Movie Review: Into the Spider Verse

I completely missed the beginning of this movie. I decided to see a 4:00 showing but ended up in meetings until 4:05. Of course the trailers went until 20 past the hour, so I only missed, I assume, the title card.

Regardless of being thrown a little into the action at the start, the movie was overall fantastic. The 3D was also out in the theatre I was viewing in (there was some Aquaman event in the bar that seemed to take the full attention of the technical staff) but that in some ways actually added to the animation style.

Really, the biggest thing I took away from this film was the look. Of course the main character, Miles Morales, was fantastically realized. Having never read his Spiderman comics, I didn't feel like I was at a loss. The way he was drawn, the way he reacted to things, and the quality and depth of all the characters around him early in the story made it feel very natural when he started swinging around and doing spider-things.

Without diving into specifics, the plot was very well realized as well. The villains were a little thin though, and while some of their motivations had depth implied, their actual actions relied on your understanding of the comic books and assumptions about "bad guys just being bad." But here's the thing, I didn't care. This is a coming of age story told as a superhero origin. It's a story about Miles and his personal challenges. The villains played the same role as the set dressing (which was excellent). They were a vehicle to propel the story to occur. It worked.

The one thing I didn't really like about the movie was some character decision making, but that's like saying I didn't like the mystery novel because they didn't immediately solve the mystery. I'll talk about that later. Otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed every part of it.

In summary, I'd recommend it. Bring your kids, they'll like it for other reasons.

One word of warning: The trailer for this movie (which was unavoidable if you ever go to theatres) slightly took away from some funny moments and gave away some later-movie plot. Avoid it if you can.

-- Spoilers Ahead --

Here's an ad to offer a visual buffer between the spoilers and the introduction.

-- Spoilers --

The fact that Miles didn't immediately confront Uncle Aaron once he realized he was the Prowler was infuriating. And, when Aaron died the fact that Miles didn't turn around, or at least later show himself to his dad, was equally infuriating.

You were already warned about the spoilers.

Here's the thing though: the fact that this action by Morales infuriated me is demonstrative of the movie pulling me in. Miles' motivation is reasonable, he's a kid. How would you react to that at 15? Or however old he was. The character was well enough written that this made sense, while being incredibly infuriating.

But, at the same time, some things weren’t fleshed out. Why was everyone so ok with the interdimensional rift, thing? There were very few scenes where anyone batted an eye at all the extradimensional travel taking place. In one scene all the spider-people are trying to hide in Miles' room when his roommate walks in. After a brief evasion the roommate looks right at the bunch of spider-people and (this moment was in the trailer) spider-pig says "do animals talk in this universe? I don't walk to freak him out." This was the only moment when the weirdness of the situation was verbalized properly. A scene where Miles asks Peter a load of questions about his universe would have been both funny, and would have improved the plot. More unanswered questions: why was spider-gwen blown into last week, when no one else was?

The plot was condensed in places. The characters' central objective was to reach and disable the machine Kingpin had built. The way they would do it would be to use the original Spiderman's  USB key, but the reasoning for using the original Superman's key to turn off the portal wasn't ever actually explained. Sure, maybe spider-people implicitly trust other spider-people but they literally rebuilt the broken key on their own! How did they know how to build it or how to use it? I'll admit, they did yada-yada this by stealing Doc Oc's computer, but this just barely served as explanation.

Speaking of Doc Oc and other villains, Kingpin's motivation made sense, but was introduced too late to matter and didn't impact the resolution of the plot. He saw a flash of his wife and child during the climax but it didn't affect the action at all. They were there, then they were gone, and while it was shot in a parallel to the introduction of Kingpin’s tragedy, it didn’t matter. Kingpin saw them, then once they disappeared he focused his attention was back on Miles. Nobody learned anything, and the stakes didn't change. I do still stand by the "villains as a vehicle" comment, but villain development is something superhero movies almost always lack and which can take them a step above other genre films.

Little gripes (like Gwen being telegraphed in the movie, and spoiled by the trailer) aside, the movie was excellently put together, entertaining, and just downright beautiful. And little touches, like the spider almost getting Miles but being thrown off the spray can, and Peter Parker getting Gwen Stacy'd in Gwen Stacy's spider-verse, made this movie really worth the price of admission.

And because you didn't ask, the answer to your burning question:

Favorite Spider-person? Spiderman noir.

I had no idea Nick Cage was in this movie until the credits.

If you have any comments or questions about the above or anything else click here and I'd be happy to chat.

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