Yes, I was one of those #hyped university students clogging up the cinemas and social media with excitement for the long-awaited sequel to “The Incredibles” (2004). Due to the extent of millennial buzz, when I went to see the film, I wasn’t surprised to be confronted with a scene faintly resembling a school reunion.
The lead from the school play performed a miniature monologue from the seat behind me about the mastery of the first film, whilst my old history class could be heard rustling sweet packets throughout. Yet, the sound which did surprise me, came from the solitary group of young children seated towards the back. Their sobs resounded clearly over the soundtrack during a particularly tense scene, the climax of which actually made me jump. Was it just me? Or was there a jump scare in a film which ‘should’ve’ been aimed at children? Or has the market for sequels, particularly those released over 10 years ago, shifted towards an older generation?
The question of who it is most important to satisfy must be one that filmmakers regularly wrestle with, particularly with the number of sequels or live action remakes emerging of Noughties’ childhood classics.
The scene in question depicted Mrs Incredibles’ search for the film’s villain, the Screen Slaver, a character with a gasmask disguising his face. Tension builds as she scans the room he is believed to be hiding in, using an angle similar to ‘found footage’ styles since it is apparently viewed through Mrs Incredibles’ hidden camera. This technique of presenting scenes through a fictional video recording is typically associated with horror genres, including films such as “The Blair Witch Project”. When finally faced with the villain, I will reiterate the fact, that I jumped. Having once watched all eight “Saw” movies in one night, I wouldn’t simply put this down to a sensitivity to scary material. It was during the build up to the villain’s reveal the sustained cries could be heard, filling the silent void of unease in the theatre.
Brad Bird, the writer-director of “Incredibles 2”, confirmed in a recent interview that he “doesn’t write for children”, rather that he writes for adults and children love it anyway. He compared this kind of animation to “Bugs Bunny”, reiterating that the target audience was adults and not children, the show featuring an abundance of jokes that would only appeal to older viewers. However, the slapstick and physical humour appeals to all. He also references animations that featured deaths, implying that including grown up topics in animated film is not a new concept; risk and threat is acceptable within the genre. Perhaps, our opinion on animations being aimed at children needs to change. ‘Family-friendly’, includes, but is not limited to kids. And, like all age groups, some children may react differently to material. They may get scared.
A brief internet search would suggest that the instance in my local cinema of petrified young children was not isolated, yet, in terms of finance and reputation, I can understand why Bird prioritised teenagers and adults who loved the first film and created such a stir surrounding the sequel; if unsatisfactory, the online outrage would have been uncontrollable. Children, on the other hand, have virtually no voice. Admittedly, parents might complain if their kids became especially distressed, but, could safely be assumed not to protest due to the irresistible lovability of the film. Amongst the occasional cry, the cinema was filled with laughter by young and old alike at Jack-Jack’s slapstick humour and Mr Incredibles’ relatable struggle with parenthood. The film was a hit.