MOVIE REVIEW: The Incredibles 2

written by David Steffen

The Incredibles 2 is a superhero family action/comedy animated feature from Pixar, released in June 2018.  It’s the sequel to The Incredibles, the first in the series, released way back in 2004.  The Incredibles 2 picks up where the first one left off, after the superhero family has had their first big win together thwarting Syndrome’s plan to set up superheroes for failure, and with the emergence of the Underminer’s big drilling machine from under the city.

The family joins together again to save the city from the Underminer (John Ratzenberger), and soon after Elastigirl aka Helen Parr (Holly Hunter), Mr. Incredible aka Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson), and Frozone aka Lucius Best (Samuel L. Jackson) are approached by rich superhero-sympathist brother-and-sister business partners Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and Evelyn Deavor (Catherine Keener), who want to start a new campaign to make superheroes legal again, starting with financing Elastigirl to fight crime and improve the public image of supers.  Bob and Helen talk it through and decide that she should do it, in part to make a more accepting future for their children Dash (Huck Milner) and Violet (Sarah Vowell).  Bob stays home to watch the kids while Helen goes out on this mission, and their baby Jack-Jack begins manifesting superpowers.  Soon a new supervillain rises, Screenslaver (Bill Wise), who uses hypnosis to turn others into his minions.

People who are susceptible to strobelight-triggered seizures should be aware that there are some scenes which have intense strobe effects without warning, so I would suggest you should avoid this movie for your health.

Overall this movie fits Pixar’s high-caliber storytelling, lots of fun action, funny lines, memorable images, and high adventure.  As with almost all of Pixar’s other movies I would highly recommend it, and I would see it again myself given the opportunity.  In particular, with a young child myself, I completely related to Bob Parr at home trying to take care of a superpowered baby who has teleported into another dimension or has turned into a monster at the mention of cookies.

But there was something that bugged me about one of the storytelling choices here that is not up to Pixar’s usual storytelling standards–Pixar pulled a major and obvious retcon of the events from the first movie… and it’s not clear why.  At the end of The Incredibles, they discover Jack-Jack has powers.  It is, in fact, a major plot point that contributes to the resolution.  The super-villain Syndrome is very good at risk-assessment and he has plans for how to deal with every anticipated threat.  The only way that they succeed in defeating him is that he tries to kidnap Jack-Jack and Jack-Jack suddenly starts manifesting powers in an highly unpredictable way.  This distracts Syndrome long enough and he ends up getting sucked into a jet engine and the jet crashed on the Parrs’ house.  But… Pixar has apparently decided that somehow, Syndrome was defeated, and the Parrs’ house was destroyed by a jet crash, but that somehow this happened without Jack-Jack manifesting his powers.  And now Jack-Jack unexpectedly manifesting powers is a major plot point in this movie.  I suspect that they did this because they felt it would be implausible for Helen to leave Bob alone with the family right after Jack-Jack starts showing powers, but they could’ve figured out a way to write around that.  So that bugged me, not enough to hate the movie, but enough that it was distracting, especially when each character declared “Jack-Jack has powers?!” as though we hadn’t already known about all that already.


Movie Review: The Avengers

written by David Steffen

I’ve been a fan of Marvel Comics and their various media productions for a long time. The most recent of their movie productions is “The Avengers.” As far as I know it’s unique in taking several other recent successful Marvel title superhero movies and combining them with the same actors into a single movie. Robert Downey Jr. as Ironman, Chris Evans as Captain America, and Chris Hemsworth as Thor, each of which had held the title role in a recent Marvel movie.

I’ve gotten behind on my Marvel movies in the last few years. I saw Iron Man, but not Thor or Captain America (I think it’s weird that Chris Evans plays both Captain America and Johnny Storm, but I digress), so even though I was aware of these other movies, I hadn’t seen these other characters in action until now.

The movie begins as Thor’s brother Loki crosses into our world with the intent to lead an army of warriors from another dimension to enslave the Earth. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) calls on the disparate group of superheroes codenamed the Avengers to battle this menace. The group has yet to be formed at that point, but the group put together is made up of Iron Man, Black Widow, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America. The group has been chosen for their power, not for their teamwork, which becomes clear very early on as squabbles ensue regarding who is making the decisions. But as Loki’s war looms ever larger, they have to find a way to work together to stop this dire threat to Earth.

A fair warning: this is a long movie. 143 minutes long. But that’s to be expected for a movie based around a group of 5 title characters played by big budget actors. To really make a movie based around the whole group, each character has to have some time spent on their character arc, in a way that allows them all to combine into the major plot arc. This was a difficult balance to strike, but I think they did it admirably well. Never did I feel that one of the characters was hogging the screentime, and each character got his chance at scenes that revolved around them, as well as scenes that involved lots of quick fighting and/or dialogue between them and other members of the team.

The plot was reasonably good. Was it corny at times? Sure, I mean its based around a team that includes a Norse God and an over-patriotic 1940s superhero battling space aliens, so a bit of corniness is a given. But the makers of the movie took these strange and disparate, apparently clashing elements, and made them into a cohesive action-packed riproaring good time of a movie. The interactions between these different powerhouse superhumans are one of the best parts, especially Iron Man’s cynical self-reverence onscreen with Captain America’s “ask what you can do for your country” attitude. Tony Stark/Iron Man still gets the best clever lines, and Downey pulls them off wonderfully.

THE best part, though (and this surprised me) was watching the Incredible Hulk smash… well, pretty much whatever gets in his way. I’m surprised because I would’ve expected to prefer something less predictable and more intellectual. I mean, it’s no mystery that the Hulk can pretty much smash anything and is apparently impervious to everything, so where’s the tension? Maybe that’s a way in which movies can have a different kind of appeal that written work. I didn’t feel any tension about the Hulk because I knew he’d survive and I knew he’d wreck a lot of stuff in the process, but the sheer spectacle of his fighting was like watching a natural disaster, inevitable destruction after which all you can do is try to clean up. If they’d filled a whole movie with that I probably would’ve gotten bored (I haven’t seen the Eric Bana and Edward Norton Hulk movies of the last ten years) but it was paced very well so that the Hulk only came out a few times but he stole the stage every time he did.

I’d recommend this movie for any comic fan, action fan, anyone who just wants a good riproaring time.