The Incredibles 2's timing couldn't be better. If the 2004 Oscar-nominated original established powerful messages for kids and parents alike, the sequel goes a step further, inadvertently resonating with today's #MeToo and Time's Up movements.

The movie picks up with the Parr family, parented once again by Holly Hunter (Helen Parr/Elastigirl) and Craig T. Nelson (Bob Parr/Mr Incredible). They've put their crime-fighting on hold to raise their three kids.

In the original, Hunter's Elastigirl was positioned as a reluctant hero and more of a support system for her husband. Fourteen years later, that's changed. Now in the driver's seat, she's taken on the role of a traditional action hero.

"To be honest, I didn't have any big sociological reason for writing Elastigirl that way," says returning writer/director Brad Bird. "But if people are finding the storyline relevant, then great."

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He shrugs. "To me, Elastigirl is the same strong woman that she was in the first film."

Incredibles 2 follows Elastigirl's attempt to legitimise the image of her fellow Superheroes, at the insistence of a billionaire superhero supporter (Bob Odenkirk) and his genius sibling (Catherine Keener), while also battling bad guy Screenslaver (Bill Wise), whose mission is to tarnish their image in the court of public opinion.

Mr Incredible, meanwhile, takes a backseat to the action. This time he is the primary caregiver in charge of running the household. Still heroic, he clearly misses the fanfare.

"He wanted to be the superhero and make things right and so he's a little resentful of his duties," Hunter explains. "He has to be a person that he didn't want to be."

Ahead of the film's splashy Los Angeles premiere later the same day, Hunter also addresses the current movement for gender equality in Hollywood.

"I don't think this is a message movie but, having said that, it's fantastic for boys and girls to see females doing great things. And the movie shows women in all these different facets, including Voyd [Sophia Bush] and of course, Mrs Incredible is an idol and a mentor. All these different iterations and personas of women towards each other is beautiful," she says.

"The Incredibles is a celebration of all these supers who are encouraged to live to their potential, and to be who you are. In this movie I get to be who I'm meant to be. I get to live up to my gift of being the superheroine," she smiles. "I felt that way when I was 15. I remember thinking, 'I know what I meant to do. I'm meant to act.' And I've spent my life trying to live up to that. It's been very, very exotic."

It would be another 15 years until Hunter came to worldwide attention with her role in 1987's Broadcast News. She was just 30 by the time the film was released in Australia and New Zealand. But it wasn't until Jane Campion cast her in 1993's The Piano that Hunter's career really soared. She won the following year's Best Actress Oscar and virtually every other acting honour of the season for her incredibly empathetic portrayal of a mute piano player.

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Not surprisingly, she enjoys a special relationship with Campion, with whom she collaborated again in 2013's Top of the Lake. "Jane is one of my friends and we've been tight for a long time now. I'm proud of that relationship. And as far as New Zealand goes, wow. That's a place of great intimacy for me. I was there, of course, during The Piano and I went back for six months for Top of the Lake. I have a very powerful association with that place."

This image released by Disney Pixar shows a scene from
This image released by Disney Pixar shows a scene from "Incredibles 2." (Disney/Pixar via AP)

If she could go back now and give her 15-year-old self some advice, what might it be? "Oh, my 15-year-old self would never listen to myself now anyway," she grins.

Does writer/director Brad Bird have any idea why teenagers and beyond remain so obsessed with superheroes?

"Ask the Greeks," he laughs. "They were loving them thousands of years ago. I think they've been around as long as storytelling in one form or another.

"In old stories we called them gods," he says. "But to me, they're really superheroes."

LOWDOWN
Who: Holly Hunter
What: Voices superhero and family matriach Elastigirl
When: in cinemas next Thursday

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