Pixar have long been one of the most original animation houses in the world, creating thrilling new works that connect with audiences and critics alike, but with the exception of the 'Toy Story' franchise, they haven’t had anywhere near the same success with sequels. ‘Monsters University’ is a sweet film, but ‘Finding Dory’ meanders far too much and the less said about the ‘Cars’ films, the better. So it was understandable that ‘Incredibles 2’, director Brad Bird’s long-awaited follow up to one of Pixar’s undisputed masterpieces, was met with a combination of excitement and trepidation. ‘The Incredibles’ felt like lightning in a bottle, and after 14 years, was it even possible to try and recapture it?
Thankfully, Bird isn’t interested in repeating himself, and have fashioned a follow-up that both builds on the work of the original while exploring new territory. Launching directly from the final minutes of the original film, it continues to build on the dynamic of the Parr family, this time shifting the focus to Helen aka Elastigirl (Holly Hunter). In an effort to change public opinion of superheroes, Helen is enlisted by billionaire siblings Winston (Bob Odenkirk) and Eleanor Deaver (Catherine Keener) to return to public life as her crime-fighting alter ego, leaving Bob (Craig T. Nelson) to stay home and care for the kids. This shift in protagonist gives the film a vitally different energy to the first, dynamic rather than bombastic, and prevents the film from covering any ground already covered. Helen’s ambition and skill, now fully unleashed, result in a series of thrilling and kinetic set pieces, and Bird balances them beautifully with more intimate moments between Bob and the kids. These films have always been character studies first and foremost, and ‘Incredibles 2’ takes so much care in making sure that each member of the Parr family continues to grow and develop as a character. It’s wonderful to see so much care and time given to Bob’s experiences as a stay-at-home dad, rather than simply making the situation an excuse for jokes.
There’s also a strong focus on female experiences – we still don’t have enough female superheroes in cinema, so there’s something really stirring in how commanding a presence Helen is. She’s a woman of remarkable skill, astute intelligence and enormous ambition, but her need to prove herself manifests itself in a much more complex way than it did for Bob in the first film. She is pulled between social expectations of her as a woman and mother, the expectations of her family, her role as a public figure and her own needs within all this, all of which lies at the heart of the film. There are similar conundrums facing Violet (Sarah Vowell), now moving into the responsible end of her teens and coming to grips with what her powers actually mean, the responsibility they give her, but also her responsibility as an older member of the family.
One could argue that, this being a children’s film, this level of intelligent characterisation would be unnecessary, just give them bright colours and big explosions and that’s all. By doing so though, the film becomes a richer experience for both children and adults, one that can provide enormous entertainment while offering reflections through which we see ourselves. The Parr family may have superpowers and face extraordinary situations, but they are a family first and foremost, and the real joy of these films is watching them react and interact as any family would. On top of that, it’s also wildly entertaining, especially the sequences with Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) playing with his powers. Bird has such a wicked sense of humour, and this permeates throughout ‘Incredibles 2’. His understanding of storytelling is incredibly sophisticated, playing with traditional familiar forms but knowing how to bend the rules to his advantage and for our amusement.
‘Incredibles 2’ is just such a joy of a film. It not only lives up to expectations but exceeds them, refusing to play by the tired and safe sequel rule of just giving audiences the same all over again. Bird had said he wouldn’t make a sequel until he had a story worth telling, and this is reflected in how carefully considered and enormously satisfying a film this is. We might have waited a long time to see what happened next to the Parr family, but it was most certainly worth the wait.
These films have always been character studies first and foremost, and ‘Incredibles 2’ takes so much care in making sure that each member of the Parr family continues to grow and develop as a character.
PICTURE & SOUND:
It’s a little hard to judge exactly how much animation is improved on 4K UHD, but there’s definitely something quite robust about the 2160p 2.39:1 transfer. There’s a subtle improvement over detail and clarity over the 1080p image included, but it’s really with the HDR that the 4K presentation wins out. Colour is such an important part of these films, and the transfer really shows this off with a deep and rich colour palette. The Dolby Atmos TrueHD 7.1 track is also very impressive, a full-bodied aural experience that balances all the elements beautifully. It also seems like Disney is getting a handle on how to treat an Atmos track after their initial under-mixing problems.
As we’ve come to expect from Pixar, there’s a healthy collection of extra material included. Nothing is on the 4K disc, but on the feature Blu-ray disc, we have the gorgeous short film ‘BAO’ (7:41), the new Incredibles-themed short ‘Auntie Edna’ (5:08), ‘Strong Coffee: A Lesson in Animation with Brad Bird’ (18:50), a portrait of Bird featuring interviews with him and his team in the film, and an audio commentary featuring Bird, Supervisors Dave Mullins, Alan Barillaro, and Tony Fucile, and Animation Second Unit and Crowd Supervisor Bret Parker.
The bulk of the extras are on the second disc, broken down into a number of categories:
- Bonus Features includes ‘Super Stuff’ (6:36), a look at the production design, ‘Paths to Pixar: Everyday Heroes’ (11:40), with the team discussing family dynamics in the film and at Pixar, ‘Superbaby’ (4:57), a kind of annoying look at the design of Jck-Jack with Bizaardvark, ‘Ralph Eggleston: Production Designer’ (2:07), a far too brief look at what a production designer does on an animated film, and ‘Making BAO’ (6:02), where writer/director Domee Shi discusses the making of her brilliant short.
- Heroes & Villains (25:35), featuring specific character profiles on Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, The Parr Kids, Frozone, Edna Mode, Winston Deavor, Evelyn Deavor, and the Wannabes, including cast and crew interviews.
- Vintage Features, featuring material created specifically for the film. These include Vintage Toy Commercials for Mr. Incredible (0:32), Elastigirl (0:32), and Frozone (0:32), as well as the character theme songs for Mr. Incredible (0:32), Elastigirl (0:32), and Frozone (0:32).
- Deleted Scenes (39:44), featuring a number of sequences in storyboard form, with a short introduction from Bird.
The set is rounded out with a collection of the trailers and promos for the film, something Pixar is always good at including. It seems like a silly thing, but it would be better if more films included this seemingly inconsequential but genuinely fascinating advertising material.