A poster for the upcoming The Incredibles 2 shows an illustration of Edna Mode, the eccentric fashion designer who outfits all superheroes in Metroville. Below her face, the tagline reads “it’s been too long dahlings.”
— 📽 Federico (@TheAnimationBoy) February 8, 2018
The quote is appropriate for how long it’s been since the original was released. Although expectations have been bolstered by other ads stressing the elongated time gap since its predecessor (it’s been 14 years…) and triggering oodles of nostalgia, the bottom line is this: too much has happened for The Incredibles to have the same cultural impact that it did in 2004.
With the 14-year time difference, the landscape of caped crusaders has gotten overly crowded, with several more characters slated to slip on the spandex in the near future. Instead of finding and saving civilians in distress, these protagonists are eager to rescue a box-office floundering outside of the genre — in the top ten all-time grossing films, both domestic and worldwide, nearly half were superhero titles.
In 2004 when The Incredibles was released, superhero flicks were a blossoming genre that was gradually developing a stranglehold at the box office. The Incredibles debuted two weeks before Spider-Man 2, with only seven other Marvel movies preceding during the early 2000s. Of those features, DC bombed with Catwoman in 2004, and hadn’t had a hit since 1995’s Batman Forever; their fortunes would change next year in the form of Batman Begins, but during the early part of the new millennium, they were a non-entity at the movies.
The Incredibles was met with widespread acclaim and garnered two Oscars at the Academy Awards. A sequel was all but guaranteed. And then… nothing happened. Creator Brad Bird kept stressing that he wanted to make a follow-up in interviews, but marquees were absent of posters teasing a sequel. Through the years, Bird insisted he would only make The Incredibles 2 if he conceived an original story. Bird stressed his concerns with making a mindless money maker in a recent interview press conference LRM had a chance to attend at Pixar.
“The thing is, many sequels are cash grabs,” Bird said. “There’s a saying in the business that I can’t stand, where they go, ‘if you don’t make another one, you’re leaving money on the table.’ It’s like, money on the table is not what makes me get up in the morning; making something that people are gonna enjoy a hundred years from now, that’s what gets me up. So if it were a cash grab, we would not have taken fourteen years – it makes no financial sense to wait this long – it’s purely [that] we had a story we wanted to tell.”
A lengthy amount of time to develop a sequel isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but creating one following the dawn of the superhero blockbuster could easily force a new genre offering to get lost in the mix. Since 2004, there’s been an option for every superhero want: studios hire distinct directors with their own vision — some, like Guardians of the Galaxy and the LEGO Batman Movie, are comedies beneath the cowl of their austere superhero doppelgänger. Television shows have tackled the grisly realism of crime-fighting (Netflix’s The Defenders roster) and mental illness in the guise of surrealism (Legion). Antagonists will get their own flicks with Venom slated for November and a Doctor Doom movie in the works by Noah Hawley. Even horror will be introduced in next year’s New Mutants.
Because of this magnitude, it’s difficult for superhero films to tell an original story; criticism laid on the genre often cites a generic Point A to B formula in cobbling together a successful comic book adaptation.
Surprisingly, only one Disney animated superhero was attempted post-The Incredibles. Big Hero 6 was released in 2015 and went on to win Best Animated Picture. This year will see an inspired spin-off show on Disney XD. Big Hero 6 satisfied the absence of any Incredibles sequels, so what could the Pixar follow-up bring to the table?
Pixar attempted a similar way-too-late sequel with Finding Dory and Monsters University, to mixed results. Reviews were positive, but not glowing. Both were regarded as forgettable in comparison to their predecessors, who many regard as ranking in the upper echelons of the Pixar canon. Of the six sequels that Pixar released, only Toy Story 3 received reviews better than the respective original.
Everything that could be done has been done before in the superhero universe. Where The Incredibles was a genre trendsetter á la the release of Watchmen in comic books, anything further can only be treated as fan service — giving us a glimpse at the lives of the Parr family post are fondest memories of them. Pixar has never let us down in the past (to be fair there are detractors and supporters of the Cars franchise), so expect an enjoyable super family caper, albeit an unnecessary Disney venture.