Incredibles 2 (2018)

Director: Brad Bird

Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huckleberry Milner, Samuel L. Jackson

Screenplay: Brad Bird

118 mins. Rated PG for action sequences and some brief mild language.

 

Incredibles 2 was about to become a thing of legend, an anticipated film that seemed to never come. I didn’t believe it myself until the first teaser, but here we are. So then the real question comes, was the wait worth it. Thankfully, yes, it really is.

The sequel picks up right where the first film left off, with The Underminer’s attack on the city. This event triggers more government scrutiny on masked vigilantes, until Bob (Craig T. Nelson, Book Club, TV’s Coach) and Helen (Holly Hunter, The Piano, TV’s Here and Now) are offered to be sponsored by Winston Deaver and the company he runs with his sister, Evelyn. Elastigirl is the first step of the plan to ease the public’s view of heroes because she tends to cause less property damage, leaving Bob behind to take care of the kids. As Elastigirl hunts down the villainous and mysterious Screenslaver, a criminal who uses television screens to hypnotize his victims, Bob struggles to teach Dash (Huckleberry Milner) about New Math, help Violet (Sarah Vowell, A.C.O.D., Please Give) get through boy troubles, and figure out just what the deal is with Jack-Jack.

The first thing to note with Incredibles 2 is how well-structured the film is, especially for picking up right when the first film ended. That’s not an easy feat if it isn’t thoughtfully planned out ahead of time, and it doesn’t sound like the cliffhanger from the first film was planned to be actually resolved, but writer/director Brad Bird (Ratatouille, Tomorrowland) took the story laid out and enhanced the quality of the first film in the process, making a two-film arc that works really well together. These films are two sides of the same coin, and they are both all the better for it. Bird stated numerous times that he wouldn’t make a sequel until he had the right story for it, and Pixar gave him the time to do just that.

An important element of a sequel gestating for 14 years is the need to grow with the audience. The Harry Potter franchise understand the need to grow with its audience, as did Pixar favorite Toy Story, but Incredibles 2 takes it a step further. The violence and adult content associated with the sequel is interesting and risky and proves that Pixar is not a company that makes children’s movies, but instead a company that makes animated films for everyone to enjoy. Incredibles 2 employs the first usage of a gun in a Pixar film as well as heightened language. Again, not issues from this reviewer, but I am proud that Bird is unafraid to grow with his audience and use what it necessary to make the film he wants to make.

The voice work is exemplary here, especially Holly Hunter’s work. She gets a lot more to do here with the lead character swap of the sequel. This is not an easy feat for sequels as well, especially when thinking about Pixar’s previous failure in character-swapping Cars 2. It was disastrous there and it works quite well here, mostly because Helen was a well-written, well-defined character in the first film, whereas Mater was comic relief and never that well-rounded to begin with.

It’s nice to see the reversal and how it affects Bob. He is someone that doesn’t think about anything but saving lives and defeating evil, so forcing him to stay in the shadows is an interesting character arc. I didn’t like how his story roped in Edna Mode, but I can live with it. I was able to relate to him more as a character due to the difficulty he has to face in day-to-day minutiae.

The Screenslaver is an interesting villain this time around. It’s nearly impossible to top Syndrome with the uniqueness of the villain this time around, but I did enjoy the hunt. The big problem from a story perspective is how simple it is to figure out the identity of the Screenslaver. I was putting it together rather easily, and the clues are there. Maybe I was the only one, but I felt it was a clear direction.

I suppose there should be some discussion on the controversy here. Yes, Incredibles 2 has some sequences involving flashing images that may be harmful to people with epilepsy. It was definitely straining to my eyes, and I don’t usually have trouble with that, but I left the theater with a headache. Is it a problem? Yeah, kind of. This was a poor decision and I’m surprised no one thought about the effect it would have on the big screen. I think, at home, it won’t be an issue,but this was a major mistake. There were other ways to make these sequences work on film. Still, I’d rather watch this sequence than discuss the other controversy the film has: public outcry over the lack of “The” in the title (seriously, this was also a thing).

Incredibles 2 is an all-around wonder of a film, and though it isn’t as strong as the first film (but really, that’s a tough ladder to climb), it is still quite an exceptional experience. Barring some pacing issues in the second half of the film, Incredibles 2 is a well-structured and emotionally resonant sequel that moves its core group of characters forward in new and exciting ways. This is definitely one to see.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

xmenthelaststand2006a

Director: Brett Ratner

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellan, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Patrick Stewart

Screenplay: Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn

104 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence, some sexual content and language.

