The Incredibles 2 has opened to an absolute monster of a weekend across America, raking in $180 million. I saw the film way past most kids’ bedtimes, because all the other showings were sold out, but the line buzzed down the block anyway. And while children pinged around the sidewalk with excitement, I was far from the only lone adult in attendance—impressive for a movie whose predecessor came out 14 long years ago, in the year Facebook was founded.
The new movie sees the Parr family little changed by the passing of the years, though much improved by technological advances. They move more naturally and their hair looks better. The family has barely aged, however, and the plot is basically the same. Again, superheroes have been banned by the authorities on the grounds that they’re too dangerous. In the first movie, the “supers” were forced into secret identities, like a witness protection program. In the new film, superheroes are explicitly described as “illegal,” and the legality (or not) of being a superhero takes on a rhetorical flavor of immigration activism, even civil rights history.
Superheroes of all stripes are in vogue now; that part of America’s cinema-going palate is hyper-developed. But the Incredibles have their particular charms. These superheroes—Bob and Helen Parr, aka Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, and their children Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack—are cast in the traditional mold of comic-book champions, à la Superman. They help out little old ladies. They stop runaway trains. They live ordinary lives, they save the world.
The Parrs also cavort amid a very distinctive visual milieu. The world of The Incredibles looks, in the words of director Brad Bird, “like what we thought the