November 1, 2019

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Mahershala Ali

I'll admit it: Spider-Man is BY FAR my least favorite superhero. For one thing, his costume is ugly. For another, I was introduced to him when he was played by Tobey friggin' Maguire. Then Andrew Garfield. Literally nothing I've seen about him has made me want to cheer for him.

Needless to say, I put off seeing this movie for those reasons. Yeah yeah yeah, I know people raved about it. I know it's animated. And I was excited about the inclusion of a non-white, non-boring actor Spider-Man. But I still couldn't bring myself to do it.

But like I always do, I caved. And to the surprise of probably no one, I liked it. Because of course I did. It's fresh, it's exciting, and its done in a style I've never seen before. For a comic book movie, it's the only one I've seen that actually manages to capture that comic book feeling. It's pretty astounding in that regard.

Story-wise, it's clever in that it's both simple and straight-forward, but layered with more complicated implications of what having different dimensions means, so both young kids and adults alike can enjoy it. My 3yo, for one, was completely glued to the screen the entire time, even though there is zero chance he understood anything beyond Spider-Man fights bad guys.

But on top of all that, it goes above and beyond to capture both culture and humor in a way many kid's movies do not. They're not crude jokes, meant to go above kids' heads, nor are they easy potty humor. They embrace Miles's interests (like the stickers and the tagging) instead of demonizing them as the hobbies of a delinquent as mainstream media is wont to do. And they introduce a diverse cast of characters in a way that's meaningful and not simply slapping non-white faces on unimportant characters.

Having seen it much later than everyone else, I have the gift of knowing the outcome, and that is all the accolades and awards it won, which I can safely say it deserves. It's innovative in a way Disney hasn't been in quite awhile (yeah yeah, I know technically Disney owns Marvel), and it's a nice change from the usual princess or animal movies we're offered at every turn. 

My one complaint, and I realize this is strictly a personal problem, had to do with the sketch animation sequences during portal openings. I think it was effective to turn the pictures into a rougher, more choppy style to mimic the disruption from opening a portal to different dimensions, but it personally made me feel sick, like I might have a seizure from it. Not dissimilar to the black and white strobe fight sequence in The Incredibles 2. I don't have any recommendations as to what they could have done differently but still capture that feeling, but it seemed worth a mention as I can't possibly be the only person who feels like passing out when confronted with pulsing lights.

Other that that, however: near perfection. (Oh, the other minus is of course, using Nicholas Cage as a voice actor.

Final word: Maybe I'll even watch Spider-Man: Homecoming now.