When Pixar’s The Incredibles hit theaters in 2004, it was very early in the superhero movie renaissance. Two Spider-Man movies had arrived in theaters, along with the first two X-Men films. However, the Marvel Cinematic Universe had yet to be born, and fans were still a year away from Batman Begins.
Now, in 2018, as Incredibles 2 prepares to arrive on the big screen, things are very different. This year alone, we will see Aquaman, Teen Titans Go: To The Movies, and five different films based on Marvel properties in theaters. Given how common the genre has become, it was impossible for it to not have some sort of influence on the sequel that is 14 years in the making.
For Incredibles 2 director Brad Bird, though, the lessons he has taken away from the world of superhero films is what to avoid when making the further adventures of his super-powered family. “I started saying things like, ‘No three-point landings. Do you know what I mean? No, no,'” he jokingly tells GameSpot of the generic superhero pose you’ll see in just about any comic book movie.
Truthfully, though, the non-stop train that is the MCU–along with a plethora of DC Comics films–left Bird unsure of whether he could bring something new to the table. “When I got serious about making this, and I pitched something that the studio was ready to go with, it gave me doubts because I thought there’s already too many superhero films, and in two years, people are going to be just sick of it,” he admits.
However, that’s when the writer-director looked back on what made the original film stand out in 2004. “What excited me about the idea in the first place was not the superhero part,” Bird says. “It was the family part, and then using the superhero genre as a lemon wedge to squirt on this story that I cared about. Primarily, this is a story about a family that happened to have superpowers [more] than it is about superpowers.”
That family aspect is the driving force of the Incredibles franchise–even more so in this second film. Like the first, there are two distinct stories to follow in the movie; however, this time it’s Helen Parr, otherwise known as Elasti-girl, that gets to relive her superhero life. Meanwhile, Mr. Incredible has essentially hung up his spandex costume. What’s left is Bob Parr, staying at home to take care of the kids, which he isn’t too fond of at first.
For Craig T. Nelson, who voices the character, his first reaction to this turn in the story was similar. “I kind of had the same reaction he did, ‘Why not me?'” the actor admits. However, once he saw the direction Bob was taking and his Incredibles 2 didn’t become yet another standard superhero tale, his tune changed. “…It was perfect, really, because it was like, ‘Okay, this is an area of his life. This is part of who he is, as a father, that he hasn’t really had to deal with, hasn’t been a part of that much. Okay. Yeah, and what happens?'”
That leaves him to do things like cook the meals, watch baby Jack-Jack, help with homework, and be there for his daughter as she prepares for her first date. “It explores and enriches his character to a degree that is so much fun to play,” Nelson says. “There’s a lot of stuff in Bob that comes out in this film that wasn’t in the first one.”
Say what you will about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but chances are this isn’t a side of Iron Man you’re going to see play out in Avengers 4 or whatever comes next. In most superhero films, the primary story if the hero versus the villain. For both Incredibles movies, though, it’s the Parr family versus the world.
Incredibles 2 is in theaters on June 15.