It takes just one trip to the movie theater to see Incredibles 2 to witness the way audiences are losing their minds over the film’s telekinetic, teleporting, transforming toddler, Jack-Jack.
INCREDIBLES 2 SPOILERS AHEAD!
He’s still the same babbling baby we first met in 2004’s The Incredibles, but the littlest member of the superpowered Parr family gets significantly more screen time in the sequel, as one major storyline finds the family gradually learning (over the course of a few harrowing days of babysitting) that he might be the most talented Incredible of all.
“It went back to the core idea that got me excited about the film in the first place, which was using superpowers to comment on your role in the family — fathers expected to be strong, mothers being stretched in 10 different directions at once,” says writer-director Brad Bird. “So the idea behind Jack-Jack was that babies are unknown. They could have no powers — or they could have all of the powers. You just don’t know what a baby’s going to be. They have unrealized potential.”
The revelation of Jack-Jack’s powers to his family also bore great narrative potential in Bird’s mind; in some ways, Jack-Jack is the single biggest reason why Incredibles 2 was made in the first place. Bird had long fancied the idea of the Parrs finding out about the baby’s abilities (the common misconception is that the family did discover them during the climax of the first film, but Bird insists the only characters who actually witnessed Jack-Jack’s powers up close were villain Syndrome and babysitter Kari, who got an even closer look in the 2005 follow-up short, Jack-Jack Attack).
In fact, the original plan for The Incredibles included the epic showdown between Jack-Jack and a raccoon — the same outrageous sequence that steals the show halfway through the sequel — and so when that encounter didn’t make the cut in the first film, Bird knew he was still sitting on what he calls “an unexploded timebomb” of a story. As it turns out, he’d sit on the bomb for 14 years.
In Incredibles 2, it’s Bob who first learns about what his baby son (voiced by Eli Fucile and, in his demonic moments, Nick Bird) can do after the tot takes down a crooked raccoon. Violet, Dash, and Lucius/Frozone soon endure the growing pains of Jack-Jack’s budding abilities, but it’s only when fashionable costume designer Edna Mode gets involved (“Oh my god, YES!”) that the Parrs start to understand how to predict the baby’s unpredictability.
By the time Elastigirl finds out about Jack-Jack, the baby’s known powers have expanded in the film to include: Invisibility, laser vision, pyrokinesis, levitation, multiplication, teleportation (and assorted interdimensional travels), elemental transformations into metal, fire, and goo, electrical bolt projection, telekinesis, imitative shapeshifting, size-shifting, and whatever you call the demon baby he turns into whenever he doesn’t get a cookie.
“He’s the Swiss Army Knife of superheroes,” says Bird, pointing out that “maybe he hasn’t even settled on a power yet.” And neither could the filmmakers, as Bird and the creative team couldn’t help themselves from chiseling away at the blank slate, so much so that they forced themselves to set a rule: by the film’s third act, no new powers. Lo and behold, the arrival of a giant-sized Honey I Shrunk The Jack-Jack during the film’s climax breaks that rule to enormous degree. “We got there and [that power] was just too cool, so we wimped out and said, ‘We’re going to break our own rule,’” Bird chuckles. “We tried to diet and be very disciplined, but every once in a while you’ve just got to break down and have a sundae.”
Bird posits that, despite the fun, there’s even an adult lesson to be learned from Jack-Jack. It isn’t touched on directly in the film, but it helped inform the hyperbole of the character behind the scenes. Bird says that part of Jack-Jack’s inspiration is “the idea that babies learn multiple languages easily before that door quickly closes. And you run into it all the time in life. I’d be drawing and somebody would say, ‘I wish I could draw,’ and I’d look at them and go, ‘Well, you did once, didn’t you?’ It’s just that somewhere along the line, you either stopped believing that you could, or you lost interest in it. But everybody starts out drawing — it’s kind of natural — and the idea behind Jack-Jack is meant to tap into that.”
As if Incredibles 2 didn’t already have you wishing your own life was a little more super.