On reflection I shouldn’t really have been surprised at the fact that I didn’t enjoy the film that much. None of the trailers gave me any encouragement it would be a satisfactory sequel to my favourite Pixar film out of the ones I’ve seen. Yet when the energetic and tone-setting theme tune started up I realised I was smiling broadly and had the thought the trailers were just bad and it was going to be a-okay after all.
Reality hit though and at the end of the film I was left with a sinking feeling. Worse is that as I mulled over the film in the days after seeing it, I kept finding more things that I didn’t like. What I’m left with is a whole long list of issues, mostly small to the few bigger ones, that I have to wonder if they’re just nit-picks that aren’t that worth getting annoyed over or if, as I suspect, the film did the bare minimum to keep me engaged causing my mind to wander and find all of these problems.
Let me get all the good stuff out of the way first because whilst I was disappointed by the film, it is not without some merit. The opening is a lavish action sequence where the artists were clearly told to go all in. The film wears its technological marvels proudly, as it should. Not just that, but they make good use of the medium of animation to convey actions that simply would not be possible with people whilst maintaining believable CG. One action scene involving a runaway train, probably the film’s Must See sequence, was just simply cool.
The soundtrack returns with a triumph, loudly declaring that yes, The Incredibles Are Back! Whilst the spy aspects from the first film do not return, the abstract setting for the universe still lends itself perfectly to the heavy brass and jazzy styling that helped give the first its strong sense of character, tone and atmosphere. Upbeat, energetic, over-the-top without being distracting and funky, it remains infectious and rather unique compared to the litany of contemporary superhero soundtracks.
Unfortunately that’s mostly where my praise ends and honestly, I wasn’t expecting the look or sound of the film to be lacking. The first’s was so confident and with well over a decade between films, the tech was only going to get better and the soundtrack refined. Instead it’s the writing that completely fell flat for me, at best being slightly entertaining or interesting and at worst being awful. Characters to plot, the film not only does a disservice at times to the first but also, to the sizeable gap between the two films that really asked for something far better than what was eventually served.
The ending of I1 showed the family coming together to fight a baddie who was stuck in the mind-set of a child wanting to show the adults that they were right. With the climax, the general public, who had grown accustomed to no longer having supers around due to being banned as per law, saw that goodies will always try and do right and for said public not to be fearful of them. I2 immediately says “Well, actually…” and turns that around, but then sort of doesn’t later on and presents a very confusing thought on what it wants to say about supers. It ends more optimistically, but not without feeling detached from its starting point.
What its villain has to say about superheroes, however, is staggeringly stupid and borderline nonsensical. I don’t want to go into detail because hey, the film is still out at cinemas, but their justification/motivation is tantamount to victim blaming. I then can’t decide what is worse of the following; that the villain is so utterly predictable almost from the off or that as the film goes on the villain has enough interactions to show that they think they might be wrong, a fact the film doesn’t miss because the villain outright says this too, but after years of hate I guess they can’t accept this blardy blah. It’s bad. It’s first draft kinda bad.
Most damning though is that the villain pointlessly monologues. You know, in the sequel to the film which lampooned monologues in one of its most well-known scenes. What are you even doing at this point? If this scene in I2 had been taken out we’d have lost the obvious motivation, but it would’ve left something of a mystery which I have to believe would have been better than its current dull thud.
Characters in general seem to be poorly treated. Dash, one of the family members, barely has anything to do other than deliver the odd punch-line. Dash was so important in I1 due to him being about the age Syndrome was at the start of the film so you were provided with a similar mind-set showing that, as mentioned previously, Syndrome was just being a big kid. Dash also had some great action sequences, highlighted the fun aspect of being a hero as well as being a loving foil to his sister. Violet, incidentally, gets to almost repeat her plot from I1 including showing the frustrating part about being a hero.
Mr. Incredible seems to have lost some of his intelligence in order to make one of the major plot-lines work better as Jack-Jack, the family’s baby, displays a variety of taxing powers…which somehow comes as a surprise to the parents, but given two of their previous kids have powers doesn’t feel like it should be as surprising as they are shown to be; a nit-pick I thought of during one of the more dull exposition scenes. Jack-Jack takes up a lot of the screen-time and is the primary source of the film’s comedy which became tiring quickly. The crux of the jokes being “Look at dad, he can barely keep up, ho-ho-ho.” Nah.
Talking about surprise, Elastigirl seems to be greatly excited by an admittedly heroic deed, but speaks of it with nostalgia as if weeks before she hadn’t just done something similar, or weeks before that saved an entire city. Again, another nit-pick during the slog of one scene. The point is, we’re supposed to care about Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl as superheroes who believed they had their time to shine, but are given a new chance to do so and how great that is. It is a good point, so much so it was a major theme of the first film. Again, what are you even doing?
Both films try to show what domesticity is like for super-powered individuals who can’t utilise their powers. In I1 this was shown as Elastigirl vacuuming the living room in their generally speaking modest house and using her stretching powers to reach really far underneath a sofa and table. A cute little demonstration of using what they can where they can, but that otherwise they’re a normal family. With their home destroyed at the end of I1, the family is moved into an ostentatious mansion of a home as a gift in I2, but their problems are still all real. This, again, might be fine, if it weren’t for the fact it was done better previously.
There are a great many more things I could go “And what about this??” to but I already know the concluding point I want to make, so much so that it’s right there in the title and opening line. I don’t know if they just took the wrong lessons from I1 or they didn’t understand what people, like me, loved so much about it, but after saying for so long there wouldn’t be a sequel until they had the right idea and this was the best they could come up with it paints a very sobering picture about the imagination in play. The world was given about 15 years to come up with their own idea for a sequel and I would have to imagine this was one of the worst ideas of the lot.