3 (out of 4)
Brad Bird never really wanted to make a sequel to his 2004 breakthrough masterpiece The Incredibles. The worst thing you can say about Incredibles 2, strictly as a direct continuation of the former film, is that it could never, ever surpass the perfection of the original.
But it's still hard to ignore the new film's comparable weaknesses, few and facile as they are. Obeying the skeletal structure of the first film, Bird works slavishly to make sure Incredibles 2 is as separate and special as he can when he is able. His efforts are full of inspired creative decisions and on the whole Bird succeeds unflaggingly at straddling the new and the familiar. The only thing that places this second Incredibles deep in the shadow of the original is an unwillingness to reach the maturity or emotional darkness that made The Incredibles so vivid.
Even if it doesn't sacrifice its appeal to all audiences by catering mostly to kids, Incredibles 2 plays it safe to its own detriment. But Bird makes the most of his own unencumbered imagination and unlimited, Mouse-backed resources to produce a film that not only stands higher than practically every major release this summer, but also most Pixar films. It's easily the studio's best sequel next to either Toy Story continuation – the first half is the most entertaining stretch of film I've seen all year. The action sequences, scoring, voice over work, dialogue and editing are all top notch. As a true sequel from where we left off fourteen years ago, this is the absolute best we were gonna get.
Yes, our new villain ScreenSlaver doesn’t top Syndrome, but strong social commentary on consumerism reflecting our own reliance on the escapism of superhero movies is just as thought-provoking as the original's contemplation on hero-worship and exceptionalism. One would be expected to nitpick every semblance of sequelitis if this was a careless cash-in like Finding Dory or Cars 3 – but anyone who knows better can register Bird's sound deliberation and note his antipathy for everything that could have made Incredibles 2 ordinary.
For some, Jack-Jack squaring off against a brave raccoon made it all worth it. For me it was definitely the mesmerizing Elasticycle sequence.
To keep it brief...
Soon to Come:
Hell Fest, Venom
and A Star is Born