In 2004, when the first Incrediblesfilm was released, Sony’s Spider-Man 2stood out as an anomaly as an Oscar-winning superhero movie; these days, the films comprising the Marvel Cinematic Universe and some notable exceptions routinely rake in both dollars and award nominations. In this context, how does The Incredibles 2, some fourteen years later, stack up in response?
As it turns out, it seems the Parr family – and the creative minds at Pixar behind them – are none too concerned about any of the above, instead honing in on the family matters that made the first film so well received.¹ Michael Giacchino, a long-time composer for Pixar whose first assignment with the studio was incidentally the first Incredibles,reprises his role here. He has delivered a soundtrack that, according to then-and-now director Brad Bird, seeks to capture an idealistically portrayed future as seen from the vantage point of the 1960s United States.
Granted, we don’t get to hear that retro-futuristic soundtrack at first in the trailer—instead we get the intentionally mundane sounds of the clatter of dinner dishes and cutlery, alongside some relatable questions from sister Violet Parr to Jack, asking multiple times as to his pre-dinner hygiene routine.
It cuts to a quick action scene at 0:28, as we’re introduced to the primary conceit of the film: Helen Parr, or Elastigirl, has been recruited to help rehabilitate the overall image of superheroes everywhere in the universe of The Incredibles. Meanwhile, Mr. Incredible – Bob Parr – is left on dad duty.
At 0:36 there is an interesting series of large, fanfare chords, similar to but not quite the same as those heard in Richard Strauss’ zone poem, “Also sprach Zarathustra” (made famous in 2001: A Space Odyssey). The chord repeats, building each time, until about 0:55 as a jazzy flute trill—a la Mission Impossible-- intervenes.
An orchestral hit coincides with the “Disney • Pixar” title card, and there is a comical music/visual counterpoint between the 60s futurism/spy music and Bob Parr’s dealing with the new math curriculum, again in a likely successful play to its audience’s familiarity with small-time family foibles. In a way, it’s not unlike the post-credits scene in the original Avengers film, for example, where we see the team sitting around eating swarms – it’s pulling down to earth even those individuals whose powers are superhuman, showing how the trivialities of everyday life are not only inescapable, but perhaps oddly comforting in their familiarity.
Much of the middle section of the trailer focuses on Bob’s issues keeping his family under control amidst what is most likely Giacchino’s jazzy action music, pausing from time to time for one-liners that veer between a more dramatic sensibility and of course the comedic. On the one hand we have Bob and Helen’s talk about why they’re trying to give their kids the opportunity to be accepted as superheroes, on the other, well, any scene involving Bob and his kids.
At 2:01 the title card is displayed, but this gets cut off early to give a surprise introduction to the main villain of the film. One more comedic moment and a final orchestral flourish builds to the release date at 2:15 (June 15th).
In this case, even though the music is clearly action-oriented, it plays contrapuntally with situations on-screen that are clearly comedic in design. In addition, the “bumbling dad” trope only enhances that humorous disconnect between what we typically expect of many superhero films and that subverted expectation. There’s a particular comedic payoff for this sort of “peek behind the curtain” on the lives of a superhero family whose lives are not all so different from our own. Seeing as there have been an increasing crop of successful superhero movies that successfully blend the supernatural and the mundane towards hilarious results, The Incredibles 2 is a sequel arriving right on time, able to comfortably pick up exactly where the first left off both in music and visuals.²
– Curtis Perry
1. The Incredibles was the first fully animated film to receive the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.
2. Deadpool, Antman and the Wasp, Thor: Ragnarok, and of course Guardians of the Galaxy are just a few examples that come to mind.