Whoever bet Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse would be reviewed before Aquaman gets paid! We’ve got another The Wages of Cinema collaboreview for you! (Wifely-Duties Korey gave my blog one of its finest pull quotes: “I like it when I read it.”) In a nutshell, everybody should see this movie in the cinema! (That goes double for former co-host Andrew, who insisted I see Spider-Man: Homecoming despite my ambivalence only to declare he wasn’t interested in this one.) You get to choose whether before or after reading the rest of this piece!
With Disney buying Marvel, it’s somewhat surprising that it hasn’t been exploiting it in big screen animation aside from Oscar-winning Big Hero 6. Meanwhile Sony has been derided for not knowing how to capitalize upon Marvel’s most popular character. So it’s shocking that Sony made an amazing animated Spider-Movie all by itself!
The first thing you’ll notice is that the animation is stunning. Not only is the color palette vibrant, it has visible narration boxes & Ben-Day dots like a comic book. Half of the Spider-Persons are rendered in unique styles even when next to one another. The action is frenetic yet still largely comprehensible. The credits are a pop art feast. It’s funny how once revolutionary CGI animation now looks monotonous across multiple studios, but this CGI animation is a breath of fresh air. No wonder Sony wants to patent the movie’s innovate animation method. Now that that’s out of the way, fall into my web of SPOILERS!
Shamiek Moore stars as Miles Morales, the Ultimate Spider-Man who’s so popular Marvel salvaged him for the core continuity. (He even has his own Spider-Ham, Miles Morhames, with more adorable ears than Peter Porker!) While he has two loving parents (a rarity for both superheroes & Disney princesses), he bristles at their expectations. He’s a prodigy that feels conflicted between living up to his scientific & artistic potentials. I don’t understand why he has to dorm at his private school instead of commuting since his family’s apartment is also in Brooklyn. That’d resolve most of his non-superhero drama. Miles is similar enough to Peter that the Spider-Man mantle is a good fit while still being unique enough that he doesn’t feel like a cheap copy.
The universe that Miles lives in is closest to the Ultimate Universe, but it’s not a direct translation. Its Green Goblin is more like Dragon Man. In this universe, there’s a Clone High movie & From Dusk Till Shaun! It makes sense that its Peter Parker (voiced by Chris Pine, so you can no longer call him “the non-Marvel Chris”) has a high-tech Spider-Cave full of canon costumes in cases since he licensed his superhero persona so effectively. He even has his own Christmas album! His Aunt May is his Q who shares a voice with Ms. Frizzle, which is a better way to make me appreciate Aunt May than by having every male announce they’d like to bang her. He also homages the best scene in Spider-Man 3.
If you’re the kind of jaded viewer that hates origin movies, this isn’t for you. It’s got seven origins! Otherwise it takes advantage of the audience being saturated by Spidey that it doesn’t need to hold their hands. There’s also many more deaths in this PG cartoon than expected! Kingpin’s whole motivation for ripping apart the multiverse is he can’t accept his family’s untimely demise. I love that the Spider-People don’t gratuitously battle each other to decide who’s real. They immediately recognize they’re all genuine & try to help each other. The movie remembers it’s more satisfying for them to fight supervillains like Tombstone. (He’s appropriately voiced by Black Lightning’s Krondon, who has cornered the niche on superstrong albino crimesters.)
After being Donald Glover in Homecoming, Aaron Davis is voiced by Mahershala “Cottonmouth” Ali here. This time he wears the Ultimate Prowler costume with an added cape to make it clearer that Spawn was inspired by him. (Hobie Brown the original Prowler can get two Marvel Legends toys in the same assortment but can’t get any cinematic exposure.) He’s a more threatening foe than usual. Him getting killed by Kingpin (Liev Schreiber is a better Wilson Fisk than Sabretooth) is a good twist on the Uncle Ben theme to warn Miles that crime doesn’t pay. Officer Jeff Davis’s grief over his brother’s murder lets Brian Tyree Henry do even more emotional heavy lifting. Although initially vengeful towards Spider-Miles, he wisely realizes that he’s not a pistol-packing perp by the climax.
Midlife Crisis Spidey is a doppelgänger for artist Todd Nauck. Jake Johnson is surprisingly good at voicing him. How strange is it that all the Spider-Men that identify as Peter Parker have different voice actors? He’s a better role model than mainline 616 Peter because he just divorced Mary Jane (Zoë Kravitz) like a normal person instead of selling his marriage to Mephisto. He doesn’t tell Gwen Stacy they used to date in college until she was thrown off a bridge, so either he’s very tactful about how creepy that’d sound or they don’t know each other in his world.
