Picking up mere moments after the first film ended, “Incredibles 2” wastes no time in re-treading the same ground as its illustrious predecessor. Brad Bird had been reluctant to make a sequel to his superhero magnum opus until he figured out the right story. It turns out, the right story was pretty much the one he told the last time.
When the confrontation with the Underminer ends messily, the superhero renaissance is brought to a shuddering halt. Enter Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener), the brother and sister team heading up DevTech, a telecommunications giant who want to help reinvent the public perception of superheroes and finally bring them out of the shadows. Their pick: Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), leaving Mr Incredible (Craig T Nelson) to take care of the family. But when a new supervillain, Screenslaver, makes their presence felt, it will take every single member of the Parr family to save the day.
Although the characters retain their charm and appeal in full measure, Bird doesn’t find anything new to say about the tired old trope of the incompetent house husband and while Screen Slaver is an intriguing new foe, distinctly different from Syndrome and a pointed commentary on our modern obsession with life lived through screens of all sizes, there’s not quite enough time to develop it properly because of the time devoted to the domestic sitcom shenanigans chez Parr. There’s also a weird, low-key anti-feminist subtext that sits awkwardly behind its breezy ‘sisters are doing it for themselves’ Elastigirl-power set pieces.
Similarly, the colourful array of other supers introduced in the film only get a few moments to shine, which is a shame because the heroic throw downs, when they happen, are spectacularly imaginative and choreographed but alas feel all too brief, ending just as you’re getting into the fun. If only the movie had leaned more into its metaphorical exploration of superhero suppression as a civil rights issue, driven and manipulated by savvy media campaigns and publicity stunts, it might have found sharper teeth instead of frittering away half of its runtime on a gender-swapped redux of the original.
It’s a thankless task following a film like “The Incredibles” but “Incredibles 2”, once it settles into its groove, manages to – if not match the dizzying heights of its predecessor, at least not fall too far short so as to actually disappoint, even when it betrays two of the main promises the ending of “The Incredibles” gave us. Wisely, it uses its MVP – Edna Mode – sparingly and to great effect, but in the end, it gives us a little too much of what we’ve seen before while teasing us with new ideas that it doesn’t properly explore.