Skip to main content

Can you float through the air when you smell a delicious pie?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
(2018)

(SPOILERS) Ironically, given the source material, think I probably fell into the category of many who weren't overly disposed to give this big screen Spider-Man a go on the grounds that it was an animation. After all, if it wasn’t "good enough" for live-action, why should I give it my time? Not even Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's pedigree wholly persuaded me; they'd had their stumble of late, although admittedly in that live-action arena. As such, it was only the near-unanimous critics' approval that swayed me, suggesting I'd have been missing out. They – not always the most reliable arbiters of such populist fare, which made the vote of confidence all the more notable – were right. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only a first-rate Spider-Man movie, it's a fresh, playful and (perhaps) surprisingly heartfelt origins story.


The multiverse premise is a simple but effective means – in that it's by now a broadly familiar shorthand – for screenwriters Lord and Rodney Rothman (the latter one of three directors along with Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey) to team up various Spider-Man alts that have appeared over the years, albeit they're drawing on an already complex and stuffed-to-the-gills comic-book Spider-Verse. Probably the least persuasive onscreen is SP//dr alias Peni Parker’s anime-styled incarnation via a biomech suit, first featured in 2014 and here voiced by Kimiko Glenn. 


Peter Porker/Spider-Ham (voiced by John Mulaney) is the most absurd, a porcine "cartoon" – the word used as an insult – version of the character (first appearance 1983) who even gets away with overtly quoting the Warner Bros Looney Tunes his design references.


Perhaps most intriguing is Spider-Man Noir, voiced by Nicolas Cage (first appearance 2009), a black-and-white 1930s iteration who cutely, due to his monochromatic vision, becomes obsessed with a Rubik's Cube. They're on the periphery of the action, though (we also encounter Oscar Isaac's Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099 in the post-credits scene, wackily interacting with a rudimentary 1967 Spider-Man cartoon, with original voice Paul Soles). 


Centre frame, though, is Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), passed the Spidey baton when his universe's Peter Parker (Chris Pine) is killed by Wilson Fisk/Kingpin (Liev Schreiber); this Peter isn't in the movie very much, but there's an appealing reverence towards the previous Sony movies via a montage of near-quoted sequences applied to his reality (Sony's own pre-existing filmic Spider-Verse). Indeed, a perhaps inevitable consequence of the preponderance of other Spideys, most particularly Jake Johnson's middle-aged, beer-gut wielding, pizza-fuelled Parker, is that Miles isn't given a proper chance to assume the web-slinging mantle – amid much, possibly slightly overdone inability to even climb walls/stop sicking to things – until the climax. 


The flip-side, however, is very much a positive, in that the relationship between past-it Peter, less than dedicated to upholding his great responsibility following the failure of his marriage to Mary Jane Watson, really bears fruit, each gaining from his interaction with the other. 


Then there’s Spider-Gwen (Stacey, voiced by Hailee Steinfeld), who also first appeared in 2014, possibly the most stylish rendering of the various webslingers, although a distant third to Miles and fat Peter in prominence by virtue of lacking a crucial tie to Miles beyond his adoration (appropriately, ingenue Miles has to admit they're just friends). 


The villains might be considered less than essential in all this, incidental to the pervading Spider love-in, and to an extent, that's the case. But Kingpin's at least serviced with a relatable emotional motive for tearing the worlds asunder (to regain his lost love). He isn't just bent on destruction. 


There isn't much to Doctor Olivia Octavius Octopus aside from gender-swapping, however, meaning that the real kernel of conflict comes from Peter's discovery that his uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) is the Prowler (I might not have followed this thread completely, but I'm assuming the genetically-modified spider in the subway station must have come via Aaron's contact with Octavius or more tenuously Oscorp).


Most commendable about all this is that, even though Into the Spider-Verse is ostensibly a staple-gunned plot of various villains and Spideys, it makes remarkable cohesive, engrossing viewing purely on a narrative level. The emotional beats for Miles, from comedic dorkiness to familial tensions to rising to the challenge, all land effortlessly. There's a remarkable deftness throughout in juggling the comedy – and downright daftness at times – with the seriousness of the action and the characters' emotional arcs (as noted, even Kingpin is afforded heft). 


As for the animation, it's vibrant and invigorating in all the right ways. Perhaps occasionally, it becomes a little too abstract for its own good – the particle accelerator climax is a fully-seized opportunity for weightless comic-book leaping hither and thither, but there's a point where that's all it ends up being, detached from anything tangible and thus feeling more like the final act to your average overblown live-action superhero movie – but that's very much the rarity. 


The decision to remind us of comic frames through a limited four-colour palette and touches such as repeated (written on-screen) dialogue and sound effects evidences the most fun had in transposing the medium since Ang Lee's Hulk (although Into the Spider-Verse is receiving very much the positive reception for such affectations, where Hulk, at least at the time, was largely spurned). Rendering-wise, I'd only really take issue with the Stan Lee cameo, as he ends up looking rather flintier than I'm sure was intended. 


I suppose one might see Miles Morales (first appearance 2011, lest I forget) being consigned to an animated debut as a snub to the character, certainly given the way that, however well this ends up doing, the grosses will only be a fraction of Sony's main player. On the other hand, much as I loved Spider-Man: Homecoming, this version is undoubtedly the more inventive, creative piece, showing clearly that Sony doesn't need the Kevin Feige magic touch to make their comic-book character crown jewel, the one they’ll never let go off, a success. Just attract people with a passion for the character who know what they’re doing. Hopefully Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will garner a sequel sooner rather than later. 

