The Amazing Spider-Verse: A Spider-Man- Into the Spider-Verse Review
Spider-man has always been my favorite hero, above Batman, above them all. I’ve always connected to Peter Parker in such a way that I didn’t with other comic book characters.
But man, has he suffered on screen. Not as much as Batman, to be true- the Tobey McQuire movies (the first two) were great for their time, and Andrew Garfield showed real promise in his first movie, even if his second was anything but “amazing”- by 2016, the web-slinger was in trouble.
Until, that is, when Tom Holland came along. Finally, through Civil War, Spider-Man Homecoming, and Infinity War, Spider-Man- and Peter Parker- have finally been adapted to the big screen properly.
Last night, I finally saw Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. And I have to say that Spider-Man Homecoming is still, without a doubt, the best live action Spider-Man film to date. But Spider-Verse is, quite possibly, the best Spider-Man movie ever made.
I feel like many people don’t consider an animated film the same way they do a live action. Live action requires the actors who fit the parts- both in acting and in physical appearence- and special effects to make it believable. Richard Donner’s Superman made people believe a man could fly, but Justice League couldn’t make us believe that man didn’t have facial hair.
There are limits with a live action film- how the sets can be built, how the effects can be rendered. Many a movie has lost a crucial moment of the story because it couldn’t be properly realized in live action.
With animation, as you know, the limits are only what can be drawn on paper or rendered in the computer. Realism is not an anchor like it is with live action CGI, the only constraints are the limits of imagination.
This is why I still go see Pixar films, even though I’m thirty years old (and have no kids). And this is why- when I saw the first trailer for Spider-Verse- I was interested.
The visuals were the first thing that grabbed me. And having just sat through the movie, I can assure you that the visual style does not let go, not even through the end credits. They are striking, vibrant, and extraordinary. Designed to exaggerate the visuals of comic books- the dotted coloring, the word bubbles, the panel-like action sequences- it is bold and new. I’ve never seen an animated movie that looked like this. And it looked good.
The Spider Men
Of course, at the beginning, I talked about the woes of adapting Peter Parker’s story to screen. But this movie ain’t about Pete.
This one is about Miles Morales. Sure, Peter Parker (two of him, actually) and a few other Spider-characters fill the cast ranks, but this is Miles’ origin story.
Miles Morales is not a Spider-Man that I’m really that familiar with. I grew up knowing Peter Parker was Spider-Man, and- like many other heroes that have had more than one character take up the mantle- I wasn’t really interested in anyone else who wore the mask.
It didn’t help- as huge a fan of Peter Parker as I am- that Miles’ story begins with the death of Peter Parker.
But Miles- like Peter- is such a hugely relatable character for the audience. Like Peter, he’s a smart kid who just wants to help. But he’s unique; he’s an artist, creative. His backstory is different from Parker’s in nearly every way but the spider bite, but they end up following the same path (more on that later).
Spider-Man meant to mentor Miles- until he was brutally murdered in front of Miles five minutes later by Kingpin, leaving Miles alone, not only to figure out his powers and place in the world, but to complete Peter’s mission to stop Kingpin from turning on a collider that threatens to merge multiple universes together.
This collider facilitates in bringing in the other Spider-Men (and women) into the story. First we meet Peter B. Parker, who is very much alive but nowhere near as successful in his personal life as Miles’ local Spider-Man. He’s Miles’ only hope as a mentor, though he is reluctant to do so.
We also meet Gwen Stacy from another alternate timeline, one where she became Spider-Woman (and her Peter died). We get Spider-Man Noir, a Batman-like Spider-Man from the 1930’s (who is in black and white and played by Nic Cage, in yet another Batman-like character); Penni Parker from the future, who has a mech suit that is controlled by her and a spider she is phychically linked to; and we get Spider-Ham (all I can hear is Homer Simpson singing “Spider-pig, Spider-pig, does whatever a Spider-pig does…”), who was actually a spider that was bitten by a radioactive pig and turned into a pig himself.
Gwen and B Parker become Miles’ mentors, as they need his help- the collider needs to be shut down, but it must be done by someone after these misplaced Spider-folk get sent back to their proper dimensions. Of course, being variations on Peter Parker, all of the Spider-people are willing to remain behind and shut the machine down after the others get home (an act that will kill whoever remains if they are from a different dimension, as being in Miles’ is slowly killing them), but since Miles is not in the same danger as the others, he can safely get everyone home and shut down the machine, saving the day and everyone involved.
Sony finally learned. No, they didn’t learn to limit the villain count. But they learned not to shove the Sinister Six down our throats. In fact, I didn’t realize until hours after seeing this flick that a variation of the Sinister Six indeed appeared in this movie. Spidey(s) fought multiple villains, all alined together to defeat him (them).
And the villains were great. Fisk was a little exaggerated in his size; but he was an overpowering menace. Doc Ock (now a woman, and with tubular arms instead of the usual metal) was fun and lively. And Prowler- man Prowler was downright terrifying.
But some of them had depth. Fisk, for example (which I’ll get to in a bit), and Prowler both get a fleshed out backstory. As anyone familiar with the comics would know, Prowler is actually Miles’ uncle (foreshadowing), who he looks up to. And when the penny drops and we learn that on screen, it is powerful.
The animation in this movie is bonkers good. The fight scenes are energetic and the humor is spot on (points to Sony for making fun of themselves with Peter Parker’s opening monologue), but the real heart of this movie is the emotions.
I mentioned the Prowler in the villains segment; well, one of the most emotional scenes in the film comes with his death; despite being a villain, despite trying to kill Miles moments before, his death impacts Miles- and his father- hard.
There’s a powerful moment when the other Spiders come together with Miles, and help him- they are the only ones who can really understand what he is going through; Miles’ origin, like everyone else’s, begins with the death of a loved one.
Despite being an animated flick, this movie does not hold back on the emotions. Wilson Fisk’s villainous plot is steeped in emotion; he just wants his family back.
I loved this movie. Hands down. There’s isn’t one thing I’d change, there isn’ta single issue I have with it. It is what Sony should have been doing with Spider-Man for a long time.
Tom Holland is the definitive live action Peter Parker, but Miles Morales in all his animated glory is the best Spider-Man we’ve had yet. His inaugural sorry it’s gripping and resonant, and it provides us with a perfect lesson: anyone can wear the mask, anyone can be Spider-Man. It didn’t have to be Peter Parker, or Miles Morales. It can be Gwen Stacy, or even a talking pig. It could be you or me. It proves exactly why Spider-Man- no matter who wears the mask- is so relatable to so many people.
Stan Lee said it best himself (and this quote in the end credits nearly brought me to tears… RIP Stan):
That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.
If we learn anything from Miles’ first story, is that we all have the ability to be a hero. Because with great power comes great responsibility. And in this world today, we all have the power to help someone.
Nearly every year, Pixar is the winner of the best animated picture Oscar. But this year- and even though the highly anticipated and outstanding Incredibles 2 came out- I’ll be shocked if it didn’t go to Spider-Verse.