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Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Everything Will Be Tingling After This One"
5 stars

Even though I am still not much of a superhero film buff by any stretch of the imagination, I must confess that the genre has been on a bit of an upswing in the last year or so. Oh sure, there have been duds like the increasingly clunky half-a-movie “Avengers: Infinity War) and the astoundingly awful “Aquaman” but at the same time, we have seen such welcome surprises as the game-changing “Black Panther” and the cheerfully goofy “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and “Teen Titans Go to the Movies.” Now comes “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and it could well be the most welcome surprise of them all. On the surface, it may look like just another attempt by Sony to make a few more bucks off of a character that they have already presented in no fewer than three separate live-action iterations over the past 16 years via the presumably cheaper method of animation. In fact, it turns out to be an absolutely inspired and compulsively entertaining work that is jam-packed with smart humor, eye-popping visuals and a story that takes the time to examine the Spider-Man mythos in a manner that its predecessors have largely eschewed over the years. Let me put it this way for you. You know how “Spider-Man 2” (2004) is generally put right up there with the original “Superman” as one of the greatest of all superhero movies? I don’t know if I could actually say right now for certain that this one is better than “Spider-Man 2” but if someone were to put forth that argument, I would not necessarily disagree with such a statement.

The focus of this particular film is Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), the teenage son of African-American/Puerto Rican parents who, while highly intelligent, is struggling to fit in at advanced high school for gifted students that he has been unwillingly enrolled in. One night, he sneaks out with his black sheep uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) to do some graffiti tagging in an abandoned subway tunnel and is bitten by a mysterious spider that leaves him with all the powers that Peter Parker received when he got a similar bite and a couple of additional ones tossed into the mix as well. After some initial fumbling with his new powers, which result in especially awkward moment at school with new girl Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), he returns to the scene of the bite just in time to see the “real” Spider-Man fall in battle to one of his more famous opponents while trying to prevent crime boss Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) from firing up a particle collider that could disrupt the very fabric of the time-space continuum if used.

With the world in mourning at the passing of Spider-Man, Miles, after picking up a costume at the store (no prize for guessing who embodies the shopkeeper), decides to take up the mantle himself but quickly finds himself over his head. Help unexpectedly arrives in the form of another Peter Parker (Jake Johnson)—this one a pot-bellied schlub who has not gotten over his divorce from his beloved Mary Jane (Zoe Kravitz). It turns out that this Peter is from another dimension in which he is Spider-Man and has been brought to Miles’s dimension as an unintended result of the usage of the particle collider. Before long, the two are joined by web-slingers from additional dimensions that include a 1930s-era private eye sort known as Spider-Man Noir (voiced, perhaps inevitably, by Nicolas Cage), the anime-styled Penni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) whose spider-suit is a robot, the wisecracking anthropomorphic pig Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) and Gwen, who turns out to be a visitor from yet another dimension where she is known as Spider-Gwen. With the help of the beloved Aunt May (Lily Tomlin), the various Spideys band together to defeat Kingpin and his array of heavy-hitting henchmen (whose identities I shall not reveal), stop the collider from destroying all of the universes and get themselves back to their respective worlds while Miles finds himself trying to figure out who he is deep down and whether he has what it takes to be a hero after all.

At least I think that is how the story unfolds—I have a tendency to get a little dizzy when I have to deal with multiple universes at the same time—but one of the things that makes this films special is not so much the sheer number of characters and dimensions that it is continually juggling throughout as it is the direct and surprisingly emotional manner in which the key points are driven home. The backstory of Miles and his struggles to fit in with his new environment at the same time he is learning to deal with his new abilities works as beautifully as a metaphor for the awkwardness of adolescence as the Peter Parker saga does when it is told properly. More importantly, while the multiple Spideys might strike some as little more than a marketing gimmick to get comic book fanatics to fork over more money for separate books each month, it also serves as an ideal representation of what has helped continue to fuel the popularity of Marvel Comics in general and Spider-Man in particular—the notion that anyone has the ability to become a superhero. With the characters created by DC, their superpowers were often a birthright or, at least in the case of Batman, were at least in part the result of an endless bankroll. With the Marvel characters, they were, more often than not, ordinary people who were granted powers and then had to step up in order to use them properly. This may not sound like much but for generations of kids, this is a powerful and inspiring notion and it is given a chance to flower fully here in fascinating ways.

That said, I don’t want to suggest that the film is an overly pretentious intellectual slog by any means because at the same time all of that is going on, “Into the Spider-Verse” is proving itself to be one of the funniest and most stylish-looking superhero movies ever made. Visually, virtually every single scene is a stunner filled with delights ranging from small but winning fillips (such as the post-bite Miles finding his existence becoming increasingly like a comic book in strange ways) to such large-scale astonishments as bringing all the Spideys, each of whom has been illustrated in a different stylistic motif, together and somehow juggling all of the looks without devolving into a giant mess. The film is also a genuine laugh riot—possibly the funniest superhero film ever made—with an astonishing array of jokes and japes ranging from meta in—jokes regarding some of the more dubious aspects of the Spider-Man mythology to the broader antics of Spider-Ham to the sight gags hovering on the edges of the screen like a particularly overstuffed MAD Magazine panel that will inspire big laughs from those lucky enough to catch them. The voice work is also impressive all around with special kudos going to Nicolas Cage, who somehow manages to make Spider-Noir come across like a hard-bitten detective out of a Bogart film while somehow making every line sound like something that he might say during the course of an ordinary day.

Face it, an animated Spider-Man film released over the holidays is pretty much the closest thing you can get to a sure bet these days from a box-office perspective. In many cases, knowing that success is all but assured can lead to a certain degree of laziness on the part of the filmmakers—if the film is all but assured of being a gargantuan hit long before it comes out, why expend any extra time or energy on it when it will be a smash regardless? The makers of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” have taken the opposite approach—using the advantage of a guaranteed financial success to try something bold and different—and it is a gamble that pays off in a stunning manner here. If you are a long-time fan of Spider-Man, this film will be like a dream come true and if you are a more casual observer, it will still entertain you in a manner largely missing from a lot of blockbusters these days. Whichever group you fit into, you will be coming out of this film hungry for more, especially if Spider-Noir is involved.

PS—Like most Marvel-related movies these days, there is a little something extra following the conclusion of the end credits. Unlike a lot of those post-film sequences, the one here is definitely worth the wait.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=29147&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/13/18 21:12:36
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User Comments

8/14/19 bored mom The stylish visuals don't make up for the unsatisfyingly conventional, overlong plot. 3 stars
2/23/19 Piz For someone who hates “superhero” movies I thought this was fantastic. 5 stars
12/15/18 Alfred Hitch-twat A quite magnificent movie, absolutely fantastic. 5 stars
12/14/18 Bob Dog Spectacular animation + cool story - unfortunately 30 minutes too long. 3 stars
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  14-Dec-2018 (PG)
  DVD: 19-Mar-2019


  DVD: 19-Mar-2019

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