I realise I am quite late to the party but when the movie takes 13 years to show up, I can take a couple of days too. Also, spoiler alert because holding back isn’t really my thing. Also, I’m going to be saying ‘woke’ a lot. You’ll see.
In the golden age of superheroes with giants like Marvel spewing blockbusters on the big screen, television and every streaming network possible and DC really really trying their best as well, with Hollywood swept up in the franchise-building business, with sequels of ‘back-in-the-day-movies’ relying heavily on the audience’s nostalgia to go big at the box office and with all these ‘woke’ movies trying their best to show off that they let their women lead the movies, how do you make a movie that fits in all those categories but is also something entirely original and its own thing simultaneously? You do all that much better, that’s how.
While every team up movie has its characters call themselves “Not just a team/ Not just friends, we are family!” and then proceed to not give a damn about one another or really work in tandem with each other’s quirks in any way –cough- every Fast and Furious movie since the first two – cough, we are presented with an actual family that cares about each other deeply in all the moments between fighting crime dressed in tights. The ‘family’ parts of the movie definitely seemed to get more screentime than the ‘superhero’ parts. It almost feels like an episode out of season one Modern Family at times, with Dash’s antics and Violet’s teen angst about a date ruined by her parents mirroring Luke and Haley Dunphy quite closely. The movie doesn’t rely heavily on the first installation that much, there are no deliberate flashback sequences or callbacks and it could actually work just fine as a standalone movie for today’s kids – most of whom were unborn or infants back in 2004. However, it does literally take off from where the first movie ended, with the entire Violet-Tony interaction recreated almost shot-to-shot acknowledging the nostalgia bubbling within every 20+ year old in the theatre. The very first fight sequence with The Underminer establishes them as your everyday average family with protective parents, kids who want to be taken seriously and the cute baby who laughs at just about anything, while also showcasing their not-so-average superhero prowess as they constantly piggyback on each other’s abilities to get to the goal. Something the DCEU needs to take note of. Of course, the government isn’t pleased with them at all very deftly summed up in a single dialogue – “Politicians do not understand when someone wants to do good simply because it’s right.” While Bob wants to fight back and set an example for his kids because they stand for good, Helen wants to abide by the laws and teach them to follow rules, even when it is not in their favour.
Then we are introduced to a brother-sister millionaire duo Winston and Evelyn Deavor of DevTech who want to help them make supers legal again with all their technology, lobbying skills and money. If you’ve seen any movies at all in your life, you would know there is no such thing as truly helpful millionaires unless they are the protagonist of the story. Even then they sometimes have a bondage fetish from a messed up childhood. Turns out, I wasn’t entirely wrong on that front. Spoilers Galore. While I thought both of them somehow blamed supers for the death of their parents, especially when Winston stresses that neither of the heroes showed up when his father called. The grand finale of his plan – to have all the supers of the world and world leaders on a single yacht to commemorate the signing of the accords felt like a true red herring. We’ve seen this a lot, Captain America – Civil War, every hero wedding on every hero TV show ever; if all the important people are gathered in one place, that place is going to go kaboom. But turns out while his endearment for supers was true, his sister highly resented them because she blames them for the downfall of society or something to that effect. She believes that if her dad had rushed her mom to the panic room instead of waiting on his heroes, they might have escaped that fateful night. She believes that people have been driven useless and sedentary as they now expect to be constantly saved by a hero. On some level, she might also believe that super-powered humans are a threat to the normal ones should they choose to stray away from the greater good as is evident from what she makes the heroes proclaim towards the climax while under her hypnosis. The villain is good, has a personal trauma that bleeds into a rather pessimistic worldview and is well developed but predictable nonetheless or at least, you can figure out that something is off much sooner than the characters do on screen.
Mr.Incredible as the suddenly stay-at-home dad bewildered at the host of new challenges is genuinely funny and very relatable. He soon rises to the occasion and steps up when he feels inadequate, “like a substitute parent” , when his kids shrug him off and would rather wait for mom to get back, only to ultimately end up embarrassing them and/or to have bigger problems prop up. He tries hard to balance being a good dad, husband and hero and scores well in spite of not donning a super suit for most of the movie. He is the one most excited about making superheroes legal again and is rather disappointed when the Deavor siblings pick Elastigirl over him but doesn’t dwell on it for long and gets ahead with the programme as he knows its the best move. He knows that “he has to succeed so she can succeed so they can succeed.” The humour in the movie sits well within the plot and doesn’t jar the audience in the form of throwaway quips. Be it the fight between Jack jack and the racoon or the family’s reaction to him sprouting a whole new arsenal of powers, Dash’s excitement on seeing all the cool features of their new home, when he asks,”Is she having adolescence?” on seeing Violet’s anger fits and Elastigirl’s disappointment at ‘missing baby’s first power’ are just a few of the many lighter moments of the story. Jack-jack steals every scene he pops up in akin to Baby Groot from the second Guardians movie.
Keeping in trend with 2018, Incredibles 2 doesn’t shy away from being ‘woke’. But what they got right, unlike all the others is that they didn’t try to capitalise on that fact alone. It clearly doesn’t seem like it was done to keep up with the trends of representation and inclusion that’s making the rounds in cinema and in no interviews or trailers did they focus primarily on how this movie has a powerful woman character or that Elastigirl takes the lead leaving Mr.Incredible to stay at home and take care of kids. Smart move. Also, woke done right. Frankly speaking there doesn’t seem to be a ‘lead’ in the movie, most of the heroic saving moments actually go to Frozone, be it saving the city hall in the opening of the movie or saving the city from the hull of the ship at the end, wordplay attempted, attempt failed, the Incredibles would have had a much bigger mess to clean up if it wasn’t for Frozone. The fact that Elastigirl is chosen to kickstart the program initially actually makes sense within the movie too, her powers don’t include smashing stuff to bits so she always improvises and gets the job done with minimal damage. It just goes on to show how giving the women actual purpose feels much more genuine than say rebooting an old franchise with an all-woman cast just ’cause they can. The movie doesn’t shy away from the conventional family structure either, Bob is immediately ecstatic at the opportunity to help make supers legal again and jumps at it while Helen pauses and hesitates and worries about the kids before Bob reassures her he can take over. In a world where some celebrities were bullied every other way for commenting that they prefer to be a stay-at-home mom, such scenes have had a rather mellow response from the audience. Probably because the ones taking this movie seriously are the sane 90s kids and not the there-are-903940394genders-millennials. The movie does make sly references to gender stereotypes in blink-and-miss scenes such as the sequence where Helen and Evelyn attempt to take down the Screenslaver (love the name) on their own and a brief ad on the TV shows an oven ‘that’s so simple that even HE can use it.’ Woke but not cringy. Perfectly balanced, as all things should be. Hail Thanos.
It would definitely be cool if they made a third Incredibles movie next year, although I do not exactly know if there are even plans for that. Fingers crossed. How blessed are we to be born in this golden age of superheroes.