Tag Archives: sony pictures

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

spider-verse posterOver the years, the comic book movie has changed immeasurably. