'Incredibles 2': Weighing the Risks of Following a Classic

Not all superhero stories have to be ongoing.
Courtesy of Everett Collection

The news that The Incredibles 2 has jumped ahead a year in the release schedule caused a stir when it broke Wednesday, but as excitement builds for Brad Bird's return to his 2004 animated superhero epic, it's worth wondering: Does the world really need a second Incredibles?

On the one hand, there's a certain inevitability to the prospect of continuing The Incredibles in one form or another; it's a superhero story, after all, and the most common form of those remains the ongoing comic book series where one adventure is followed by another and another, until sales dictate otherwise. Not for nothing has one of Superman's comic book taglines referred to a "never-ending battle" against evil. One Incredibles story is over? Why, it only makes sense that there should be another. (The movie already has enjoyed a comic book continuation from Boom! Studios in 2009, it should be pointed out. That lasted 19 issues in total, across two different series.)

My worries may be unfounded. This could turn out to be The Empire Strikes Back, The Wrath of Khan or The Godfather: Part II.

And yet, there's the traditional anxiety about sequels. The "should we really go back?" of it all, if you like. After all, The Incredibles wasn't a monthly comic book — it was a story that was structured to have a beginning, middle and, most importantly, an end. Sure, the end suggested future adventures and crime fighting, but in such a way that those adventures felt best left to the imagination; the emotional (and thematic) story of the characters was completed, with nothing obviously left undone for a latter installment. Everything that came after was an epilogue, or so it seemed.

More than a monthly title, The Incredibles resembled the comic book miniseries that played with familiar heroes (or analogues) to make a larger point: Watchmen, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns or Kingdom Come, for example — projects that engage with superhero tropes and characters, but don't rely on them and can be enjoyed by noncomic fans without fear of getting lost in a larger mythology or ongoing storyline. And, in many ways, it's that analogous relationship that makes me so nervous about The Incredibles 2.

You see, there have been sequels to Kingdom Come and The Dark Knight Returns and a whole raft of prequels to Watchmen — and in every single instance, they've been disappointing when compared with the original. That's not to say they're bad, per se, just as it's unlikely that The Incredibles 2 will be bad. It's just that they not only add little, if anything, to the original project, they somehow taint the original by association in many people's eyes; what was a complete piece of work becomes part of a lesser whole.

Bird suggesting that The Incredibles 2 will feature leftover ideas from the first movie doesn't help this impression. Perhaps what made the original so effective was that it was honed down to remove this kind of "one more thing" thinking.

The same, admittedly, can be said of Pixar's other sequels. As good as Toy Story 2 or Finding Dory are, do they really feel as essential or even as fun as their predecessors? Did Cars 2 make the first Cars any deeper? It's a recurring theme that doesn't leave me any more glad that The Incredibles 2 will finally arrive in theaters 14 years after the original.

I might simply be too paranoid and should trust in Bird. If nothing else, the fact that popular culture has become invaded by superheroes since the release of the first movie should offer all manner of new material to be picked over and commented upon. Nonetheless, knowing that The Incredibles 2 will be released a year earlier than expected just feels like the countdown to the inevitable outcries of childhoods having been ruined has gotten shorter, instead of a welcome reduction in the amount of time we have to wait before good things appear.

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