I know it’s somewhat insane to search for philosophical meaning in cartoons, but something about The Incredibles 2 rubbed me the wrong way.
The movie is beautifully designed with several jaw-dropping action sequences and deeply immersive 3D, so the kids will probably love it, as will those who grew up with the original film. If you’re just going to see a fun cartoon then you’ll be delighted, but since it’s my job to overthink movies, I have some issues.
The Incredibles 2 picks up exactly where the last one left off with the Parr family (aka The Incredibles) taking on a new villain known as the Underminer. Supers are still mostly disliked by the public, so when the Parrs fail to capture the Underminer (resulting in millions of dollars of damage to the city), their re-discovered hero mojo is tempered by a public that wants them to be held responsible.
When billionaire tech tycoon Winston Deavor proposes to push The Incredibles into the limelight so the supers can be made legitimate once again, it causes drama within the family and across the country at large. When the majority of the publicity focuses on Elastigirl, Mr. Incredible gets jealous and bitter as he becomes a house husband.
I’m a huge fan of the film’s of writer/director, Brad Bird. His debut film The Iron Giant is probably my favorite animated film of all time. He’s a very passionate filmmaker with some problematic objectivist philosophies that tend to pop up in all of his movies.
The underpinning philosophy of the entire first Incredibles film is that if everyone is super, then no one will be. If you’re not born exceptional, then you’ll never really enter the rarified air of those that are naturally gifted. Mr. Incredible’s hubris gets a ton of people killed in the original Incredibles and he’s no better or smarter in the sequel. Neither is the entire family.
This all leads to my big problem with the philosophy of the film: I don’t believe that any member of The Incredibles are heroic because of altruism or empathy. Mr. Incredible loved to be worshipped and having media attention as a hero. Elastigirl is an adrenaline junkie who gets off on danger. Dash is unable to focus on anything, using his sad lack of an attention span as a way to justify using his super speed as often as he can. Violet is just happy to be useful and appreciated by a family that barely acknowledges her presence: hence her ability to turn invisible. They don’t care about normal people. They just want to be exceptional on their own terms without any system that keeps them responsible for their actions.
Bird denies any objectivist leanings, but it’s hard not to feel the presence of Ayn Rand in The Incredibles 2. The Parr family is exceptional and should be treated as such, left alone to craft a world the undeserving normals can exist safely in while showing a proper amount of respect to their overlords.
Usually when watching a comic book or superhero movie, I walk out of the theater desperate to live in their world. I would hate to run into The Incredibles in real life because I’d be certain they would be looking at me with judgement in their eyes and disgust in their heart.