- Ill Literacy, Episode XXIV: The Crooked Path to Abolition (Guest: James Oakes) - February 3, 2021
- Ill Literacy, Episode XXII: 1620 (Guest: Peter W. Wood) - December 8, 2020
- Ill Literacy, Episode XXI: The Zealot and the Emancipator (Guest: H.W. Brands) - December 1, 2020
I just saw Incredibles 2 on PPV at home the other night. I’m prompted to write this review after seeking out the review of my friend Christian Toto at HollywoodInToto, a professional movie critic who was more positive than I was. (Follow him on Twitter. Christian is an insightful and learned movie critic, and comes at Hollywood from a refreshing perspective.)
I gotta say, though, that my take was a lot more negative than Christian’s. I found ‘Incredibles 2’ disappointing, especially compared to the flawless original. The wokeness almost ruined it completely (more on that in a moment), but it redeemed itself a bit with Jack-Jack discovering his powers. That was fun and intriguing. (My favorite was how he could duplicate himself over and over. What a nightmare for a parent of a baby!) And it really redeemed itself with the scenes with Edna Mode — a kid-averse artist being won over when she discovers that the baby has many awesome and strange powers that sparked her creativity and love. So sweet.
But right at the start, the movie hit a false note with Bob being jealous of his wife being picked by DevTech to start Winston Deavor’s PR/rehab project for the supers. And that was a very bad omen.
Why would a good man, who came to admire even more his wife’s abilities (human and super) after the defeat of Syndrome, suddenly act like a petulant diva at the thought of Helen being picked by DevTech? It was bad enough when Winston broke the news to them in his office, but when Bob went on and on about it at home later that night, that was very much out of character.
Bob, a good and understanding man, would have been proud and supportive of Helen going out into the world as Elastigirl to set the stage for the return of all the supers. I have a feeling the writers made Mr. Incredible be upset about it to pump up the wokeness and #MeToo factor. That took me out of the story, and had me worried about political messaging throughout the film.
Then there’s the idea that so many random people on the street are absolutely star-struck by Elastigirl. Sure. She’s a top-tier super, and — thanks to Syndrome killing off so many supers in the first movie — there’s not as many of them around anymore. But let’s be real here. Mr. Incredible is, bar none, the greatest of all the supers. He’s the “Superman” of this franchise. Proof? Syndrome tested his super-killing robot on dozens of other supers just so he could get it good enough to finally defeat Mr. Incredible. Elastigirl is awesome, but the effusive praise for her came off as forced.
And more wokeness is present in the villain, Evelyn. Not only is she the brains behind all the cool stuff that DevTech does (making the CEO of the company, her brother Winston, a useless dope), she can apparently design special tech requests for Helen in an evening. And it was so obvious that Evelyn was the villain from the moment she was on screen. Or, I should say, if Evelyn wasn’t the obvious villain, the other obvious option was this: The wholesome Winston was going to be the real villain and she and Elastigirl were going to team up to take him down.
That would have been worse, but it was bad enough that Evelyn was the villain because her motivation was garbage. At least Syndrome’s motivation made sense: Mr. Incredible rejected me, and I turned a childhood rejection into an obsession to make the supers irrelevant by giving mortals the ability to be super. It dovetailed nicely with the best line from the original:
Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone’s special, Dash.
Dash: Which is another way of saying no one is.
That was a truly subversive line! It landed a direct hit on the “everyone gets a trophy” culture. What was Evelyn’s motivation? She was pissed that her dad put his faith in the supers instead of a safe room and it cost him and her mother their lives. “Superheroes keep us weak!” she said.
What? That’s it? Why scheme for years to punish her brother and the supers for that? Wouldn’t it be more productive to start a global PR campaign for people to build safe rooms and (if they can have them) put their special phone lines to the supers in the safe room? Or what if her parents had a shot gun in the house? (GASP!).
Evelyn’s motivation to want to murder a boat full of supers and all the humans on board — as well as the scores of folks killed and maimed on the shore who would die when the crashed into buildings — was not believable. For the set-up of the climax of the film, that was exceedingly lame.
And while I’m on a negative roll (that’s my super power), can we agree that Frozone’s power is never actually very helpful? He did great in the first film in the battle against Syndrome’s robot, and was Johnny On The Spot to help Dash. But, really, Frozone is always just helping on the edges. If he could turn any nearby water into ice, why not freeze the whole bay frozen and stop the boat where it is. Instead, he continually tosses ice toward one of the keels of the hydrofoil to no effect.
And why didn’t Frozone just freeze up Underminer’s entire steampunk driller if his powers were actually useful and powerful. Mechanical things don’t do well under extreme cold temperatures, especially if they were not specifically designed to withstand the cold. The coolest thing that Frozone ever did was freezing that cop in the original movie with nothing but a quarter cup of water. That was awesome — a clever moment for the story of the original Incredibles that showed what he could do with a little guile and a very little amount of water. He’s trying to help Mr. Incredible steer the ship away from danger, and he’s on a very deep body of water? Why can’t he just stop the damn thing by freezing the whole bay?
Another thing: Violet was a lot more relatable and interesting when she was a shy pre-teen who learned to deal with her life better when she embraced her super powers. It was one of the best parts of the original. In the sequel, Violet was reduced to just another teenaged girl getting overly emotional about boys. That great coming-of-age character deserved better.
Also: Violet’s ability to use her force fields creatively was very cool in that opening sequence. But she was barely able to make a force field under pressure just hours earlier in the story. Remember, they are going against the Underminer, who popped up at the end of the first movie. We’re to believe she is so good at using her powers so soon that she can project force fields to grab and destroy projectiles heading toward people? No way.
And Dash was underused BIG TIME in this film. The joy of Dash understanding and using his powers in the first film — especially his giggle when he discovered that he could run on water — was great. In the sequel, his only good scene was the funny “did you wash your hands” thing at dinner in the motel.
The original Incredibles gets an A+. It’s one of the best movies of the last 25 years and will be a classic for generations. The Incredibles 2 gets a C from me and makes me wish they never bothered with it after all these years, let alone contemplate an Incredibles 3.