Director: Brad Bird
Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Samuel L. Jackson
Have I Seen it Before: Nope. Not sure why I went a whole year missing the film, but it a year that also included Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), I can see how things might have gotten a little crowded.
Did I Like It: Sure. Here’s the thing, the film is absolutely well-made and Brad Bird continues to cement his reputation as a first among equals in the Pixar pantheon. The 60s-tinged timelessness has not lost an ounce of its luster from the original film, the voice acting is—as always—spectacular, and the story follows that sacred rule of sequeldom: don’t let up on the pace.
But as I’m watching it, I wonder if I am less enveloped by this film as I was the original—or Bird’s other Pixar entry Ratatouille (2007)—as I become consumed by such an obtuse line of thinking about what is being presented to me, that I may be forcing myself outside of the film for much of the runtime
So, what’s that obtuse thought? I’m so glad you asked.
The film is the most succinct repudiation of Ayn Randianism and Objectivism that we are likely to find.
Let me finish.
In years past, there has been some thinking that Bird was at least marginally sympathetic to Rand’s views. He has dismissed the idea as lazy criticism, and while I agree, that non-denial doesn’t exactly negate the interpretation. Especially in the original The Incredibles (2004), Bird’s stories are peppered with characters who have exceptional talents, but are put upon by a society less special than them. If that’s not a template for a Randian hero, then I don’t know what is.
Here, though the Parr family is still yearning to live in a world that will let them be who they were born to be, but things are quite a bit different. It is only when the villain of the piece, the Screenslaver (Catherine Keener, although I suppose that is something of a spoiler) puts Mr. Incredible (Nelson, who with John Ratzenberger might be the only people in this process who would be sympathetic to Rand), Elastigirl (Hunter), and Frozone (Jackson) under mind control that they declare their exceptionalism has made the world treat them unfairly, and that their revenge will be the removal of that specialness.
Furthermore, once things are back the way they should be, Elastigirl—the true hero of the piece—saves the villain regardless of her contempt for Supers. This film makes the point that exceptionalism should be nurtured in people, but the exceptional should use their abilities in service of society, even when that society doesn’t appreciate them.
Something tells me Rand would probably have a problem with that last thought.