It’s finally here. Picking up mere moments from where the first film left off, Incredibles 2 sees the return of everyone’s favorite superfamily—Bob, Helen, Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack. From the laugh out-loud humor (one sequence involves a raccoon and a baby with laser vision) to Michael Giacchino’s electrifying score, director Brad Bird and company have made lightning strike a second time. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)
Despite the fact that the film focuses mostly on the Parr family and their struggles to balance their illegal superhero lifestyle with their day-to-day mundane responsibilities, the villainous Screenslaver steals the film’s thunder. This antagonist’s ambitions are as altruistic as they are malevolent, claiming that society’s obsession with caped crusaders is indicative of an innate cultural laziness that expects others to solve one’s issues. Screenslaver seeks to “liberate” society by removing superheroes from the equation—which would force individuals to take action rather than sit around and wait to be rescued. She states, “Every meaningful experience must be packaged and delivered to you to watch at a distance so that you can remain ever-sheltered, ever-passive, ever-ravenous consumers who can’t free themselves. …You want superheroes to protect you and make yourselves ever more powerless in the process.”
It’s arguable that Screenslaver’s vendetta is a theological one and her motivations are sound despite her heinous execution. She wants the world’s vast congregation of hero-worshipers to have a genuine faith that leads to action rather than passivity. Instead of empowering civilians the way they should, Screenslaver declares, superheroes render people into mindless consumers, lamenting that people will “trade quality for ease every time.” While people worship excellence, they are content with their own mediocrity, and blindly swear their allegiance to superheroes solely because supers make life easy for them. Screenslaver argues that such submission is not true worship and that misplaced trust ultimately leads to one’s destruction.
Screenslaver showcases this when she flips the script on Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter) and reveals her identity as Evelyn Deavor (Catherine Keener). The superheroine is shocked to find that her closest friend was secretly her worst enemy. Elastigirl’s naïveté and reliance are critiqued by Evelyn who plays the awed and brainless civilian, snarling, “We don’t know each other! Yet the rest of us (civilians) are supposed to put our lives into your gloved hands.” Recounting the tragic tale of how her father was murdered by robbers as he tried to call for help from supers instead of doing the “smart thing” and moving to a safe room, Evelyn argues that true faith should beget active worship. Yet because so few (like her father) ever move past the shallow, surface-level infatuation and subsequently do not worship in a way that truly costs, they only end up worse off than before.
Unfortunately too often we treat Jesus’s salvific work with the same indifference. While “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and need the intervening power of the Holy Spirit, for those who believe, grace is not a call to idleness. A faithful life should never be a quiet one. The resurrection of Jesus has no efficacy unless we participate in the life of the Spirit. Thus even as we worship God on our knees, we are called to stand up and go out to the world to labor and do God’s work. It could even be said that through Screenslaver, Bird paraphrases James 2:26: “So faith without works is dead” (ESV).
Unlike the idols of entertainment, the cross of Jesus is costly, even to the point of giving up our very lives. It requires sacrifice and effort, yet if our faith is genuine, these are things we are willing to undertake. Rather than settle for a nominal, low-stakes faith, we must pursue one that costs. Only then can God use us to do good—maybe even incredible—things.