Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  You know how it works, I watch a movie and blog about it.  Don't get much more complicated than that.  This time out, I giving Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse a spin.  This is originally in my notes at March 23, 2019.

Like many a nerd, I have long felt that superheroes and animation are a genre and a medium made for each other.  But still, in this modern era of superhero films and animated films, there have been surprisingly few.  There have been some gems, like The Incredibles, but no one has attempted to tackle one of the bigger heroes out there.

Which is why I got mildly jazzed for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.  The situation with the film rights to Spider-Man is kinda complicated.  Marvel sold them to Sony way back in the 1990s.  But now, with Marvel going into business for themselves and making their own movies, they kinda wanted Spider-Man back.  So Sony and Marvel worked out some kind of joint custody agreement.  So while now we can see Spidey paling around with the Avengers, the truth is Sony still technically owns Spider-Man.  Which is how they can crank out films like the Venom solo film.  Or Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

To help differentiate it from the newer, live-action films, they decided to focus on Miles Morales, which worked fine for me.  For those who don't know their comics, Miles comes from the alternate continuity known as the Ultimate universe.  Miles, too, was bitten by a radioactive spider and gained spider-powers, but it freaked the crap out of him, so he chose not to be a superhero and just keep living a normal life.  But then, Peter Parker Spider-Man gives his life in his final battle against Green Goblin.  Feeling guilty about not using his powers to help in the battle, Miles takes up the mantle of Spider-Man and continues fighting the good fight.  Eventually, SHIELD steps in and helps train Miles to be a superhero. 

So I was pleased that Into the Spider-Verse follows that plot pretty closely...except, instead of SHIELD stepping forward to train Miles, it's the Peter Parker of another dimension.  This Spider-Man is hilarious.  He's on the cusp of loser-dom.  He's a little out of shape.  His marriage to Mary Jane Watson is on the rocks.  Aunt May has finally passed on.  But Miles still sees him as a mentor. 

And that's not the only Spider-Person who has fallen into Miles' life.  We also get Spider-Gwen.  Again, for those who don't know the comics.  In a parallel universe, it was Peter Parker's longtime girlfriend Gwen Stacy who was bitten by the radioactive spider at that fateful science demonstration.  She uses her powers to become Spider-Woman.  However, Peter Parker, looking to get bigger and stronger to fight of bullies, tinkers with genetics to become that universe's Lizard.  When Peter Parker dies, Gwen Stacy learns that with great power comes great responsibility.  (Oh, and technically she's Spider-Woman, but the fans quickly dubbed her Spider-Gwen to differentiate her from all the other Spider-Women.) 

So these wind up being our three main Spiders in the film.  Peter Parker learns to get his life together,  Gwen Stacy, plagued with guilt over the loss of Peter Parker, learns to start opening up again.  But the journey is Miles', and how he grows into being Spider-Man. 

What is the plot?  Well, the radioactive spider that bit Miles comes from Kingpin's lab, as Kingpin is trying to breach parallel universes to find his wife and son.  (In this universe, they were killed.)  Opening up the portal to other dimensions is what let all these other Spider-People into Miles' universe. 

Yeah, and Peter Parker and Spider-Gwen weren't the only Spiders let in.  We also get:

Spider-Man Noir, voiced by Nicholas Cage.  This Spider-Man is from the 1930s and is a hard-boiled private eye. 

Spider-Ham, voiced by John Mulaney.  This Spider is a pig, who comes from a world of talking animals. 

Peni Parker and SP//DR, voiced by Kimiko Glenn.  Hailing from an anime universe.  When Peni was bitten by that radioactive spider, she didn't gain spider-powers.  Instead, she developed a psychic link with that spider.  And together, they pilot a spider-powered mech. 

I tell ya, man, Cage and Mulaney are just hilarious.  And I love the blending of animation styles.  Spider-Ham looks and moves like he stepped out of a Looney Tunes short.  Peni Parker looks and movies like she stepped out of Pokemon.  It's great. 

But as great as these are, this is very firmly the story of Miles Morales.  And it's that emotional grounding...Miles struggles with his powers, struggles with his family, that makes this movie special. 

And I haven't even gotten into Dr. Octopus yet!  I love what they did with Dr. Octopus in this film.  They made her a woman!  It's a real surprise twist.  When we first meet Olivia Octavious, she's like that slightly kooky science teacher you had in high school.  But then, when she drops that lab coat, revealing her tentacles, and with just the slightest change in inflections in her voice, what was once kooky becomes sinister.  Love it.

So, yeah,  Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a truly remarkable film.  They're planning two more:  a direct sequel, continuing the story of Miles, and a spinoff, focusing on Spider-Gwen and female Spiders.  Bring 'em on, I say, because Sony Animation really hit on something special here.

No comments: