Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Review: The Spiderverse is a helluva place!

Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse Review

"It a great time to be a comic book fan!"

I've heard this sentence over and over again as I've grown older the past decade. Hell, I've used the sentence myself as I've grown older the past decade. But as a comic book fan and as a superhero fan, we are living through a golden age we never thought we'd see. The first major superhero movie was "Superman: The Movie" with Christopher Reeve, which came out in 1977. The next major superhero franchise wouldn't start until 1989 with Batman. And even though we got characters like "Blade" and "Spawn" and ambitious stuff like "Mystery Men" in the 90's, superhero movies were approached with a great deal of skepticism. It wouldn't be after the one-two punch of "X-Men" in 2000 and "Spider-Man" in 2002 that the business would really take off. Even though we got a bunch of superheroes in the 2000's on film, it was all handled in a very tame way. If you want a crazy story, read about Tom Rothman and his time working for Fox and how he nearly torpedoed the entire "X-Men" movie franchise. Why? Because he didn't believe in it, even when it was making the studio money. Lots of people didn't believe that a superhero franchise could be a multi-billion dollar money making machine.

Today, every superhero character you could possibly heard of (and some you definitely haven't) has a movie franchise. And if they don't have a movie franchise, then they have a live-action television show. And if they don't have a live-action television show, then I can bet good money they've got either a movie franchise or a live-action television show being made, processed or pitched as we speak. Superheroes aren't just popular right now, they are omnipresent in our pop culture right now. You maybe a DC boy, and you may not like what I have to say, but you have to thank Marvel for the most part for why we are here right now. DC certainly helped us get started making these movies, but it was Marvel that proved just what you could do with it and how much you could bend it. Never in my lifetime would I have guessed that I'd see a cohesive fictional universe spreading across several film releases, but here we are, experiencing it at ground zero.  

While I love that every superhero and their mother is getting a moment in the sun, its not what I'm most excited for. Anybody can make a superhero movie now, and everyone can make them somewhat lucrative. The moment I've been waiting for is now. What we are seeing in 2018. When we can make movies like "Avengers: Infinity War" and now..."Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse" this feels like the big payoff comic fans have been waiting to see on the big screen. We've allowed this popular thing to get really weird, and fly off the rails. And the business, the box office and the audience are only going to reap the rewards. "Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse" is a helluva ride and it proves that it doesn't matter how "comic booky" these comic book movies get, just as long as they are made with the same amount of confidence, heart and soul that the best are made with.

Miles Morales isn't a character that many people know about. But there are currently two Spider-Men running around right now. I haven't read too many Morales comics yet, but I know he's a boy who also got bit by a radioactive spider. Peter Parker eventually meets Morales and trains him to be like him, a hero with spider abilities. Eventually in the comics, Peter Parker dies and its Morales who steps in as the new Spider-Man. Morales is a very different person compared to Peter Parker though, and I'm glad that Sony didn't just treat Morales as "black Peter Parker." Sure, he's also a high school kid, but he's got a different family, a different upbringing, and even a different culture. He's a black superhero, and that makes him stand out in a unique way. I love that the movie embraces that and showcases how different Morales is as a person. They do it just fast enough that it doesn't feel like dragging exposition but not long enough to get bored. Especially when things get really weird.

See, there's a bad guy who has a particle accelerator and he wants to use it to travel to other dimensions. Using this machine, he draws aspects from other Earths to his homeworld, which is why other "Spider-Men "begin showing up in front of Morales. A kid who just gained spider abilities may be weird, but when he's confronted with a beer-gut Peter Parker, and a Spider-Man from the 1930's and even a talking pig with spider abilities...things get even weirder. Of course, there is a special artifact that can turn the machine off, that Peter Parker calls a "goober," and the team of Spider Heroes must put the goober inside the particle accelerator otherwise it will destroy the planet.

Oh yes, of course there's a goober. Of course, there is a colorful machine that is very bad. Of course, there is a special thing that can turn the evil colorful machine off. We've been seeing this same structure in most superhero movies now for awhile. I love that "Spider-Man: Enter The Spiderverse" plays by the same superhero movie rules, but also finds a clever and creative way to poke fun at those rules. This is a movie that knows exactly what it is, and its willing to play with you and if you play along, you'll have a great time. How the origin story works in this movie is also full of laughs. The movie rolls all over the floor trying to please you and trying to deconstruct the norms we've seen before.

Now, let's talk about the animation, because there is a reason why this movie got a Golden Globe nod and I'm betting it will get an Oscar nod too. This is some of the most uniquely original animation you will see in a movie theater this year. It literally looks like a moving comic book, but its also lush and luminous to look at. Not only that, but the style of each character is represented in the animation. Spider-Ham looks exaggerated, Spider-Man noir has very noir-ish style, and Penni Parker; a girl who uses a Spider Robot, is all anime. Not only is it something to see all these different styles of animation playing on the same screen, but its also amazing how creative the backdrop of the movie is itself.

There's a ton of great voice talent here and I am now sold that Shameik Moore has big things ahead of him. Check him out in "Dope," he's the real deal and I hope he gets more Spider-Man movies out of this. Chris Pine and Jake Johnson voice two different versions of Peter Parker, and I love how they contrast one another. Liev Schreiber probably does my favorite voice-work in the film. Pay very close attention to when his Kingpin is on screen, he sounds like a real world Italian gangster, he DOES NOT sound like Liev Schreiber, he may just have a career in voice work. Mahershala Ali, John Mulaney, Hailee Steinfeld, Nic-Freaking-Cage...all of them do wonderful work that fits their characters. 

"Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse" just blew the doors wide open on the possibilities of what a superhero movie can be, and what they can do. Now, skepticism is no more. There is no longer an excuse to what a superhero movie can and cannot do. The age of restraint in this genre is over. The year 2018 proved that enough time as passed, everybody seems to get it now. So its time to get weird. And as my favorite Batman once said, "you want to get nuts? Come on, lets get nuts." I want to see more movies like this now. The audience has proven their game and Sony has proven that they can make beautiful, confident, fun, and emotionally-engaging movies that will have the audiences coming in droves. Oh yes, there are some surprisingly emotional moments so human and grounded here that it will make Pixar blush. They nailed this thing on every front, and now I can't wait to see what the future brings.


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