Ever since Disney and Pixar announced they’d be making The Incredibles 2, I’ve been obsessed with it. Partially that’s because I’m such a huge fan of Brad Bird’s original, pitch perfect superhero team/family film. But also it’s because I can’t figure out how the hell they’re going to make it work.
For the first time in Pixar’s history, they face the challenge of dealing with characters who age, in a sequel. This isn’t an issue they’ve had before, because none of the movies they’ve made sequels to featured humans in prominent roles. Andy grew up in the Toy Story films, but that worked thematically, and he isn’t the main character. Wall-E used humans and age as a plot point and Up is about aging but those were both self-contained films. In the movies that have gotten sequels—Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Cars, Finding Nemo—none of the main characters are human, so no big visual modifications were needed. The Incredibles 2 finally offers up that opportunity.
But will Pixar take it? The way I see it, there are only two possible ways the film could go when it hits theaters, probably in 2018.
One way to handle the sequel is to pick up the story seconds after the first film ends and keep the characters as they are. To refresh your memory, the Parr family (Bob, Helen, Violet, Dash and Jack Jack) have embraced the fact they’re a family of superheroes and all suit up to take on a new villain, the Underminer, right before the credits roll. In theory, the sequel could start with that fight and then move on from there, showing the struggles of being a superhero family. Even if you don’t start with that actual fight, the movie could pick up soon afterwards.
The other potential way The Incredibles 2 could go would be to embrace the age thing and jump ahead a bunch of years (pretty much anything between five and 25 years could make sense). That would allow Bird to explore the Parrs in a whole different way, both thematically and visually.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of both approaches—and try and figure out if there’s even a way for Pixar to match, or potentially top, such an amazing movie:
If Pixar starts the sequel right after the first movie ends, the most obvious plus is you get to keep the characters as they were in the first movie. Animation offers that rare opportunity to avoid worrying about characters having to age over time. 15 years can pass, and your characters could not have aged one second. Why make things difficult for yourself if you don’t have to? Pretend you’re The Simpsons, and just don’t worry about it.
Storywise though, it could go either way. If the world hasn’t changed much since the first movie, a bunch of really great elements would already be in place. You’re given a built-in start point with a readymade villain, and a readymade storyline about the return of the supers. On the other hand, how much can have changed in a matter of days or weeks? How much can the world have progressed since the first movie? Maybe a lot, but maybe a little.
You have to imagine for Pixar to want to make The Incredibles 2 at all, the kids—Dash, Violet and Jack Jack—have to be more prominent characters this time around too. That means more complex storylines and that’s a bit more difficult if they’re still the same age, especially Jack Jack, who is still a baby.
Then again, if the film is set right after the original, it makes for a pretty fantastic double feature. And a movie about the team finding their way in the world—the first superhero family, complete with secret identities—is a very rich idea, one that could easily create some of that much needed drama.
Pixar loves a challenge, and to do new things, and an Incredibles sequel that jumps ahead in time creates that opportunity on multiple levels, both good and bad. First and foremost, all the characters have to be aged up, which visually isn’t that big a deal but becomes a huge deal story wise. With more time having passed, there’s more room for the characters to be increasingly dynamic. In the original film, Violet was just becoming a teenager. What happens if she’s in college now? What about Dash in high school? Jack Jack in elementary school? And how have they been living for years as superheroes? Do their friends know? Their boyfriends/girlfriends?
With the kids and the parents being somewhat older, the story opens itself up masterfully. Maybe the kids want to take over the family business. Maybe they don’t. Maybe Bob and Helen want to pass the torch but only one of the kids is interested. Maybe one of them becomes a villain. Maybe they’ve all been heroes for so long, they’re tired of it. Each of these ideas seems pretty interesting.
However, the ideas set up in the first movie—about a world that shunned supers and now accepts them at the end—might get muted as a result of moving ahead in time. You skip that ripe dramatic moment where the world has to decide if they want to allow superheroes back into society. The first movie took care of this in a series of flashbacks and montages, a technique a sequel could certainly do too, but that conflict is almost too good to pass up.
With an older family of Incredibles, there’s also the question what’s the hook for the younger, Disney audience? Do they want to watch a bunch people older than them fighting crime? They can see that in Marvel movies. Pixar has surely proved they can make a kids’ movie without actual kids, and featuring much more adult themes, but that childish sense of wonder is one of the best things about the original film.
The first Incredibles works so well because it creates a world, sets up stakes, then slowly builds a story to complicate that world. Superheroes were great, until people resented and shunned them, and now they feel under-appreciated and a villain—Syndrome—unknowingly ushers in their return. Plus, that all happens along with the touching story of a family at a crossroads, professionally and personally.
The first movie also left a few fantastic storylines open for exploration. How does a family stay a family if they’re also superheroes? Do they all go out fighting crime at once? How do they know when to stop? The defeat of Syndrome opens up more questions—along with a world where there will be more superheroes, and maybe even superhero families. Imagine the Parrs feuding with another superhero family?
I think, no matter what way writer/director Brad Bird and his team at Pixar decide to go, The Incredibles 2 has a chance to be not just good, but better, than the original. There’s simply too much cool stuff already on the table in both timelines, and Pixar rarely does things in a predictable fashion. Who knows? Maybe there’s a whole new spin—like The Incredibles Go To Space or something—ready to blow our minds. You have to think this is going to be much less Cars 2, and more Toy Story 2. Or even 3.
So what’s the official line on The Incredibles 2? Well, at the D23 Expo, there was an Incredibles 2 poster but no release date or news. Back in May, Brad Bird said he was writing it and that’s surely still the case. We did contact Disney/Pixar for a comment on this but, obviously, there wasn’t one. I do think I heard a faint laugh at the audacity to ask if they’d spoil a movie that’s at least three years away though.
If Bird decides to go with the younger family, there are so many great elements set in place. On the other hand, an older family offers up its own cornucopia of potential issues. I tend to believe Pixar likes to take the road less traveled, so The Incredibles 2 will likely show us the Parrs a few years down the road. Either way, the material is so fertile, the sequel has a real shot living up to the incredible original.