’ best interests at heart. Unfortunately, for Bob, who is eager to get back in the saddle, The Deavours think that Helen is the best person to be the face of their movement.
This places both heroes in unfamiliar territory as Helen, who is used to playing things subtle and sneaky with her powers, is placed in a more prominent role in the spotlight, while Bob has to take on a new role as a stay-at-home dad. Naturally, Bob doesn’t spend too much time resting on his laurels, as a new villain called The Screen Slaver threatens the new publicity campaign and the world with his mind-control technology
Surprisingly, given how prominently Bob’s difficulties in running a household featured in the trailers, the movie is not a superheroic version of Mr. Mom. Most of Bob’s problems are caused by the stress of a new situation, aggravated by sleep deprivation brought on by his efforts to keep up with a restless Jack-Jack and his fluctuating powers. You think taking care of a baby is stressful? Imagine that baby can phase through the bars of his crib! This is best symbolized by Bob’s frustration over the New Math he has to learn in his efforts to tutor Dash. Math is meant to be a constant and it’s just one more little thing among many in his life that has seemingly been changed only to make him feel more ill at ease about the big changes.
That being said, most of the movie focuses on Bob and the kids and their problems, with Helen thrust into the more active role of fighting The Screen Slaver. While this was likely done in an effort to place Helen in the center of the action to avoid traditional gender stereotyping after the last movie focused on Bob’s battles with Syndrome, it has the ironic side-effect of making Helen’s story seem like the subplot. Again, the resonance of the film lies with the family and their interactions. The super-villain is just a sideshow.
That being said, it’s a good sideshow and Brad Bird’s script does a great job of expanding the world of these characters. It would be nice, albeit unlikely, to see some of the new superheroes introduced in this film as part of some comic book or animated series in the future. If Big Hero 6 can get a series, surely Disney XD can see about bringing the adventures of Voyd and Reflux to the small screen?!
Probably not. Still, while it may not be as revolutionary as the original, The Incredibles 2 is still a fun family picture with a solid superheroic storyline.