Incredibles 2

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Brad Bird

Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Helen Hunt, Sarah Vowell, Samuel L. Jackson, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, Eli Fucile, and Sophia Bush.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 14 years since the first incredibles film was released back in 2004. Considered by many one of the best super hero movies ever made, the exploits of the Parr family were an instant classic, so it’s a surprise that in a world where we’ve had 3 Cars movies, 3 Toy Story movies, a sequel to Monsters Inc. and a sequel to Finding Nemo, that it’s taken this long. That’s mainly down to writer and director Brad Bird, who has been spending his time in live action, having directed Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Tomorrowland in the years between. He returns here, bringing his retro-futuristic style back to the big screen. A cynic would say that it’s a safe move after the box office failure of Tomorrowland, but I’d like to believe he felt he had a good enough idea to warrant going back.

Incredibles 2 starts exactly where the first film left off. With Underminer attacking the city, and the Parr family suiting up to stop him. It doesn’t go perfectly, and the Parrs’ get a wrap on the knuckles as they are reminded that superheroes are illegal. Dejected, the Parr family go back to motel living whilst Bob contemplates taking back his old job. This is when Winston and Evelyn Deavor show up. The brother and sister duo behind a huge tech company who want to help legalise heroes again. To do this they require Elastigirl to be the new face of supers. She wreaks the least amount of havoc during her heroics. So whilst Helen Parr is off fighting crime as Elastigirl, it’s up to Bob to look after the kids, including baby Jack-Jack whose powers are just starting to emerge.

Structurally, Incredibles 2 follows the same format as the first movie. The premise here though is the role reversal between Bob and Helen. This time it’s Bob left at home, and Helen is the one who gets to shine as a superhero. Bird deftly cuts between the two, finding a sweet balance between huge action sequences and domestic comedy. If the structure is familiar, it does allows for new avenues to be explored. In the first movie Helen’s domestic story revolved around believing Bob was having an affair, here though Bob has to learn to set aside his own pride to allow his wife to shine, and work out that sometimes a subtler approach to parenting is needed. Helen’s action beats could be considered as more of the same superhero antics, but Bird changes the tone here from the first film. Elastigirl is a different kind of hero from Mr Incredible, and the tone reflects that. She uses her brain as much as her powers, and her action beats have more of a Batman influence to them, especially a night time scene which combines the best of The Dark Knight and Batman: The Animated Series.

If the action sequences thrill, the thing that holds the film together is the comedy. The film really soars when the super heroics are combined with everyday family life. This is best summed up when Jack-Jack meets a raccoon. It’s action packed and hilarious, by far the stand out scene in the movie. In a way though it showcases the fact that Incredibles 2 doesn’t quite hit the very high watermark of the first film. Helen is on her own doing the super heroics, and Bob’s parenting, especially of Dash and Violet, is rarely informed by their powers. The scenes with Jack-Jack stand out so much because they flawlessly combine domestic life with super powers.

As we’ve come to expect from sequels the roster of heroes is expanded. We get to meet the new superheroes at a dinner party, which is reminiscent of Watchmen. The disappointment is that they don’t really add much to the film. The only one that stands out is Voyd, who seems to have been modelled on Kristen Stewart. It feels like a slightly wasted opportunity. The villain is suitably different enough from the first film, coming across as a mix between Bane and The Riddler, but is let down by a telegraphed end of second act twist, which is almost identical to the first film.

Incredibles 2 is a fantastic super hero movie. The action is fun, and the jokes are hilarious. It’s flaws are only exposed by the fact it has to measure up to The Incredibles, one of the best super hero movies ever made. If the structure feels slightly tired, it does add plenty of new ideas and tones, some work, and some don’t. It doesn’t plum the emotional depths that we’ve come to expect from Pixar, but is nonetheless a thoroughly entertaining ride.

7/10

Coco

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina

Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach.

Pixar are pretty much unmatched in the field of animation. Their back catalogue is filled with certified classics. In recent years there have been complaints that the studio has suffered a dip in quality, with the amount of sequels being singled out as the problem, but even when Pixar are below their usual high standards, they are still head and shoulders above their peers. For every Monsters University there is a Toy Story 3, and for every Good Dinosaur there is a Inside Out. Going into Coco, you can only hope that this measures up against those gems.

Coco is the story of Miguel, a Mexican boy who feels that he is cursed as his family has banned music, and he loves music. When they thwart his plans to play a talent show during the Day Of The Dead, he attempts to steal his deceased hero’s guitar. He believes his hero, Ernesto de la Cruz, is his great great grandad, the man who left his wife and baby, and set off the families hatred of music. The Day Of The Dead is a festival in which the deceased can pass back into the land of the living, but when Miguel steals the guitar he enters into the Land Of The Dead. He will be trapped there permanently unless he gets the blessing of his dead relatives, but they won’t give it to him unless he refuses to play music ever again. This leads Miguel to enlist the help of Hector, a man who is being forgotten by his last relative which will lead to his second death, to get him to Ernesto so he can get a blessing and still play music.

Coco is a gorgeous movie. The world building, the use of green, purple and orange hues creating a vibrant colour palette, and the look of the characters. It’s astonishing that 18 years on from Toy Story, animation has progressed this much. It’s jaw-dropping what Pixar have managed to achieve in this movie. Other animation houses don’t even come close. There are times when you question if what you are seeing is completely computer generated or not, it is that photo-realistic. There is so much fun to be had in exploring the Land Of The Dead as well. The way the world is built is fantastic, it’s intriguing, innovative, and intricate.

Music is an integral part of the film. There was remit for this to go so wrong. The mariachi Disney fan fare at the beginning is as close as this film gets to pastiche, and the rest of the musical sequences are so heartfelt, honest, and true, the songs become the emotional back bone of the movie, and this is an emotional movie. The same can be said about the way the Mexican culture is used, the obvious affection shining through in every frame.

Pixar have dealt with death before, but here it is a central theme, along with legacy, family, and the old chestnut of being yourself. If you’re not crying by the end of the movie you’re a colder person than me. Unkrich and Molina also have fun in subverting some of your expectations. Ernesto’s message of seizing your moment, which Miguel puts so much stock in, turning sinister by the end, adding another dimension to a film that could have been very by the numbers. The set-up, whilst complicated, leads to a very simple plot, but this is a kids movie, and yes, Pixar have used this outline before, but who cares when it looks as good as this, and still resonates hard on every level.

Coco is another classic in the Pixar library. A film about family, and the memories you leave behind. This take its place next to Inside Out, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc. and the Toy Story Trilogy as some of the finest modern day animations. It will thrill the kids and delight the parents. Sitting through the trailers for other animated movies that are being aimed at young audiences, and it’s almost laughable how far ahead Pixar are. They treat all their audience members with respect and intelligence, and fill their movies with genuine love and affection. Looking at the OSCAR nominations for Best Animated Picture, and seeing Coco sitting next to The Boss Baby really highlights how far behind everyone else is.

9/10