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Brad Bird’s Incredibles 2 shines most when the action sequences get going

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 22 June 2018, 18:36 IST

It's a woman's world and that's what is at the heart of Incredibles 2, the latest from animation studio Pixar. It comes fourteen years after the superheroes went underground. The sequel gives them a chance to be visible again and be legal.

One of the women has broken free from her husband thanks to her superior skills. The other doesn't think her brother’s position is superior to hers. One has a nice and loving family, and the other lost her father to robbers.

It's the ideas which are tired and it is up to the action to save the day for the long-awaited superhero sequel.

Upon being offered the job of a lifetime (of bringing supers back from the underground), Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter) and Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) have a far-reaching but utterly regressive conversation about the change in jobs.

Mr. Incredible is going from being the breadwinner to having to be a stay-at-home dad. Elastigirl is doing just the opposite. She's finally breaking free from the confines of her home and going to fight crime and earn for the family. What a radical idea in 2018, I must say.

The original Incredibles came out in 2004. A time when there were there were few superheroes appearing every couple of months on the big screen. Avengers certainly didn't exist and The Dark Knight was a couple of years away. It even won an Oscar

The Incredibles’ latex-clad family were extraordinaries who were outlawed by a society that feared them, rather than loving them. The government backtracked upon the family for being different and the Incredibles had to retreat into suburban society.

In 2018, we pick up right where we left off. The daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell) is still a shy teenager who can appear invisible. Son Dash (Huck Milner) is hyperactive and struggling with his math homework. Baby Jack-Jack is just learning about what all powers he has. Seventeen in fact (not that we get to see them all).

A new employer urges Elastigirl out of retirement. Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener) want to change the image of the Supers (as the superheroes are called) for the better.

When posed with the dilemma of whether to switch roles or not, Bob and Helen Parr (the parents) treat it with disdain and reluctance.

When you see Elastigirl zipping through Municiberg on her Elasticycle, free of all her maternal constraints, you realise just how exhilarating it is.

What Brad Bird does best is the action sequences. Just like he did in Mission Impossible -- Ghost Protocol (Tom Cruise climbing up the Burj Khalifa), he does it again in Incredibles 2. The action sequences, edited by Stephen Schaffer, are fluid and enthral the viewer. It’s probably the best action sequences you’d see all year (just what the doctor ordered after that atrocious and insufferable action movie called Race 3).

The problem with Bird is that his gender politics and role-reversal scenes are steeped in the past. The stay-at-home dad wants to be a good father but doesn’t know how to deal with his son’s math homework, his daughters ‘boy’ problems and his toddlers poopy diapers. Every once in a while we get a shout out to the supermom. Or even the mother herself saying, “So things haven’t spiraled out of control the moment I left?”

There is another scene where Elastigirl and boss Evelyn, share a moment, late into the night at the office. The question at hand between them is this: Making things or marketing them. Which of the two is more important. The connection between the two is real, whether or not you trust the boss fully and it’s a scene that has rarely, if ever, appeared in a children’s movie.

What Elastigirl doesn’t realise at first is that the enemy is closer home than not. A masked villain named Screenslaver is giving her sleepless nights. Screenslaver is able to hypnotise through television screens. It’s a sort of postwar Big Brother stuff. It’s basically manipulating our everyday technology to cause mayhem and destruction (viewers would be hard-pressed not to compare it to something out of Black Mirror or even the recently famous scandal Cambridge Analytica).

What one could take away from the movie, besides its horrible gender politics, is the fact that women in tech are being championed. The evil sister Evelyn is a champion hacker and all things technology.

While the first movie was far ahead of its time for its realistic animation, Incredibles 2 pushes the boundaries even more. Some of the scenery and backdrops are so real, you wouldn’t mistake it for a live-action flick.

What plagues Brad Bird’s Incredibles 2 is his gender politics and role-reversing characters. His ideas remain grounded in the past and one just can’t shake that off.

Should you watch it?

Despite all that, Incredibles 2 has some incredible vocal talent and top notch action sequences. The script may be flawed in certain areas but it is tight and very much focused.

The movie is well paced, beautiful (the design of the loaner mansion), and stunning attention to detail.

Most importantly, go see in the theatres for an adorable short from director Domee Shi and Pixar called Bao. It’s about a middle-aged Chinese woman who loves cooking baos. One day, one of them comes to life. All is fine until age begins to change him. The feeling at the end is nothing short of warm and fuzzy, like all of Pixar’s shorts before.

Rating: 3/5

First published: 22 June 2018, 18:36 IST
Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla

Sahil is a correspondent at Catch. A gadget freak, he loves offering free tech support to family and friends. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, New York and worked previously for Scroll. He selectively boycotts fast food chains, worries about Arsenal, and travels whenever and wherever he can. Sahil is an unapologetic foodie and a film aficionado.