What can superhero movies learn from Incredibles 2?

Incredibles 2, photo courtesy WD Media File
Incredibles 2, photo courtesy WD Media File /

Pixar’s latest animated movie, Incredibles 2, has three key lessons for other superhero movies.

This article contains spoilers for Incredibles 2, and the first one. Proceed at your peril.

So, I saw Incredibles 2  a little while ago. I liked it a lot. It’s solid mid-tier Pixar, and by far my favorite superhero movie so far this year. It’s also a pretty successful movie, to the tune of more than $850 million and counting.

This got me to thinking: What did I enjoy so much about this movie, and what could other superhero movies learn from it. I came up with three key lessons I’d like other superhero movies to learn.

Lesson 1: Embrace not happening in the real world

By this, I don’t mean that character’s actions should be without consequences. It’s important for stories that what a character does or thinks has meaning. However, filmmakers should use the freedom of not being real to dream up a truly different world.

The Incredibles movies happen in an imagined version of early-to-late 60’s space age, complete with modern touches. The costumes have hallmarks of Jack Kirby designs. Even the most crime-ridden city in this America is building a monorail to connect it to other cities. A monorail!

More from Disney Movies

It’s not even the first superhero story to embrace making its own aesthetic world. The 1990’s Batman’s melding of Art deco cars and architecture with 90’s tech was instantly iconic.

Not every superhero movie has to do this. More would be welcome.

Lesson 2: Set-piece Ingenuity

The first Incredibles features some of the most dynamite and inventive set pieces I’ve seen in any movie. I am not alone in feeling that Incredibles 2 set pieces are some of the best that came to theaters this year. Our own  John Dotson thinks that the best Mission Impossible stunt was the one Incredibles 2 director Brad Bird contributed to Ghost Protocol.

So what are the biggest ways other superhero movies can up their game to compete? They could 1) use space in creative ways, 2) mix it up so that it’s not just punching things, and 3) try to make each one at least a little different.

Let’s look at the first action scene in Incredibles 2. The Incredibles are trying to stop the Underminer’s gigantic drill. Dash is running ahead of the drill to save people and try to prevent damage. Elastigirl is stretch flipping through the air and helps Mr. Incredible get in. Mr. Incredible tries directly attacking the Underminer in his drill, which goes underground when he enters it.

In this scene alone, we can see how Incredibles 2 has multiple planes of movement going on and makes the action so that it’s not just punching things. While there are echoes of this action scene in two of the future set-pieces, none of them feel like a Xerox. They involve different numbers of characters, and the characters have different goals that lead to different results.

Incredibles 2
Incredibles 2, photo courtesy WD Media File /

Lesson 3: Stand on your own two feet

This is a big one. I understand that Hollywood studios started a concerted effort to build their own shared universes after the success of The Avengers. However, current film producers often focus so much on setting up other movies, they forget to make a satisfying movie.

I was watching Avengers: Infinity War with a couple of coworkers and friends. One of my co-workers spent a lot of the second half of the movie asking questions. Questions like who this person was, where were they now (Wakanda), why everything in Wakanda was so advanced, etc. The whole second half of the movie, he kept needing help understanding what was going on.

I was happy to answer his questions. But the fact that this kept happening illustrates that Avengers Infinity War is not satisfying in a vacuum.

Watching Incredibles 2, I was incredibly relieved that every concept that’s absolutely necessary to understanding the movie is in the movie. Because of this, I had more fun watching it than I did Infinity War.

Next. 18 Disney movies to watch before they leave Netflix. dark

Is there anything you’d like to see in future superhero movies. Feel free to sound off in the comments below.