Incredible really is the word for Brad Bird’s Incredibles 2, a thoughtful, intelligent, hilarious and visually stupendous sequel to Disney Pixar’s first superhero adventure. It was always a curiosity how this was going to do; so many sequels that arrive a decade after their beloved predecessor can feel vague or disjointed by the gulf of time. This one jumps right back into the hot seat like it never left, feeling both new and organic as a continuing story and reminiscent of the first outing’s magic. Literally dropping us right back near the ending we remember where a little mole dude called the Underminer creates new trouble for our heroes, a gigantic bank robbery sequence sets the stage for the film to come as well as the ongoing and and now more complex issues that superheroes face in the eyes of the public and in the favour of the government. The real joy of the film comes from the family dynamic though, particularly between Bob ‘Mr. Incredible’ Parr and the kids. When an influential tycoon (a peppy Bob Odenkirk) and his techie sister (silk voiced Catherine Keener) develop a new promotional program to put supers in the positive spotlight, they recruit Susan ‘Elastagirl’ Parr (Holly Hunter) as their front runner. This pus Bob in the stay at home Dad seat, and in those sequences the film really finds a fresh voice, showcasing some hilarious and poignant sequences. The visual fireworks come full blast as Elastagirl battles a mysterious enemy called the Screenslaver and runs about the city with all kinds of gadgets including a souped up new motorbike. Samuel L. Jackson’s Frozone is back too, and there’s a whole new gallery of interesting supers all brought into the fold by Odenkirk’s character. Edna Mode returns too, still hysterically voiced by director Bird himself. The magic of these films is that they’re not just flashy gloss or simply Disney fireworks, there’s actually themes to work through and things to ponder on their journey. I admire the addressing of media manipulation and collusion in how the supers are represented in the news, something that’s commonplace in the states today, as well as the raw angst of being a parent and trying to protect your young while simultaneously saving the world and rocketing around between very dangerous situations. This one is a winner, a little more dense and story heavy than the first was, but still knows how to have a great time in the action department, from chases aboard both a runaway subway train and a massive luxury ocean liner in the fast paced third act. Still feels as classy, cool and entertaining as the first, with a retro futurist vibe, striking tactile animation and a script packed with wit and innovation.
Disney/Pixar’s Big Hero 6 is the perfect example of what we should expect from animated films: dazzling, imaginative, passionate fables set across times and dimensions with no shortage of expanse or varied themes and visual splendour. It does seem that with each new outing (they’ve recently outdone themselves with Inside Out) they reach further for the stars and pull something out of the hat with qualities that somehow get better and better each time around. 6 is a miracle of innovation and future-house scientific pyrotechnics, a story that calls on everyone who ever wanted to try their hand at robotics, engineering or dazzling computer tech to take a look at the images on display here. In the futuristic metropolis of SanfranSokyo, the search for scientific progress and new discoveries reigns supreme, free from other pesky constraints like the R word (the way it should be in every society, tbh), and everybody is a pseudo Asian American brainiac devoted to brilliant new ideas and ingenuity, basically one giant year round science fair that doesn’t quit. Young Hiro (Ryan Potter) worships the endeavours of his prodigy of an older brother, who whips new inventions out of his sleeve every day, until one of them garners the attention of a shadowy arch villain, hijacking it for himself, resulting in his bro’s death. Left behind for comfort and companionship is giant Michelin Man robot Baymax, an adorable fatso who uses his Inspector Gadget level itinerary of utilities and rotund charm to befriend Hiro, while coaching him through the dangerous waters of seeking revenge. He’s joined along the way by many friends with voices from TJ Miller, Jamie Chung, James Cromwell and more, blasting off into one of the most visually stimulating Sci Fi adventures the world of animation has ever seen. Every kind of tool, gizmo and tech marvel is on display somewhere, and not just plonked in there as Dr. Seuss-ical sideshow diversions either, everything has a logical and specific purpose to fit it’s garish appearance and style. Baymax is the highlight, a big baby with a heart as big as his waistline who knows just when to lay down the comic relief when things get heavy. They do get heavy too, this is a mature film that treats subjects like loss, anger and moral corruption seriously, it’s a fantastical world inhabited by humans that couldn’t be more real or fleshed out, a recipe that Pixar has been perfecting for sometime now, since the first human leading characters showed up in The Incredibles. The Sci Fi is laid on thick enough for any geek to run with, and we’re reminded of everything from Stranger Things to Astro Boy and more with this package. If Pixar plans to keep climbing uphill in terms of quality, this is one hell of a brilliant plateau, and I can’t wait to see where they ascend too from it on rocket powered boots of inspiration and magic.
While Finding Dory is not the same magic that Nemo was back in 2004 (it’s hard to catch that kind of lightning in a bottle twice), it’s safe to say it’s it’s own awesome little movie, and as far as a sequel goes, passes with flying colors. It’s more or less structured the same way as the first in terms of plot, adding it’s own twists, new characters and a core message that relates to previous themes while intrepidly covering new ground. My only complaint is I wish it were longer. It seemed to be over in a flash, even for a reliably slim Pixar running time. It would have been nice to have an extra 15 or 20 minutes to flesh out a few scenes, and elaborate a bit more on one particular character. Even so, what we get is completely charming and inspired. It starts off pretty much where we left off, with Nemo, Marlin and Dory living happily on the reef, intercut with scenes featuring an infant Dory who is most likely the cutest little thing to ever be seen in a Pixar movie. It’s revealed that a long time ago she was separated from her parents (Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton), and has grown up lost, adrift and afflicted by her relentless memory disorder. When an interaction triggers memories of them, she sets off with Marlin and Nemo in tow, on a merry quest across the ocean to connect with her roots. A great deal of this one is spent in a Sea World like habitat, which is another change and leaves room for many more new jokes and creatures. An octopus named Hank (Ed O Neil) begrudgingly helps her out, as well as a nearsighted whale shark (Kaitlyn Olsen), and as beluga (Ty Burrell) whose echo location is busted, providing one of the best jokes. There’s also a couple of exuberant seals played by Idris Elba and Dominic West, a few returning familiar faces and an epic cameo by a huge star, dead panning the voice of the aquarium tourist announcer in classic Pixar good humour. The film stresses the importance of acceptance and resilience, putting forth the idea that someone with a debilitating condition can in fact find their own unique method of coping, and achieving their goals despite the symptoms of their ailment. Trust Pixar time and time again to take mature, lofty themes and mold them into totally relatable fables that never preach, and are distilled to a point where the little ones can absorb them right alongside their parents. Like I said before, the film needs a bit more padding in its narrative to feel complete, which may materialize in an extended dvd version. What we have here is brilliant enough though, and didn’t disappoint.