I didn’t get to see many films this week, and I don’t think I could’ve chosen two more diametrically opposed in tone if I tried. On the plus side, I get to talk about an animated film for the first time in this series.
Incredibles 2 by Brad Bird (2018)
Three months have passed since Syndrome’s defeat in the original film. The Parr family, Bob, Helen, Dash, Violet, and Jack-Jack, have continued to operate under their superhero identities. Picking up in the final moments of the original, the Underminer has robbed the Metroville Bank. Despite the family’s best efforts, the villain gets away, and the authorities chastise them for the enormous property damage they inflicted attempting to stop him. To make matters worse, the department’s “Super Relocation” program is being shut down, forcing supers across the world to adhere to their secret identities permanently. Fortunately, all hope is not lost, family friend Lucius Best (a.k.a. Frozone) informs Bob and Helen that an eccentric tycoon is proposing a publicity stunt to get the general public interested in making superheroes legal once more.
I was among those who saw The Incredibles back in 2004. I definitely thought it was one of Pixar’s best efforts, and now that I’m old enough to appreciate its deconstructive elements, I can see why it’s still held in such high regard. Pixar has generally had an excellent track record when it comes to sequels. The only meaningful exception to this rule would be the Cars trilogy, but because the original was, at the time, the least acclaimed film in their canon, it stands to reason the sequels wouldn’t fare any better. Not coincidentally, the only other follow-up considered a significant step down from the original was Monsters University, which was a prequel.
The original is certainly a classic, so Pixar had their work cut out for them – especially fourteen years after the fact. Did they succeed in creating a worthy follow-up? I would say they did, though I don’t think it quite reaches the same level as the original. One of the things that made Finding Dory a great sequel was that the creators went off in a different direction with the canon. Though the writers do manage to go in interesting, new directions with Incredibles 2, particularly with Helen’s character, it does feel like it’s more of the same. To be fair, it’s more of the same of an exceptionally high-quality product. Even so, I have to admit the twists were a little predictable, though there were a few that caught me by surprise. |I was expecting the tycoon to have an ulterior motive, but it turns out he was entirely on the level. His sister on the other hand…| Fortunately, the shortcomings are more than made up for by what it does right. The action sequences are absolutely stunning technical achievements, and the Parrs are very likeable characters as always. All in all, though not quite as good as the original, Incredibles 2 is a solid sequel.
Vengeance Is Mine by Shōhei Imamura (1979)
The police have just captured a fugitive by the name of Iwao Enokizu. They had been on this man’s trial since he committed a series of murders within a two-month period. They guide him through a throng of journalists and angry civilians to a cell. Their initial attempts to question him prove futile when he refuses to answer. It is through a series of flashbacks that we learn more about Enokizu and what exactly his crimes entail.
Vengeance is Mine is based off a book of the same name written by Ryūzō Saki. It details the exploits of a real-life serial killer by the name of Akira Nishiguchi, whose name was changed to Iwao Enokizu for the film. His killings spanned from October to December of 1963, and he was apprehended a few days into the following year. As punishment for his crimes, he was sentenced to death in December of 1970. Nishiguchi is one of the country’s most infamous serial killers not only for the five people he killed, but also having engaged in multiple confidence scams. Such was the impact of his crimes that they led to the creation of the Japanese “Metropolitan Designated Case” system.
The film takes an interesting approach with its subject matter by presenting Enokizu and the seedy underbelly of the places he visits exactly as they are. He was raised in a Catholic family and one of the defining events of his childhood was when his father lost his fishing boats to the Japanese navy in the 1930s. The young Enokizu attacks the naval officer who seized the fishing boats. Despite this, he is not portrayed sympathetically at all. Indeed, one of the most terrifying aspects about Enokizu is how he can causally murder anyone who gets in his way |– shortly after defrauding a family out of bail money on one occasion|. Strangely, the film can get darkly funny at times, and it lends a dynamic quality to the proceedings. |One of my favorite moments is when his face appears on a wanted poster in a news reel, causing him to shrink in his seat.|
The seventies was remarkably gritty decade for films, and I got many of the same vibes from Vengeance Is Mine as I did from several New Hollywood-era classics. For those who really enjoy those types of film, this one is worth a watch.