An Incredible Sequel

Pixar films are always preceded by a short film, so this blog post will be preceded by a short blog post. I have noticed that recently on social media some articles have been circulating claiming that some audience are confused by the short film Bao.  My personal and unprofessional opinion is that those people who are “confused” by this short are most likely heartless or racially prejudiced as some other articles claim.  Regardless of the cultural background of the characters, there is a universal theme present in this story – the relationship between a parent and child.  This is the story of an overprotective mother who is deeply affected by her empty nest, and although food is used as a metaphor in this story it is really not difficult to picture a child in the place of the dumpling.  I don’t even have children and I was bawling my eyes out over what this mother was going through.  It is a beautiful and moving short film and I commend Writer/Director Domee Shi on a job well done.

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I think it is safe to say that this was a much anticipated sequel.  In fact, that may even be an understatement.  I remember seeing The Incredibles (2004) when I was in middle school – I had a superhero themed birthday party because of that film – and since then I know that a lot of fans had been hoping for a sequel.  But there’s always that fear with sequels that it won’t be as good as the original, or that it will “ruin” the franchise.  And the fact that fans had to wait 14 years for a sequel certainly doesn’t help ease the tension.  Personally, if I have to wait 14 years for the sequel of a film that I love it had better be a damn good sequel.  I think all audience members were expecting Brad Bird and his team to really wow us.  Thankfully, I can say that this film was certainly worth the wait.  It was INCREDIBLE (pardon the pun).

Now I will admit that there are elements to this film that some people have found off-putting due to the stress they cause.  The main culprit is the flashing, hypnotic, black and white screens the Screenslaver uses on their victims.  Not only has this issue been receiving a lot of bad press on social media, as well as sparking many discussions, but there is a disclaimer at the beginning of the film warning that these scenes may cause difficulties for some viewers.  Overall, I was not affected by these scenes, but there were still some moments that definitely made me squint and want to look away – and I don’t even suffer from any light sensitivities or related issues!  I have family members who saw the film and suffer from migraines and ocular migraines and they did not experience any issues, but that does not mean that everyone who sees this movie won’t have any problems.  Although I understand why these effects were used in the film, this sort of thing is not for everyone so viewer discretion is advised.

Another aspect that some on social media have found stressful is at the heart of the plot itself. The family life of the Parrs is certainly not a dull one. The entire film is rather fast paced as even the domestic scenes of the film are hectic.  In the first film, as the story centres around a kind of mid-life crisis, the domestic scenes are calmer and almost boring to contrast against the excitement of the life of a super hero. In the sequel, however, as Elastigirl / Hellen Parr (Holly Hunter) is out on the streets fighting grand battles, Mr. Incredible / Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) is left at home with their three children as he fights his own battles to be an incredible father.  And the fact that these characters are super heroes really has little to do with it.  Take away their powers and the problems this family faces at home are very real.  Perhaps that is why some have found it stressful; audiences are being drawn in by the current popularity of superhero films only to find that the issues these heroes face hit a little too close to home.  Powers or no powers, it is very stressful to watch Bob Parr navigate the challenges of parenthood.

However, I find that this is part of what makes these films so appealing. The problems the Parrs face across the two films are real and relatable: parenthood, mid-life crisis, work/home life balance, adolescence and growing up, struggling to fit in.  And there are even more themes that could be extrapolated from both films that are completely plausible and relatable to us non-supers watching these films.  All of this is expertly packaged in a nostalgic yet modern style that suggest that these issues are timeless and that the events could occur in the past, present, or future.  Despite the futuristic tech, the events of the film take place around the 1960s, but there is still the sense that any of this could easily take place in the here and now.  The challenges of family life are, I would argue, universal and I think that is why audiences love these films.  We are not watching god-like heroes on screen; this is a “normal” family just trying to get by and that makes it easier to see ourselves in these heroes.

And on a personal, less serious, note: I think I speak for many audiences when I say that I am so happy we finally got to see the fight against The Underminer (John Ratzenberger) after all these years.

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