One key film in the development of anyone who grew up in the early 2000s was The Incredibles (2004). It’s comedy, vibrancy, and general sense of fun made it a keystone in the Pixar Studios collection. Not to mention, it taught many of us a great lesson: that of patience. After leaving the first film on a cliffhanger, it took 14 years for the highly anticipated sequel to appear on screens. So was it worth the wait? As cinemas filled with excited children and even more excited twenty-somethings, we finally got to find out.
The Incredibles 2 (2018) picks up exactly where the first left off, which is a nice nod to everyone returning to the franchise. The characters stand in a parking lot, staring aghast as ‘The Underminer’ emerges in front of them. Our new villain drills through the city, robs the Metroville Bank, and escapes, with the Parrs just managing to prevent him from destroying city hall.
Of course the event creates bad publicity for our protagonists: half of the city is wrecked and the media depict the crime-fighters as the ill-doers. The Parr family needs to stay put – it is still illegal to use superpowers in Metroville despite the rising crime rate – however it doesn’t deter Elastigirl and company from working undercover.
In an echo of the first film’s plot line, a wealthy benefactor comes to the family’s aid, except this time only Elastigirl is eligible, as her superpowers don’t cause so much havoc and destruction as her husband’s (like in real life, good PR is key).
Although the plot feels like a simple re-working of the first movie, with the criminalization of superheroes being a key issue, and the characters attempting to juggle work and family life, there is a key change which keep things interesting. This time, Mr and Mrs Incredible have swapped place.
Following suit from the first instalment, which was set in the 60s – a time of great social change for women – the sequel continues to explore this theme, and again does so with the humour and imagination which remain trademark to Pixar Studios. For me, the scenes in which Mr Incredible has to take care of his children are the gems of this film.
In the traditional family model as was portrayed in the first Incredibles, it would be Elastigirl’s job to stay home and take care of the kids, but the film chooses to flip the gender norms. The comically alpha male figure of Mr Incredible now has to deal with the mundane chores and challenges presented by the intricacies of parenting.
It is always interesting to see an animated film that is supposedly aimed towards children address issues which are obvious nods to the more mature viewers. Here The Incredibles 2 take great pleasure in having Mr Incredible watch his wife become the rising TV star. In one of the film’s most brilliant sequences, the former head of the family is flipping channels only to realise that he sees his wife’s face on all of them.
The majority of the film’s puns are concerned with the evolving family model. Mr Incredible, although initially largely conservative, ultimately learns to forget about masculine pride and appreciate his wife’s success.
Although Pixar might be a bit utopian here, it is satisfying to watch in today’s climate, and it is nice to see the long way we (and Pixar) have come in the last two decades. Watching Pixar smash their own gender norms has never been so incredible.