Incredibles 2: The art of sequel-izing

Maybe we’ve forgotten what it takes to make a truly great sequel.
In our lasting obsession with more, more, more and now, now, now, audiences have been demanding instant gratification and ever expanding cinematic universes.

Money hungry studios are more than willing to oblige.

It’s gotten to the point where the two-year average from box office hit to follow-up film feels like too long.
Thankfully, Brad Bird didn’t feel the pressure.

Moving on to other projects, Bird let a simple story idea gestate in his mind for 14 years, evolving the project creatively to craft the best possible movie.

That film, a follow-up to the 2004 Pixar sensation “The Incredibles,” rode the wave of anticipation and word-of-mouth to $180 million domestically in its opening weekend, breaking records as the highest grossing animated film of all-time over its first four-day stretch.

But what sets “Incredibles 2” apart from the rest besides its box office dominance is its quality, instantly vaulting into the top five of Pixar Studios’ illustrious filmography rivaling “Up,” “Wall-E” and the “Toy Story” trilogy.

Richly developed and cultivated by writer/director Bird, the script layers thoughts on family, tolerance, the world’s growing obsession with digital technology and much more into a witty two-hour film that will keep young viewers entertained and older audiences engaged by the mature themes and banter.

Set in the moments immediately following the conclusions of the first film, “Incredibles 2” finds the Parr family – superheroes living among average citizens – out of work after heroes are outlawed by the government. Unemployed and homeless, Mr. Incredible becomes a stay-at-home father to the children while Elastigirl fights for the rights of “supers” while battling crime illegally.

The talented voice cast from the original film returns, including Craig T. Nelson as Mr. Incredible, Holly Hunter as Elastigirl, Samuel L. Jackson as Frozone and Bird himself voicing fan-favorite Edna Mode. They’re joined by “Better Call Saul” star Bob Odenkirk and “Get Out” actress Catherine Keener to bring vibrancy and life to Bird’s screenplay and Pixar’s dynamic computer-generated animation.

Pretty much everything about “Incredibles 2” is superior to its predecessor, from the storyline to the character development, the humor to the heart.

But from the outset, what is most striking about the differences between the two “Incredibles” films are just how much further Pixar’s animation team has come in 14 years.

There’s a deep richness to every frame and characters are given depth in curves that creates the appearance of three dimensions with on a flat screen.

Visually, the most exciting and stunning scene is also potentially the most problematic for audiences. Midway through the film, Elastigirl faces off against the villainous Screen-Slaver in hand-to-hand combat inside a room filled with strobe lighting that may trigger reactions from photosensitive or epileptic viewers. Framed in rapid fire blasts of alternating white light and darkness, it’s a mesmerizing, iconic sequence and one of the film’s best moments.

As all the top Pixar films seem to do, “Incredibles 2” will likely be a strong contender for an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Film, though Wes Anderson’s outstanding “Isle of Dogs” should prove to be stiff Oscar competition.

The film is preceded by the slow-paced, yet rewarding short “Bao,” directed by Domee Shi, a story of a mother struggling in her relationship with her son that could also earn an Oscar nod in the animated short category.

It took Bird and company 14 years to bring “Incredibles 2” to the big screen because they wanted to make sure they got it right.

And they did in a big way.

Sure to play to packed crowds for weeks to come, “Incredibles 2” establishes a new high in sequel filmmaking, especially among its animated peers. It’s a film that may prove to be a difficult ticket, but more than worth the price of admission for viewers under six to those well over 60.

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