Worth the wait, ‘Incredibles 2’ is an animated Marvel

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Disney Pixar /Courtesy

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Grade: 4.0/5.0

There’s always buzz surrounding a Disney/Pixar release, but the energy surrounding the release of “Incredibles 2” was, well, incredible.

With a 14-year hiatus that to many felt unbearably long, “Incredibles 2” is certainly worth the wait. While the Parker family is still grappling with the illegality of Supers, this time around it’s Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) who takes up the mantle of saving the world. Both nostalgic and revamped, “Incredibles 2” delivers a thrilling and solid addition to the Disney/Pixar filmography.

Right off the bat, the animation in “Incredibles 2” is good. Really good.

Each character receives a polished and subtle reworking, from an elevated update of Elastigirl’s hair to a sprinkling of freckles that lies across the bridge of Dash’s (Huck Milner) nose. While these details take some getting used to, they likely won’t even be noticed until a few minutes after the film’s fast-paced opening.

The elevated pacing is another one of the sequel’s noticeable differences. While “The Incredibles” feels like an animated movie with action movie references, “Incredibles 2” is more like an action movie that happens to be animated — its opening action scene feels directly informed by the more recent popularity of Marvel films. Quicker cuts and close-ups constitute its visual language in a departure from the structure of action scenes in the previous film, though this is to the sequel’s detriment.

The fight sequences in the first film shine because they place the entire family at their center. Scenes such as the jungle fight, in which the family bands together to take down Syndrome’s goons, or the climactic battle against the robot that forces familial cooperation are some of the finest moments in “The Incredibles.”

However, this super-family camaraderie is markedly less present in the sequel. The action tends to mirror the one-on-one battles peppered through the Marvel ouvre. Yet this is certainly not the only reference “Incredibles 2” makes, with its penchant for prioritizing visual spectacle further veering toward Marvel territory.

Tipping a hat to the short “Jack-Jack Attack,” “Incredibles 2” presents Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) in a more prominent role and surprisingly gifts him with a wide range of superabilities. The speed at which Jack-Jack displays these powers makes a definitive list hard to compile, but his extreme range of talents situates Jack-Jack as one of the more powerful beings in the universe.

Yet the film doesn’t seem to take this into consideration, with Jack-Jack’s range of powers feeling more like an opportunity to showcase the animation tools Pixar has at its disposal. Although Jack-Jack’s abilities are impressive, one wonders whether his powers serve a narrative function, with the emphasis on visual gratification being yet another seemingly Marvel-inspired move.

However, while Marvel may be infamous for its forgettable villains, “Incredibles 2” doesn’t make this pitfall, with the construction of Screenslaver (Bill Wise) standing as one of the film’s most impressive achievements. The titillating fight between Screenslaver and Elastigirl stands apart as a visual wonder, with pulsing strobe lights and undulating patterns splattering the background behind their fistfight. Visually embodying the appearance of a steampunk scarecrow, Screenslaver delivers a monologue that’s absolutely chilling, one that effectively cuts the noise in the audience to a deadened silence.

It’s almost a shame when Screenslaver finally becomes unmasked, as the mystery and menace the film crafts into this character surpass the generic origin story bequeathed to Syndrome in the original. But, as with most superhero movies, good ultimately triumphs over evil. “Incredibles 2,” with updated animation and souped-up action sequences, ultimately delivers a satisfying sequel, all while maintaining the importance of family at its center.

In the age of sequels, those iconic red jumpsuits will likely be seen again, with Jack-Jack most likely as the series’ next villain — come on, that kid is definitely going to take over the world.

Sarah Alford covers film. Contact her at [email protected].