incredibles-2

Incredibles 2: A Superhero Family Drama

Genre films sometimes produces mindless, trope-filled drivel, and other times use the genre template to engage with something meaningful.  Incredibles 2 is the latter.

Like its predecessor, Incredibles 2 is a thematic exploration of the superhero genre.  This film embraces that legacy more directly, using a more standard and predictable plot, but with a few twists.  Helen gets the majority of the action focus, getting thrown back into the spotlight while Bob learns to manage the kids as a full-time dad.  More than social criticism, this is a tool for exploring Bob and Helen’s marriage, as they each learn what it’s like to be in the other’s shoes, and the emotional difficulties that come as a result.  More than anything, the teamwork of the family unit is a core principle – even the children prove themselves essential.

Bird applies that emotional core to a setting that balances legacy and theme.  The Incredibles has always been something a post-Watchmen story.  While the nuclear war aspect is not in play in The Incredibles, it directly engages that anti-superhero bias, and chooses other themes to play off that are also mature.  The first film shows Bob struggling with a midlife crisis, self-destructive pride, and even hints at a kind of infidelity.  This sequel also contains mature themes, more directly confronting the cynicism that defined Alan Moore’s signature work.  This tricky balance between mature themes and making a family film occasionally works to the film’s disadvantage.  It has its share of intense moments, and the language is not always family-friendly – the film includes a couple of mild profanities, plus a couple misuses of God’s name.

With that said, the film is a family film in just about every sense of the word.  Just as Ant-Man is a heist film and Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a spy thriller, both The Incredibles and Incredibles 2 are family dramas, with the latter portraying family identity in the midst of a changing social climate.  But good superhero films must also have the excitement factor.  There, too, Brad Bird delivers.  One particular chase scene (which contains a potentially seizure-inducing moment for those with epilepsy) is so kinetic and cinematic, it could be in a Nolan Batman film.  The action setpieces are diverse, from a claustrophobic apartment complex to a speeding train.  If there is a weakness here – and the film has few – it’s in the implausibility of the third act, which clashes some with the grounded tone of the first two.

Ultimately, the film is a great example of what Pixar does at its best – applying mature themes to the canvas of family-friendly film.  The film has a lot to say, mostly about the complex nature of family dynamics and identity, although it gets occasionally sidetracked into other ideas.  This, too, is one of the film’s weaknesses – it touches on so many interesting ideas that it spreads itself too thin.  But the ideas it does touch on are socially relevant and thought-provoking, a testament to the intention and passion behind the work.

The family themes could not come at a more appropriate time, culturally speaking.  Even Christian homes often struggle to stay together, and the family dynamics of Incredibles 2 are very positive, both in parenting and in marriage.  There’s plenty here for the kids as well (although intense moments and a few mild profanities should be not be overlooked).  In all, while the film could be more child-friendly in terms of language, its mature themes and family values bring a robust cinematic experience to a cluttered blockbuster season.

Rating: 8/10

Logan Judy
Logan Judy is a Christian blogger and science fiction author with a Batman complex. At Cross Culture, Logan writes about film, comics, cultural analysis, and whatever else strikes his fancy. In addition to his work at Cross Culture, Logan also blogs and podcasts at A Clear Lens. You can find him tweeting about Batman, apologetics, and why llamas will one day rule the world, @loganrjudy.
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