Sunday, December 16, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

The new animated film SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (2018) seemed to come out of nowhere; I'd not heard a thing about it until our daughter attended a preview last week and urged me to see it. Other reviewers strongly echoed her recommendation so I went to see it today.

Although Sony/Columbia gave Disney rights to use the Spider-Man character in their live-action Marvel Cinematic Universe series, including SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017), Sony otherwise maintained rights to the character and thus released this new Marvel animated feature.

Since I'm unfamiliar with the Spider-Man character outside of his appearances in the Disney-owned Marvel films, my daughter gave me a brief primer on the concept of "alternate universes" which allowed Marvel to create multiple Spider-Man characters. That was definitely helpful; while on one level the film is very "accessible" and explains the concept well, at the same time it moves at warp speed, so it was easier for me to absorb the story thanks to having that background. I'd recommend potential viewers do a bit of similar reading -- and then go see the film, which is excellent.

Young middle school student Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is navigating some of the usual pitfalls of teenage life, including trying to fit in at a new school and letting a girl know he likes her, when late one night he's spending time hanging out with his Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) and is bitten by a radioactive spider.

Miles suddenly has bewildering new powers, including sticky hands and the ability to walk on the sides of buildings. Simultaneously he meets the Spider-Man of his universe, Peter Parker (Chris Pine)...and then a bunch more "spider" people from other worlds begin turning up, because mobster Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) has opened up pathways from other dimensions. Miles finds himself working to save his universe and return his new "spider" friends to their own worlds.

That may sound a bit complicated but I didn't have any trouble keeping up; the film benefits from the fact that while there are a lot of "spider people" (including Spider-Ham, a pig!) floating around, the straight line through the movie is the story of Miles maturing and growing into his own role as Spider-Man.

There are far too many excellent moments to mention, besides which the viewer should be surprised; that said, the late Stan Lee made one of his patented cameos in this film, albeit in animated fashion, and it's a special moment. Watch for it. There's also a lovely tribute to Lee and artist Steve Ditko in the end credits.

I'll also say that the Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) character is a treat for classic film fans!

The story is told with both great humor and genuine heart, presented in a kinetic, uniquely designed visual package. Like most movies these days, it's slightly too long at 117 minutes, but only just.

Favorite reviewer Leonard Maltin wrote that SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE was "the most spectacular animated feature I’ve ever seen." I personally found that praise a bit over the top -- but yes, it is a very good film and well worth seeing.

This film was directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman. Co-Producer/Co-Writer Phil Lord also wrote THE LEGO MOVIE (2014), which I would include on a short list of spectacular animated features.

The only real negative for me was that the stylized camera work -- sometimes shaky, out of focus, or duplicating what was on screen with "shadows" -- was too hard on the eyes. The filmmakers were going for a frenetic "as fast as you can turn the pages" comic book feel but the dizzying style made it hard for me to keep my eyes on the screen at some points. I'm very glad I watched it in 2D as I think 3D would have been "too much"!

All that said, the film deserves praise for creating a unique look, including periodic "thought bubbles" and bits of comic book pages on the screen, which made it very visually arresting.

The voice cast also includes Lily Tomlin, Hailee Steinfeld, Brian Tyree Henry, Kimiko Glenn, John Mulaney, Kathryn Hahn, Jake Johnson, and Lake Bell.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated PG. It's quite "clean" in every respect, and that was one aspect among many I appreciated about the film.

A trailer is here.

This film was an unexpected animated treat which I recommend.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Great minds think alike! Here's my twitter comment after returning from a Friday viewing.

"My daughter and I attended the movie this afternoon. I was very impressed. A well-constructed story excellently told in various animation styles with excitement, heart and knowing humor."

I was never big on Spider-Man outside of the TV series theme song which received a nice nod in Spider-Verse but found myself unexpectedly moved by this Stan Lee cameo.

5:39 AM  
Blogger Terence Towles Canote said...

While I have always been preferential to DC since childhood, I always liked various Marvel characters as well, among them Spider-Man. I will have to read up on the other Spider-characters, as I haven't kept up with the character since the Eighties! Anyway, I really want to see it given the many reviews, particularly the one from Leonard Maltin (from whom I learned much of what I know about animation)!

8:24 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Caftan Woman, that quote was so great. We really did see the movie the same way!

Terry, I'd be interested to know what you think also! It certainly received high praise from Mr. Maltin. (His DISNEY FILMS book was one of the earliest books I read on film as a kid!)

Best wishes,

10:30 PM  

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