When The Incredibles hit theaters in 2004, the modern world of superhero cinema was just getting started.
Sony and Fox were leading the way with their Spider-Man and X-Men franchises, but the idea of a connected Marvel Cinematic Universe was still a Kevin Feige dream. Superhero animation was still a heavyweight, with Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League and the '90s Saturday-morning X-Men cartoon still favorites to many.
There are way more superheroes on screen these days. Marvel Studios is the undisputed king of comic book movies. DC and Warner Bros., despite missteps, created a cultural phenomenon in Wonder Woman. And the success of the Deadpool franchise means Fox won't let go of the X-Men anytime soon.
With so many live-action superhero options, does the Incredibles franchise still matter?
The answer to that question is yes, with an exclamation point and a "pow" for good measure.
Incredibles 2 returns with its lovable cast of characters, top-notch voice talent, and a snazzy and snappy score that's infused with the musical equivalent of onomatopoeia.
Despite being a movie that took over a decade to make, Incredibles 2 doesn't feel dated. There's plenty of fun, laughs and (surprisingly intense) action. Youngsters who may not have seen the first film aren't punished for it - they'll be able to follow along easily.
Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) leads the way in a time when being a superhero is still against the law. The family's lead heroine and mom is recruited to save the day and try to bring superheroes back into the good graces of a government that doesn't trust them.
That leaves Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) - who wasn't asked to be a part of these efforts - no choice but to stay at home with his superpowered kids, generating moments that provide "Incredibles 2" with most of its laughs, especially once everyone realizes that baby Jack-Jack has superpowers too.
The family dynamic continues to be the heart of this franchise. A teenage daughter, Violet (voiced by Sarah Vowell), wants nothing to do with anyone. Dash (Huck Milner) would be hyper all the time if he didn't have super-speed (which he does). Baby brother Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) has the power to do seemingly whatever he wants, and Mr. Incredible struggles to sit on the bench with his mask off while his wife gets to be in the public eye.
Samuel L. Jackson is also back as Frozone. You half-expect his character, powered by Jackson's unmistakable voice, to call in the Avengers, since he plays Nick Fury in that franchise. Hey, Incredibles 2 is under the Disney umbrella - they could probably make it happen - but this superhero universe is entertaining enough that extra "suits" aren't needed.
It's a wonder we live in a world where multiple not-so-great Fantastic Four movies exist and yet the Incredibles franchise can just dust itself off after so many years and show Hollywood how it's done.
The big mystery of Incredibles 2 might be its only flaw. It's not difficult to figure out who's underneath the mask of main villain Screenslaver, although you should remind yourself this is a movie for kids before you give yourself too many Scooby Snacks for mentally unmasking this film's big bad.
Everything Incredibles 2 needed to do, it does, simultaneously reestablishing a Pixar/superhero franchise that still has plenty of life left in it while also proving animation is still a force in superhero entertainment. The upcoming Teen Titans Go! and Sony's animated Miles Morales/Spider-Man movies should be thankful this movie arrived when it did.
Incredibles 2 is a must-see and worth the wait.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post
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