Oh, and Spidey Bells? Instant classic.



Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

  1. Nice article, Which you have shared here about the Spider-Man movie. Your article is very interesting and I liked your way to share this article here. If anyone looking for the Comic Movie News online, Visit movienewsnet.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice article. The new spider man movies are certainly building spider man's character up according to the real comics. Spiderman: Far from home's trailer has left us all hanging for it.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Why would I turn into a filing cabinet?

Captain Marvel (2019)
(SPOILERS) All superhero movies are formulaic to a greater or lesser degree. Mostly greater. The key to an actually great one – or just a pretty good one – is making that a virtue, rather than something you’re conscious of limiting the whole exercise. The irony of the last two stand-alone MCU pictures is that, while attempting to bring somewhat down-the-line progressive cachet to the series, they’ve delivered rather pedestrian results. Of course, that didn’t dim Black Panther’s cultural cachet (and what do I know, swathes of people also profess to loving it), and Captain Marvel has hit half a billion in its first few days – it seems that, unless you’re poor unloved Ant-Man, an easy $1bn is the new $700m for the MCU – but neither’s protagonist really made that all-important iconic impact.

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Trouble’s part of the circus. They said Barnum was in trouble when he lost Tom Thumb.

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
(SPOILERS) Anyone of a mind that it’s a recent development for the Oscars to cynically crown underserving recipients should take a good look at this Best Picture winner from the 25thAcademy Awards. In this case, it’s generally reckoned that the Academy felt it was about time to honour Hollywood behemoth Cecil B DeMille, by that point into his seventies and unlikely to be jostling for garlands much longer, before it was too late. Of course, he then only went and made a bona fide best picture contender, The Ten Commandments, and only then pegged it. Because no, The Greatest Show on Earth really isn’t very good.

What lit the fire that set off our Mr Reaper?

Death Wish (2018)
(SPOILERS) I haven’t seen the original Death Wish, the odd clip aside, and I don’t especially plan to remedy that, owing to an aversion to Charles Bronson when he isn’t in Once Upon a Time in the West and an aversion to Michael Winner when he wasn’t making ‘60s comedies or Peter Ustinov Hercule Poirots. I also have an aversion to Eli Roth, though (this is the first of his oeuvre I’ve seen, again the odd clip aside, as I have a general distaste for his oeuvre), and mildly to Bruce when he’s on autopilot (most of the last twenty years), so really, I probably shouldn’t have checked this one out. It was duly slated as a fascistic, right-wing rallying cry, even though the same slaters consider such behaviour mostly okay if the protagonist is super-powered and wearing a mask when taking justice into his (or her) own hands, but the truth is this remake is a quite serviceable, occasionally amusing little revenger, one that even has sufficient courage in its skewed convictions …

I don’t think you will see President Pierce again.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and other tall tales of the American frontier is the title of "the book" from which the Coen brothers' latest derives, and so announces itself as fiction up front as heavily as Fargo purported to be based on a true story. In the world of the portmanteau western – has there even been one before? – theme and content aren't really all that distinct from the more familiar horror collection, and as such, these six tales rely on sudden twists or reveals, most of them revolving around death. And inevitably with the anthology, some tall tales are stronger than other tall tales, the former dutifully taking up the slack.

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

Monster? We’re British, you know.

Horror Express (1972)
(SPOILERS) This berserk Spanish/British horror boasts Hammer titans Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing (both as good guys!) to its name, and cloaked in period trappings (it’s set in 1906), suggests a fairly standard supernatural horror, one with crazy priests and satanic beasts. But, with an alien life form aboard the Trans-Siberian Express bound for Moscow, Horror Express finishes up more akin to The Cassandra Crossing meets The Thing.

Countess Petrovski: The czar will hear of this. I’ll have you sent to Siberia. Captain Kazan: I am in Siberia!
Christopher Lee’s Alexander Saxton, anthropologist and professor of the Royal Geological Society, has retrieved a frozen corpse from Manchuria. Believing it might be the Missing Link he crates it up to transport home via the titular train. Other passengers include his colleague and rival Dr Wells (Cushing), an international spy, and an antic monk called Father Pujardov (Alberto de Mendoza, strikingly lunatic), who for some rea…

Mountains are old, but they're still green.

Roma (2018)
(SPOILERS) Roma is a critics' darling and a shoe-in for Best Foreign Film Oscar, with the potential to take the big prize to boot, but it left me profoundly indifferent, its elusive majesty remaining determinedly out of reach. Perhaps that's down to generally spurning autobiographical nostalgia fests – complete with 65mm widescreen black and white, so it's quite clear to viewers that the director’s childhood reverie equates to the classics of old – or maybe the elliptical characterisation just didn't grab me, but Alfonso Cuarón's latest amounts to little more than a sliver of substance beneath all that style.

You had to grab every single dollar you could get your hands on, didn't you?

Triple Frontier (2019)
(SPOILERS) Triple Frontier must have seemed like a no-brainer for Netflix, even by their standards of indiscriminately greenlighting projects whenever anyone who can’t get a job at a proper studio asks. It had, after all, been a hot property – nearly a decade ago now – with Kathryn Bigelow attached as director (she retains a producing credit) and subsequently JC Chandor, who has seen it through to completion. Netflix may not have attracted quite the same level of prospective stars – Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Tom Hardy and Channing Tatum were all involved at various points – but as ever, they haven’t stinted on the production. To what end, though? Well, Bigelow’s involvement is a reliable indicator; this is a movie about very male men doing very masculine things and suffering stoically for it.