June 30th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY NSW electricity grid now at 'crisis point'

EDITORIAL China's pivotal role in Trump-Kim summit

CANBERRA OBSERVED Throwing our 8ยข in the ring over sale of ABC

OPINION Why populism has become popular among the populace

MEDIA Ramsay Centre gets all that' left from ABC's Drum

ENERGY Solar panels leave hidden carbon footprint

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson conviction conundrum

ENERGY Don't let our waste go to waste: energise it

OPINION We've moved from low standards to no standards

LITERATURE AND CULTURE Christian humour through the ages: Dante, Chaucer and Cervantes

ECONOMICS Trump, China, the WTO and world trade

WHY BREXIT? A tight little island


MUSIC Contrary emotions: Following and leading the beat

CINEMA Incredibles 2: Just the average family of superheroes

BOOK REVIEW The main driver of our foreign policy

BOOK REVIEW Commitment at risk of obliteration



EDITORIAL By-elections a trial run for next federal election

Books promotion page

Incredibles 2: Just the average family of superheroes

by Symeon J. Thompson

News Weekly, June 30, 2018

The Incredibles is one of the greatest films of the last few decades, if not cinematic history.

The elegantly crafted story expertly explores the egotism and responsibility that comes with superpowers, as well as the resentment and anxiety they can cause in others. And it does so within a rip-roaring, family friendly, but nonetheless adult, adventure in which not a single frame or line of dialogue is wasted.

Incredibles 2 thus has a problem. Sequels are always measured against the original. Incredibles 2 is a fine film – hilarious, heartwarming and a rollicking good time, with breathtaking visuals and a jazzy score – but it lacks the narrative simplicity and elegance of the original.

In some ways it seems like the middle act of an expanding Incredibles universe, one that almost means more stories need to be told. The Incredibles was complete in itself, its narrative and character arcs rich and self-contained. Incredibles 2 builds on that, but builds outwards as well as up, thus adding a complexity that means the individual story arcs and characters do not have as much room to breathe within its two-hour length.

The plot of The Incredibles hinged on Bob Parr / Mr Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), the super-strong, nigh-invulnerable superhero. Bob is a great hero but, as befits a hero of his bulk and skills, is a messy one. Destruction and collateral damage follows in his wake.

This becomes a problem in a litigious society geared towards personal autonomy and blame. In saving lives, people are injured. They sue the government and win, forcing superheroes underground.

Bob is happily married to Helen (Holly Hunter), aka Elastigirl, a flexible, agile and much less destructive superhero. She adjusts well to home life, raising their children: Violet (Sarah Vowell), an angsty teenager who can project force fields and become invisible; the hyperactive speedster Dash (Spencer Fox in the original and Huck Milner in 2); and baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile and Maeve Andrews).

Bob, however, finds his office job – at an insurance company that prefers to deny claims – understandably soul-crushing.

When an opportunity arises to return to super heroics, Bob readily agrees but gets caught up in the demented plans of a brilliant and wealthy former fan who has never forgiven him for an early rejection. This puts Bob and his family in danger and he learns that no matter how great he was as a hero, being a good father is the most heroic thing he can do.

Incredibles 2 begins where the first film ends. Despite saving the day, the Supers are still faced with a hostile world that sees them as more trouble than they’re worth. Enter telecommunications tycoon Winston Deavour (Bob Odenkirk) and his techno-genius sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener). They want to bring Supers back into the light by using their marketing talents to gain popular support so they can more effectively lobby the politicians.

Due to Mr Incredible’s damage-count, they think Elastigirl is a much safer bet, increasing the chances of success. Helen reluctantly accepts and Bob reluctantly agrees to stay home and look after the kids. Thus a new adventure begins, with Helen saving the day while Bob navigates his daughter’s boy troubles, his son’s inexplicable homework and a baby that’s beginning to show amazing powers.

Central to both films is family and the heroism that comes from raising one. Helen enjoys being a hero, but loves being a homemaker. Bob loves his family, but finds home life challenging. And the Parrs have to get used to working together, both for their own sake and for the greater good. They are strongest together.

Writer-director Brad Bird is believed to be an acolyte of arch-egotist Ayn Rand. But, if anything, The Incredibles challenges Rand. It is not enough to be super. Superpowers must be used in the service of others. It is not enough to be true to oneself. One must also be true to the greater good, to goodness itself. And this goodness is universal and objective.

The villains are incredibly capable individuals, but rather than seeking to serve society, they seek to reshape it, with themselves on top.

Bob may be driven by his ego, his desire to relive his glory days, but he’d never dream of forcing the world to accept him if it meant doing anything remotely villainous. He may resent the normalcy forced on himself and his family, but he doesn’t resent the normalcy, the ordinariness, of others. It is that ordinariness he serves and strives to keep safe.

Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics’ Circle of Australia (FCCA).

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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm