I am tired of superhero movies. There. I said it. I have finally buckled, I have caved.
I have time for this though. Between the outright shamble that was Justice League and the flaccid, here-we-go-again bro-ism of Deadpool 2, I really needed to connect to something golden. Something laced with zeal, hope and outright bravado.
In the world of comics, Superman recently got reunited with his infamous red trunks. Now, I know there exists a contingency of believers who will tell you that it looks ridiculous. I tend to agree. But gosh darnit, who can deny THAT classic look. Maybe the word classic is where I find my departure point. I yearn for something classic.
Now, back in 2004, The Incredibles posited that heroism is not all that and a bag of chips. Heroes got sad. Heroes had families. Heroes have to hide in the shadows. Now, Alan Moore set the template for the humane superhero in Watchmen, but whereas he laced it with grit and hopelessness, Pixar attempted to add Colgate smiles and the butterfly-in-your-stomach kind of excitement that might have remained exclusive to your childhood. They succeeded back then, managing to create a golden (age) standard, outright classic superhero flick. Back then we also had superhero films like Ben Affleck’s Daredevil and Ang Lee’s angsty Hulk. The contrast to their sturm und drang was met with Mr Incredible, his wife Elastigirl and their kids Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack, normal people like you and me, struggling to pay rent, having quarrels at the dinner table, yet able to save the world.
15 years later, and after Marvel’s coup with Avengers: Infinity War, their Disney stablemates Pixar have made a movie that made adults get up out of their seat, and applaud. I was lucky enough to attend a screening of Incredibles 2 where not only did the opening sequence get a cheer – every action beat, the return of Edna Mole and the ending got outright applause. People love these characters. Hell, I love these characters. I don’t own one comic or action figure of these guys, but I love them.
Incredibles 2 just works on so many levels. The overall aesthetic has been refined to reflect the true anachronistic nature director Brad Bird and his team were chasing all those years ago. Art Deco buildings, futuristic monorails, screen interfaces – each element carefully designed. The humans who are not of the Incredible/Parr family ilk also have a refined look, kind of like the marionettes in Thunderbirds. Retro, slightly creepy real, but it works. It also has to be said that the film has a recurring dusky feeling, tinted with orange and purple hues which, paired with the jazz-driven soundtrack, just gives this world such a classic feeling.
The story also deftly deals with the question of gender roles in a non-SJW manner, opening up real-world debates around traditional family dynamics. Who brings the bacon home? Can men be the mom? It just makes the film feel like so much more than a superhero film.
Now Brad Bird, a Pixar vet and the voice of the beloved characted Edna Mole, has finessed his eye for action on the Mission:Impossible franchise, helming the Ghost Protocol entry. Here, because of the possibilities and limitless restrictions of animation, he lets loose. No camera angle is too weird, no action sequence too difficult. He choreographs animated action sequences like Yuen Woo-ping choreographs martial arts fights. Absolutely meticulous, you can see they must have spent ages to define and refine these brilliant sequences.
I can’t say Incredibles 2 is a classic. But in an era and time where we are served a superhero film every other week, it feels good to have something that feels classic. That feels warm. Nostalgic. Fun. It might not sound like a lot, but the superpower that this film has is to own those elements and wear them on its sleeve.