Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

They screened this movie for the critics on a Saturday afternoon. I already had a commitment I couldn’t get out of, so I skipped it. I’m so burned out on superhero films anyway, especially Spider-Man. Although, I loved Spider-Man: Homecoming, so…despite the fact that it’s been rebooted three different times, if they give us a good film, I’m on board. And that’s what they did here. I finally got a chance to see it at the Reading Town Square, and it blew my mind. It was a hip, fresh take. The pop-art animation was beautiful. The message of the film was sweet.

In the beginning, when we see a young kid walking through Brooklyn to get to school, with a swagger like Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever…only to be picked up by the cops (well, his dad that’s an officer), and given a ride to school. The father tells the son he loves him and as he walks out of the squad car with his books, the dad turns on the loudspeaker to say “Say it back. Tell me you love me, too.”

At that point, I realized we were in for something very special with this film.

And when the movie felt like a comic book come to life on screen, with dazzling CGI, I was sitting there mesmerized. Not to mention, all the humor worked perfectly.

Move over Peter Parker, there’s a new sheriff…errr…new Spider-Man in town. His name is Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), and he’s half Latino, half black…and he can fight crime and spray paint walls like the best of him (some of his tagging is even compared to Banksy).

He’s bitten by a radioactive spider while tagging a wall that his shady uncle has found (since he’s gotten into trouble with his dad for tagging various places around the city).

When Morales goes back to find the spider that bit him, he witnesses the real Spider-Man fighting Kingpin (Liev Shreiber). It doesn’t end so well for Parker, and the Kingpin has opened up a portal to other dimensions, which means other Spidey folks appear. There are seven Spider-Men…well, 5 Spider-men, 1 Spider-Woman, and a Spider-Pig. I know, just reading that sentence has probably turned off anybody that isn’t a fan boy, but trust me…they’re all amazing. The voice work is terrific, and includes Jake Johnson (go find his movie Safety Not Guaranteed) as the overweight, unshaven Spider-Man that’s invested in restaurants that have gone belly up and has divorced M.J. because she wants kids. The always funny John Mulaney was the Spider-Pig, Hailee Steinfeld is Spider-Woman, and Nicolas Cage, who always wanted to play Superman…plays the black-and-white noir Spider-Man from the ‘30s who talks like a private eye from that time. Perhaps the least believable element in this picture is trying to believe that Cage would be able to figure out how to finish a Rubik’s Cube.

The always welcome Kathryn Hahn plays Doctor Octopus, and Lily Tomlin voices Aunt May. She feels much more like an aunt than Marisa Tomei, but that’s another complaint for another day. You’ll also hear Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Chris Pine, and Zoe Kravitz. But perhaps the best voice you’ll hear is that of the late creator — Stan Lee. His animated “cameo” brought tears to my eyes (as did the tribute to him in the closing credits). This film probably made him so proud, as it felt like it perfectly conveyed exactly what the Spider-Man character, and comic books, should.

Explaining the premise is probably not a great selling point to the film, but basically…Morales needs to stop the Kingpin, who wants to bring his dead family back using the portals. That will kill people currently living in New York, so the spider crew needs to stop him, as well as get back to their own universes.

Speaking of the crew, it’s funny how when we’re quickly shown each backstory, we think we know where it’s going (bitten by a radioactive spider, saving the planet, etc.), but you’re in for some fun surprises. It also quickly does this, so we’re not bored with the minutiae of it all.

I have music-loving friends that try to claim albums are better than CDs because they’re warmer, and they like to hear the occasional pop of the needle on the record. Well, I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I did love when I was looking at the menacing cop/father character, bitching about how Spider-Man is a vigilante and he doesn’t agree with how he does things…and I noticed printing dots on his face and body. So instead of just occasionally showing us panels coming to life, and speech bubbles above their heads, small details like that were just wonderful to catch. It truly was a comic book come to life.

The hip-hop you hear (Nicki Minaj, Post Malone, Notorious B.I.G.) fits the story perfectly.

Many, many critics are calling this the best superhero movie ever, or the best Spider-Man film ever. It’s neither, but…it certainly warrants the hype and all the accolades it’s getting. It has a lot of heart, and a lot of laughs. It’s the perfect film to bring the whole family to.

It was about two hours long, and I wouldn’t have minded spending another hour with Miles Morales.

3 ½ stars out of 5.

 

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