Review: SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (2018)

By Josh Morris

Upshot: This is an animated Spider-Man movie that centers on Miles Morales (played by rising star Sameik Moore), a talented high-school kid of Latino and African-American descent.

“[F]or about two days he’s been the ONLY Spider-Man.”

This is the first theatrical Spider-Man film without Peter Parker in the spotlight; however, Parker (among other Spider-Friends) has a crucial role to play.

Highpoint: The “leap of faith” scene. The pivotal moment when a hero summons both his/her courage and his/her powers is compulsory in every superhero movie, but it represents more in this film: it celebrates a cultural shift. Miles isn’t just distinct because he’s an ethnic character; his Spider-Man has superpowers which differ from Peter Parker’s: he can turn invisible and harness electricity. Throughout the picture, Parker taunts him to showcase those powers “at will,” and Miles is unable to do so. Parker, in turn, not only demands Miles stay home during the final showdown but actually web-ties him to a chair with his mouth covered. When Miles breaks free, he defies Parker and embraces his role as the protector of his universe; his cultural identity and his superhuman persona merge: new defies the established, trainee replaces mentor, Black youth supersedes White savior. This is further revisited at the climax when Miles sends Parker home to his original universe. 

The film’s creators understand that Miles wouldn’t be popular without his predecessor Parker; indeed, Parker is both celebrated and mourned throughout ‘Spider-Verse.’ But Parker is swingin’ solo no more.

Lowpoint:  This is a quibble; nothing more. Some of the animation feels like it requires 3D to fully appreciate (and I didn’t see the film in 3D). In some scenes, what I saw was blurry or had a halo around it that felt … off. It may have been experiential animation (I intend to find out), but it was a bit distracting in a few places.

Rundown: In my review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016) I wrote the following:

“I still can’t figure out how it’s necessary or even a bright idea to take another stab at a live-action Ninja Turtles film. Let’s just be done with the ‘live-action works for everything’ state of mind. [W]e’re living during the magical time when … a legitimate, superhero story with a big budget, high quality and compelling human emotion [can be] a cartoon!”

This opinion was, without question, verified in 2018; two front-runners for Best Animated Picture are superhero films —

Incredibles 2 and ‘Spider-Verse.’ I’m happy if either film wins, but I would prefer the latter — both are culturally relevant, but only one isn’t a sequel.

The animation style feels unique. It elevated the sense of adventure and fun while utilizing certain elements of comics books structure to enhance the story; thought-bubbles come to mind as a good example.

The soundtrack — with contributions from Amine, Beau Young Prince,  Post Malone/Swae Lee and more — compliments Miles and his personal journey as well as the cultural themes.

Postscript:

A sincere “thank you” to all the talented collaborators of this film — I felt the love.

Score: 7 out of 7

 

 

 

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