Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Cataline Recommends: Incredibles II
The only movie that Brad Bird has fought harder against making than the Incredibles II, is a sequel to the Iron Giant.
Fourteen years is a long ass time between installments. In fact they even directly address this in the first couple of minutes of the movie. There is a live action scene with Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson, explicitly saying (and pretty apologetically too) that they get it. It was too long between movies...but that this will be worth it. And incidentally you should forgive them for being too old for the parts they are playing now. The Force Awakens could have used something like that.
And it is a good movie. You can enjoy it as such but it is not in truth a good sequel.
Meaning the next movie in a sequence. The trilogy is classically speaking, supposed to be the film analog of a three act play. The first act is sort of slice of life presentation. The second presents the protagonists at their lowest point. The third act is the resolution.
Incredibles II fails at this.
It's really just a different slice of life. This movie is more like a TV series where everything resets at the end of the episode.
I can't really examine Incredibles II without looking at the first movie, so we will start with there.
When the Incredibles came out, the modern superhero genre wasn't even a genre yet.* There were two Xmen films. And that was pretty much it. Nolan's Batman wouldn't appear for another year. Ironman was four years off and Robert Downey Junior was a washed up, has been. Marvel Films was reeling from the disaster of Ang Lee's Hulk, the only reason they didn't fold completely was because Universal owned the rights to that character and had footed the bill.
The only other superhero films out there weren't really superhero films, they were the monster hero films from the 1990s (Blade, Spawn) and camp like, Mystery Men and the post Burton Batman movies.
The Incredibles was the first superhero movie to really blow the doors off with a worldwide take of north of 600 million. Xmen 2 was it's closest competitor with 400 million. So while I still maintain that Xmen set the standard for the modern superhero genre, a strong argument can be made for it actually being the Incredibles.
It was lightening in a bottle.
The Incredibles indulged itself in all the best known tropes from previous iterations of the genre. These were clearly silver age heroes in a silver age world. The cars, fashions and even the architecture all screamed the cool early Sixties.
The archetypes of all the characters worked amazingly well. Bob was the father, the protector and tower of strength. Helen was the mother and the nurturer stretched eight different ways from Sunday. Violet was the adolescent girl that wanted to be invisible had barriers everywhere. Dash was speed and vitality. And Jack-Jack's multiple powers represented endless potential.
It's safe to say the first movie couldn't be made today. Elastigirl made all the proper Women's Lib noises in the first few minutes "Leave the saving to the men? I don't think so." But then more Softly, "I don't think so," this second iteration indicated one or two stray thoughts in the opposite direction on her part. It was after this that Helen betrayed her sisters to the patriarchy and settled down into happily into being a wife a mother.
It was Bob Parr that was having trouble settling down. Everything from his cubicle to his car constrained him His frustration at being an exceptional man in a world that demanded that he be a lesser one spoke pretty loudly to Generation X. Most of whom were starting to seriously settle down about the time that first movie came out. We all felt the walls of PC-dom closing in around us. Our world was not going to be a man's world. The Fembots and Gammas had successfully yoked us.
Bob's trying to relive his glory days wasn't the bad thing, it was his disengagement with this own family that was the real problem.
Everything about that movie including the vaguely Randite tone and the formerly super cool best friend and now henpecked best friend just plain worked perfectly.
As I said, it was lightening in a bottle. Brad bird managed to create a comedy that both reflected and focused the times in which it was made.
It was damn near perfect and didn't need a sequel.
So why did Brad Bird make one?
Because Tomorrowland cost $190 million to make and raked in a lousy $209 million worldwide. He needed a nice slow, easy pitch right across the center of the plate and Incredibles II is certainly that.
It's a good movie like I said. But not a great one.
I will now invoke Cataline's Spoiler Rule. Anything that happens in the first five minutes of a movie is not a spoiler.
This movie picks up immediately where the last left off, fourteen years ago. The Underminer is attacking. The Incredibles counter attack. The Underminer escapes and leaves a lot of collateral property damage behind but no fatalities. (Sidenote: Unlike the first movie where there was an implied bodycount of bad guys what got 'blowed up good.' They explicitly point out at the end of each action scene that no one has died. )
Anyway, the superhero relocation program is canceled. The Parr family is looking at the real possibility of being homeless if Bob doesn't land a job soon. And suddenly Helen lands one.
Interestingly, she isn't too cool about leaving her family to take the job. Which is being a fulltime superheroine again.
There is a billionaire backer who wants to bring back the Supers and to do that he needs some positive spin and Elastigirl is less likely to cause excessive collateral damage than Bob is. And frankly that is kind of fair.
Mister Incredible is now Mister Mom.
It's not a bad setup but it's not an exceptional one either. The truth is, it's been done before just not with superheroes.
The positives are there. Despite the fact that Helen is now the breadwinner, she isn't really fullfilled by it and is constantly looking for excuses to drop everything and come back to her family. It's not as SJW friendly as the SJWs wanted it to be. The fan service is there but it isn't bad or distracting.
Look, I still recommend this flick, Jack-Jack fighting the Raccoon is easily worth the price of admission but that said. It's doesn't have the magic of the first one.
* No, I don't include anything from the 1990s and neither should you.