Hailee Steinfeld’s Gwen Stacy calls herself Spider-Woman in the film whereas the promo trading card labels her as Spider-Gwen. (To differentiate her from all the other Spider-Women & Spider-Girls, Marvel is trying out Ghost-Spider to avoid blowing her secret identity.) Gwanda is the best Afrikaans name! A shoulder touch gone horribly wrong results in her getting a slightly cooler sidecut.
My favorite of the alternate Spider-Folk is Peter Porker the spectacular Spider-Ham. They keep his original origin of being a spider bitten by a radioactive pig! He’s voiced by Law & Order connoisseur John Mulaney. I’m disappointed I didn’t get a trading card of him from the promo the theater was giving out.
Nicholas Cage is hardboiled Spider-Man Noir. Between this & his role as Superman in Teen Titans Go! To The Movies, I never expected him to be such a draw for animated superhero comedies. His deadpan monologues are a great parody of Frank Miller’s cinematic bastardization of Will Eisner’s The Spirit. He also doesn’t get Rubik’s Cubes.
Peni Parker’s SP//dr mech looks less like Evangelion that usual. I was sad when Scorpion smashed it up. Perhaps she (voiced by Kimiko Glenn, who is also Ducktales’ Lena) & her spider will rebuild it to look more like Future Spider-Man? Between her & The Umbrella Academy show (Netflix blew the budget for Spaceboy’s gorilla body on Friends reruns.), Gerard Way creations are getting much multimedia love.
My favorite iteration of Spider-Man is 3 Dev Adam’s Turkish Spider-Man, but he doesn’t even get a cameo! Ditto Italian Spider-Man & Supaidāman! I guess they had to leave something for the inevitable sequel with Oscar Isaac’s Spider-Man 2099, Jessica Drew, & Silk!
A great twist that the trailers avoided spoiling is its version of Doc Ock. The famous tentacles are glimpsed in few multiversal flashbacks, but I didn’t realize Doctor Octopus would have a substantial role. It turns out the innocuously nerdy scientist on Alchemax’s portal project is Olivia Octavius! She subverts the quirky scientist woman expectations set up by Venom. (If you bought a ticket to an advance scene from Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, they threw in that movie for free!) As a fan of Carolyn Trainer, this pleased me. (I would’ve also accepted Kathryn Hahn’s character being The Spot.) This sadist’s additional appendages are made of clear medical tubing for a change, but she maintains the unexplained power to survive numerous superstrength punches to the head.
My feeling towards Stan Lee are ambivalent. I usually find his omnipresent cameos to be grating, yet this time his cameo hits the right note. There were a few more cameos for the MCU filmed before his death, but he’s go out on a high note if they stopped with this. There’s also a tribute to Steve Ditko.
My rule is that a Spider-Man movie is not valid without J. Jonah Jameson. Thanks to a stinger that outdoes Homecoming’s in hilarity, this one barely squeaks by. So now there are four valid Spider-Man films!
There have been many Spidey-Films, but there’s always something off to them. For instance, Spider-Man: Homecoming finally had a sense of fun but the counterbalancing Parker luck was replaced by unnecessary Iron Man. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, however, manages to be the legitimutant best of them all! It respectfully homages a wide swath of Spidey’s mythos while shaking it up enough so it feels fresh! This has all the multiversal fun of the LEGO movies & DC TV that the MCU hasn’t bothered incorporating yet! (Producers Phil Lord & Chris Miller wrote The LEGO Movie before working on a early version of The Flash film involving Flashpoint, so this tracks.) How dare it make me feel emotions? Kudos to writers Rodney Rotham & Phil Lord as well as directors Rothman, Peter Ramsey, & Bob Perichetti for snaring me in its web!
As prophesied, I saw the fifth season premiere of Gotham at the Paley Center with the cast! Morena Baccarin, Cory Michal Smith, Robin Lord Taylor, Erin Richards, Camren Bicondova, Chris Chalk, Sean Pertwee, David Mazouz, Ben McKenzie, & writer John Stephens were as delightful in person as expected! Gotham looks even more gorgeous on a big screen! I don’t want to spoil too much ahead of its TV debut, but you should tune in January 3rd.
Definitely dive into my Aquaman review next time!