movie review: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)

First up – gang, I’m having some computer issues. I have a lot of drawings I haven’t been able to scan & update because the power supply on ol’ bessie (not the name of my computer, but it’s old) seems to have crapped out so I have to get a new power supply…and I hope that that’s it. But that means I can’t really post any blog posts of cleaned-up (edited) drawings and comic strips. Maybe not a big loss, but it is to me, especially since I’d like to have something new here every weekday. Anyway, that’s why I’m missing a few posts here and there. Hopefully we’ll be back on schedule. SO, I saw a movie and decided to fill up space on the site where I had planned to have a dopey robro drawing instead…with a movie review!

ALSO: I was a guest on a podcast! Our pals at TFU.info have a series of podcasts about Transformers and they asked me to say a few words about Transformers: the G1 cartoon movie that came out in 1986. You can listen to their podcast on the itunes or other podcast services, but the link they sent me was on the youtubes. TFU.info is a pretty awesome database for the action figures and TF fans, so thank you Anthony for including me in this episode!

What did you see? The Academy Award winning movie Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.

Didja ever think that you’d see the words “Academy Award winning” and Spider-Man in the same sentence? Unless it was “directed by Spider-Man” maybe?

Was it worth “best animated feature?” I don’t know, these awards often seem disposable. Who remembers the winners? I definitely hate some movies that won the biggest awards. That said, there’s a lot of work into creating something that’s an adventure for kids with pseudoscience about merging parallel universes that makes all the comic book nerds nerd out.

It’s the pseudoscience that gives the team the freedom to go all out and do several things in the film, to make the most grounded narrative, our hero Miles’ world, the most surreal. Like, yeah, we’re introducing a cartoon pig who is a cartoon Spider-Man, but it’s Miles’ NYC that seems jarring and alien and perfect. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just real video of borough streets and traffic with cartoon art over it like Real World or Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Those are some of my favorite moments because it highlights the characters, whether they look like absurd Spider-Men or have absurd lives that you wouldn’t think Spider-Man would ever have…and he’s already Spider-Man, for crying out loud.

I’ve read way too many Spidey comics and yet didn’t see a few things coming, but then again it’s loaded with five or six Spider-People, so there’s no time to get to more clues on who or what the Spidey villains in Miles’ world would be like. Kingpin is still Kingpin but the Green Goblin and Tombstone and Prowler are introduced in a fight scene as just his henchmen (Goblin as a hench-monster? That’s lowering yourself, Norman). It’s best as an obsessive comics reader to just not worry about what the Lord & Miller story & supervisory creative team (guys who gave you Clone High & The LEGO Movie?) get right about that one issue of Spider-Ham. “Where IS Mary Jane Water-Buffalo?” I don’t want to hear anyone ask.

Miles is a character from the Ultimate Spider-Man side of the Marvel Universes, a retelling of the Spidey origin where his rogues gallery is updated for the early 00’s or so with some changes but still hits major plot beats, for the most part. A lot of it gets scrambled later with crossovers and Big Comic Events that even…well, we don’t go there with spoilers, but a new Spidey appears, and it’s Miles Morales.

He’s a teen at a private school, his Dad’s a cop, his uncle’s a cool guy but also kind of a skeev, he likes ‘tagging’ as a hobby which leads to getting bit by an experimental spider and then finds himself thrust in a battle with Spidey and his all-too-deadly-foes. But he gets some back up from Spideys thrown into his world. Two of them get meatier screen time: Gwen, a different version of one of Spider-Man’s otherwise late girlfriend, and Peter B. Parker.

The Peter Parker of Miles’ world might not be the Spider-Man WE all think we know, especially in a story mentioning an infinite universe of infinite Spider-Men, and neither is Peter B. Parker, but the latter must be awfully close to The One. B is the Hard Luck(iest) Parker of not just all the Spideys in this movie but probably in most incarnations, but still Spider-Man enough to keep fighting despite every chip in B’s personal life being down and out. As a matter of fact, B is a character less Peter Parker and more actual Spider-Man, making fun of everything with nothing to lose, mask on or off.

The other Spidey characters don’t get as much as an introduction or interaction with Miles; a friendship between Gwen & Miles and their new mentor Peter B. Parker would’ve been enough under the looming threat of Kingpin’s plan. Are they there for levity? You’d still have B’s attitude and Miles’ growing pains as a new Spidey especially as he tries to impress the new girl Gwen. Maybe the filmmakers HAD to show to the world that, like Benny the weird LEGO Astronaut, there’s a lot of ridiculous fictional & marketing history with this character.

A few things drag down the plot but thankfully not the pace. Sure, I could do without Miles having to rehash some of the dialog he JUST HAD OR HEARD in the movie to pump himself up. But it looks wild. Some of the animation looks purposely blocky, as if the Scorpion in Miles’ world is a Claymation character, yet perfectly placed against contrasting environments for, as I mentioned, a surreal world that is supposed to be the normal one.

I really dug it – Miles and his father have a story arc over what they’d want him to do with any special ability he has is sadly buried under an abundance of extra goofy characters. Miles also gives B a bit of hope with his own life could’ve been more fleshed out as well. But overall the spectacle is special here and hence that’s why it’s a cartoon and not live action.

They wanted to give you a comic book movie, and in ways the Ang Lee Hulk tried but didn’t deliver to show you what a comic book world might look like. It sacrifices deeper character moments just to make use of the multiverse variation (a comic trope that, with these characters, is sadly just as shallow if you’re interested in backtracking), but at least it commits to that bit. Everyone making this was committed to making something unique in a world full of cartoon and live action movies that all start to look the same, and they succeeded, so good job to them. Two coffees consumed.

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