 

After X2: X-Men United, the superhero series was invigorated and raring to go again. Bryan Singer left to direct Superman Returns, so Brett Ratner took over the chair and creative control of the franchise. This has often been seen as a bad idea. Brett Ratner, not to be blunt, is terrible.

xmenthelaststand2006c

It’s the story of the mutants dealing with the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen, GoldenEye, Taken 3) in the previous film. Logan (Hugh Jackman, The Prestige, Prisoners) appears on the surface to have gotten over her death and has taken on a more important role within the school alongside Ororo Munroe (Halle Berry, TV’s Extant, Cloud Atlas). Meanwhile, Eric Lensherr (Ian McKellan, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Golden Compass) has been recruiting new mutants to join The Brotherhood in the fight against the government, which has created a new treatment or “cure” for mutants. Rogue (Anna Paquin, TV’s True Blood, The Piano) is interested in the cure, but her boyfriend Bobby (Shawn Ashmore, TV’s The Following, Frozen).

There a lot of moving plot points in this movie, but the script is far too weak to fully explore them all. There are multiple times when dialogue is unreal, too much exposition is given (or sometimes, not enough), and characters are doing things that betray their character traits.

The actors are trying to perform to a weak script, and most of them do as well as they can, but Brett Ratner focuses too much on trying to be a spectacle, often sacrificing character moments under piles of action. Now, the action is good, and leads to a solid climax which is handled nicely, but we have a conflict of style. On one hand, we have the previous film, which establishes a seriousness and a stake in what happens. On the other hand, we have a goofy style which pushes against and a more-comic-booky look to the film, something that was handled much better in the prequel X-Men: First Class.

While the climax is handled nicely, Ratner chooses to play down the denouement, which, considering this was supposed to be a closing of the trilogy, is what really kills this movie. We have so many plot threads untreated and ultimately unthreaded that it set the series up for several films of trying to fix the damage, before finally X-Men: Days of Future Past was able to do.

xmenthelaststand2006b

This isn’t the worst X-Men movie of all time. That honor is currently held by X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but that doesn’t mean that this wasn’t an epic letdown from X2, and served to topple the franchise for a couple years.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of X-Men, click here.

For my review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of The Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: Days of Future Past, click here.

X-Men (2000)

thCANZFYOI

Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellan, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijn, Ray Park, Anna Paquin

Screenplay: David Hayter

104 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.

 

This is where it all begins. Remember when you saw Spider-Man or Batman Begins or even Iron Man. The Modern Superhero Revolution. It all started 14 years ago when Bryan Singer brought together a star-studded cast and a great script from David Hayter.

X-Men follows Logan (Wolverine) and Marie (Rogue), two lost souls in the near-future, as they team up with Professor X and his heroic team of mutants to stop Magneto from turning human beings into mutants like him. It is a more complex story than I originally expected, with a nice amount of twists and turns.

This cast is one of the main reasons that this film not only succeeded, but also developed the superhero genre into more than cheese. We have Hugh Jackman in his first portrayal as Wolverine, a character who be a staple on the franchise and appear in every installment. Logan is a complex character, and Jackman gets to flex those claws a lot more in later installments, but this is a nice introduction to the character. We get to see the softness in his relationship with Rogue (Anna Paquin, TV’s True Blood, The Piano). We also get a nice strong turn from Halle Berry (Cloud Atlas, The Call), still somewhat early in her career (we are talking pre-Bond girl Berry here), as Storm.

thCAUZCK19

Nice work should go to Famke Janssen and James Marsden as Jean Grey and Cyclops, respectively. Their relationship in this film offers some conflict to be mined, and Marsden is portraying Cyclops for crying out loud, not an easy sell, as the character could have just come off as silly.

All these able performances are under the powerhouse work of Bromance buddies Patrick Stewart (TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation, Ice Age: Continental Drift) and Ian McKellan (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Stardust). These two classically-trained actors bring such depth to the characters of Professor X and Magneto. They carry the film and up the ante for future comic book adaptations.

The soundtrack in this film is absolutely iconic now. I find myself humming it and getting pumped up at the same time, very nice work.

The special effects do seem a bit dated, but there isn’t much to be done about that.

thCA7HSLO9

This is a great start to a franchise and every single superhero movie since owes something to Bryan Singer’s incredible saga. You really feel like you know the characters from this original outing alone. Easily one of the most impressive superhero blockbusters of recent memory.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of The Wolverine, click here.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