Incredibles 2

I didn’t care for the first Incredibles movie. Its repeated central message is “If everyone is special than no one is.” In the world of The Incredibles, some people are born naturally superior to others and equality is bad because it takes privilege away from those who were born into it. So I wasn’t looking forward to watching Incredibles 2. But I’ve got a kid, so I knew it was inevitable. I turned out being pleasantly surprised.

Mr. Incredible still has anger management issues, but this time it’s presented as a bad thing rather than a good thing. He doesn’t murder or even attempt to murder anyone this time around, which is a plus. In fact, none of the superheros kill anybody, even saving the life of the villain at the end. There’s also no body shaming. So it’s a step up from the first movie in many ways.

Incredibles 2 picks up right where The Incredibles left off. The Underminer has just attacked. The Incredibles try to foil his bank robbery, but they cause a lot of damage and put a lot of lives in jeopardy in the process, so the public still hates them and superheroes are still illegal. (This reminds me of why cops generally don’t engage in high-speed chases anymore. It’s better to risk letting the bad guy go than to cause even more damage trying to catch him.)

The Incredibles are told they shouldn’t have tried to stop him. There are systems in place to deal with bank robberies. The Underminer got away anyway, so all they did was cause unnecessary damage. This is true, but the movie presents the Incredibles as the real victims here. All the people who almost died should be praising the superheroes for attempting to stop the bad guy even if they just made things worse. (Is the movie telling us police should go back to having high-speed chases? Sure, civilian lives will be put at risk, but watching the car chases would be so cool!)

As an aside, I just want to briefly mention a big continuity error in this movie. Everyone knew Baby Jack Jack had superpowers at the end of the first movie, but when this movie begins, everyone has forgotten. There wasn’t any compelling reason to do this and no explanation was given for the wide scale amnesia, but whatever.

After their failed attempt to stop the Underminder, the Incredibles then get contacted by rich siblings Winston and Evelyn Deavor who want to rehabilitate their image and “make superheros legal again”. They pick Elastigirl as the face of their propaganda campaign since she causes a lot less collateral damage than Mr. Incredible does. (Good call.) So in this movie, Mr. Incredible is the house spouse and Elastigirl is the one who gets to have fun being a superhero. He condescendingly thinks taking care of the kids will be easy, but the movie proves him wrong. He’s initially jealous that his wife is the one getting all the attention he craves, but he eventually gets over himself. He actually becomes a better person by the end of the movie, which is nice to see.

The main villain in this movie is Screenslaver, who uses screens to control people. (Ironically, both heroes and the villain use screens to control people’s minds. The villain uses screens to hypnotize people directly, while the heroes use screens as pro-superhero propaganda.)

This movie doesn’t have as much of an in-your-face message as the first one did. I guess the main message of the movie is something about how we’re all spending too much time looking at screens and being slaves to the media instead of actually living our lives. “You don’t talk, you watch talk shows. You don’t play games, you watch game shows.” (Is this movie telling us we shouldn’t be watching this movie?) However, the message is delivered by the villain, so… does that mean the actual message is the opposite? We should be spending more time looking at screens and letting ourselves be controlled by the media?

There’s a secondary message in the disagreement between Winston and Evelyn over their parents’ death. In a flashback, we see their dad trying to call up superheros on the phone while his house is being broken into. Since superheros have been banned, they don’t answer the call. The robbers, seeing him on the phone, shoot both him and his wife. Winston thinks their parents wouldn’t have been murdered if superheros hadn’t been banned, while Evelyn thinks they would have lived if they’d went to their panic room instead of standing around waiting to be saved.

I’ve got to say, I’m on Evelyn’s side on this one. Even if the superheros had answered their father’s phone call, there’s no way they would have been able to get to the house in time to save them (unless they happened to live next door). However, their parents would still be alive if they’d went to the panic room. The movie, though, takes Winston’s side of the argument. Regular people like you and me should just stand around waiting for someone to save us, even if it gets us killed. We shouldn’t try to save ourselves. Another crappy message, but at least it isn’t as crappy as the message from the first movie.

At one point, a character remarks, “Politicians don’t understand people who do good just because it’s right.” Many of us feel this way, of course, (at least concerning those politicians we personally disagree with) but is this the message we want our children to grow up with? Don’t trust the government, kids. Put all your trust into wealthy elitists like Winston Deavor instead! Remember, public servants are always bad, but billionaires are always good!

Now that I think about it, the message from the first film is still here, although not as explicit. Once again, being a smart person who invents cool new technology is equated with being evil (with the one exception being Edna Mode), while being born into privilege makes one inherently a good guy who can do no wrong.

I started out with the intention of writing a positive review, but now that I think about it, Incredibles 2 isn’t a good movie. There are some cool action scenes, sure. They introduce more superheroes with different powers which gives us more variety in the fight scenes. I do like that Mr. Incredible’s anger management issues are presented as problems to be overcome in this movie instead of justified righteous anger as in the first movie. Incredibles 2 is definitely better than The Incredibles, but that’s a low bar indeed.

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