Brad Bird has returned to the director’s chair, this time for a sequel of one of his most acclaimed animated movies - 2004’s The Incredibles. Incredibles 2 is no match to the original, but Bird does deliver a story that is as smart as it is entertaining. Christian Tesfaye awards 8 out of 10 stars.
Mainstream live-action cinema is becoming simplistic by the day. It is as if filmmakers have given up trying to interest audiences in original plots, complicated characters and striking and relevant themes. All they do is write cheap jokes and present one-dimensional characters, all the while hoping that spectacular special effects with cover it all.
But if it is unavoidable that mainstream cinema exists, I prefer it becomes dominated by animated movies. Although creators of animated films have the most flexibility when it comes to visual presentation, they are the ones that have remained the most dedicated to giving us memorable stories.
Brad Bird is one of those gems, an exceptional director within the animated movie genre. He is not quite in the category of the likes of Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata. But he is my favourite of the first generation of the 3D animation era that also included the likes of John Lasseter, behind the Toy Story movies, and Andrew Stanton, director of Finding Nemo and Wall-E.
Bird has not returned to the director’s chair of an animated movie for over a decade since he made the brilliantly idiosyncratic Ratatouille. He returns now with a sequel: Incredibles 2.
The film picks up shortly after the events of the first movie when the family of superheroes encounters a villain called the Underminer. In the process, they damage highways, underground tunnel systems and buildings. They also do not have anything to show for the collateral damage as they fail to apprehend the villain.
This results in the closure of a government program that supports superheroes. Not everyone though believes that they are more trouble than useful, including the wealthy Deavor siblings who want to show the good side of superheroes to the world and make their existence legal.
This requires taking down a supervillain called Screenslaver. Not all of the Incredible family will be tasked with finding him though. Most of them are underage and Mr Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), after a prudent cost analysis, proves too pricey to deploy just yet given the nature of his tactics in dealing with bad guys.
This leaves Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) to become the breadwinner of the family while Mr Incredible is left to play the role of a stay-at-home dad, which is a lot harder than he expects given that their youngest child, Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile), seemingly has every power imaginable.
The sequel is not as good as the original, but it comes close. Incredibles 2 is a product of its time but presented in a manner that is thoughtful, tasteful and precise. It is a superhero movie, but one that can explore family relationships, middle-life crisis, and the “politics is perception” dynamics.
But the film ranks somewhat low on Bird’s filmography. Incredibles 2 is subdued in narrative mastery compared to the Iron Giant and Ratatouille. The former has since attained cult status, and the latter is one of the most extraordinary tales ever told about talent and ambition.
Unfortunately, over the years, even animated movies have become stale. Between 2010’s Toy Story 3 and the past two years’ Zootopia and Coco, I cannot recall any that were memorable. I even found the much-hyped Inside Out lacking in terms of execution and plot detail.
In comparison to most of what has come out this decade, Incredibles 2 is indeed entertaining and on-message. Bird has once again hit a sweet spot by his arresting presentation of a 21st-century family.
Family dynamics have changed over the generations and this movie, together with its predecessor, has taken the effort to reflect on what it means to be a close-knit family today.
It is one where the children are equal contributors – where their ideas and day-to-day obstacles are afforded credence. It is a time when parents are not merely providers or the grown-ups of the house – they are friends and confidants that can talk the talk of youngsters.
a patriarchy does not apply anymore either. It is one where the matriarch wields as much – sometimes more – influence in terms of decision making and is a breadwinner. This is unnerving to the male part of society, whether or not acknowledged, but an evolution that is hopefully accepted in time.
On the surface, Incredibles 2 may seem like it is about women, but it is about men such as Mr Incredible who have yet to adapt to this new world.
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