Upfront, I think I might like this more than the original.
Let me explain.
The original The Incredibles is a great commentary on the average white American’s blue-collar family life, mixing with great superhero satire. It is a classic film with some great jokes, but as strange as it might sound, I found it needlessly mean-spirited at times. I liked all of the characters, and that is exactly the problem. Watching Helen and Bob’s marriage teeter around on the rocks and Bob’s struggles with fitting into the regular world was depressing. Watching a man break down in tears of despair and then nearly snap a woman in half because he thinks his entire family was murdered, all while his children are being hunted down to be murdered is pretty dark, even if Bob does learn a lesson from it in the end.
It’s almost like the movie relishes the unpleasantness, lingering on it long after I’m ready to move on to the next scene. Bad things just keep on happening, and they only really let up completely at the end or during the brief “Bob’s Secret Life” montage. Hell, the movie even includes a suicide attempt at the beginning, and the man then sues Bob for saving his life.
Comedic gold, am I right?
Also, with each passing year, I’ve been learning more and more about the world. After multiple viewings, Bob becomes more selfish and even somewhat frightening in my eyes, as I watch him put himself above everyone else in his family and displays violent, dangerous lapses in judgment, even before his tragic breakdown. The man has some serious unchecked anger issues, and he never acknowledges the fact that he could have easily killed his boss at the beginning of the movie. The worst he gets admonished for is being pig-headed, overprotective, and living in the past.
The sequel gives much more development to Helen, showing her capabilities as a hero and a person without Bob being there to upstage her. It even chastises Bob for being reckless, destructive, and thoughtless, which he refuses to acknowledge or take personal responsibility for in the first film. That’s very refreshing.
It also gives more personality to Violet, who seemed like a shy, socially-awkward potential stalker in the first film. In many ways, she is shown to be just as immature as Dash, but she and her brother get moments of competency as well.
The political commentary isn’t quite as punchy or poignant this time around, but it does raise an interesting point about human laziness and complacency, as many people are hypnotized into certain actions using T.V. and monitors. The villain is decently menacing in his anonymity and ability to take control, and while there is a point to be made, Helen also demonstrates how people with “power” should do the right thing if they are able to help. There is a certain complacency to be found in leaders and political officials as well, if they sell their influence without question and never have to make tough decisions. All people need to take responsibility for their lives and the lives of those for whom they care, further illustrated by Bob becoming a house dad and managing a demon baby.
There’s no indictment of political correctness this time around, but that is fine in my opinion. In today’s climate, 14 years after the previous movie, it can sometimes seem like a flimsy excuse to be a jerk, or just defend the status quo. Strength has always been valued over sensitivity to other’s feelings, as femininity is something to be avoided by men at all costs. But this movie feels like a progressive answer to that mentality, empowering Helen, the flexible, intelligent wonder woman, and forcing Bob to appreciate all that she has done in service to him and the family. Bob is left alone with only himself and his children, which leads to him growing as a man and a father, and showing him that his way is not always the best way. He opens himself up to vulnerability, and while it is a hard process, he becomes stronger in a different sense.
Brad Bird, the director of both films, has told us each family member’s power and what it represents about their character. Helen stretches because she’s a mom and needs to accommodate others, while Bob is strong because he’s the man of the house. While the first film seemed to reinforce this as the norm, the sequel challenges those traditional age and gender roles, giving each character a chance to be more than who they were initially, all while keeping them likeable and relatable.
The Incredibles is still great, don’t get me wrong; I am very glad it exists. But the drama is heavy and often sadistic in the pursuit of biting social commentary. It’s somewhat odd in a film that spends so much time satirizing goofy comic book tropes, like villains giving long monologues, allowing their captives ample time to escape and stop them. It’s probably the closest thing to a black comedy that has ever been marketed to kids, and I think adults appreciated it more than their children did, for the most part.
The message of your work is very important, but for once, I’d like to remind filmmakers that they are also here to entertain us. Darkness and drama are good when they serve the story, but too much of them just for their own sakes runs the risk of turning people off. The Incredibles 2 dials back the cruelty of its predecessor while still keeping the essential heart intact. It’s not quite as memorable, but it comes closer than I expected.
*Note: The images in this post do not belong to me.