I need to relax, I really do. The Incredibles 2 is a perfectly fun movie that I sat there ruining for myself because I was trying to figure out if there was anything even vaguely approaching a coherent message in the movie about the role of elites in social improvement.
This is not entirely down to my tiresome tendency to go looking for political angles in wholesome family entertainment; the first Incredibles movie was all about the tension between elitism and the needs of the community, and the sequel picks up literally where the first movie left off. So if I was wasting my time trying to figure out what the hell Brad Bird was trying to say about privilege, it’s only because I was trying to understand a conversation he had dragged me into.
A kid’s movie is probably not the place to sort these kinds of questions out. Should special people get special treatment? What do we mean anyway when we use the word special? Do you deserve to be treated differently because of something which just happened to you without you making any effort? How healthy is it for society to think that everything is all about heroes rather than the mass of people trying to make small differences that add up to an overall better world?
Brad Bird doesn’t have much by way of a thought out answer to those questions, but he’s got a lot of fun stunts with cartoons to keep you distracted while he doesn’t answer them. In a strange way, animation is perfect for superhero movies, because it costs exactly the same amount of money to animate the world exploding as it does to animate the wind blowing through someone’s hair, and so the staging isn’t driven by the need to showcase expensive CGI setpieces. It’s all technically difficult, one way or another, so we get what the story needs from moment to moment.
And yet, I’ve only got a rough outline in my mind a week later of what happens. Elastigirl gets to take much more of a lead in this movie than she did in the other, which is nice because a lot of what Elastigirl does is about thinking of flexible solutions to problems where Mr Incredible has basically got two moves; punch and block. It’s nice to see a woman getting the spotlight, but it’s even nicer to see her being allowed to think her way out of problems and demonstrate that there are other ways to be strong and effective. But I don’t really remember much of the action. It was fun while it was happening, but it hasn’t stuck in my mind.
Which is not without its own irony, since the other theme of the movie is the way in which all the victims of the villainy are enslaved by the flicker of video screens which hypnotise them into doing the bidding of the bad guys. Yup, them devil screens, distracting the genpop from what really matters. Weird medium you picked to warn us about that, Brad. I suppose not enough people are reading parchment scrolls these days.
Still, it’s fun while it lasts. The cast are a winning bunch, though I was confused the whole way through that one key character looked just like Alan Cumming and turned out to be played by Bob Odenkirk. That was someone who had to be up to no good, even before you added in the way he was some kind of tech billionaire of uncertain provenance. The one real twist in the movie was when he turned out to be the good guy. This, by the way, is the exact opposite of how these things turn out in real life.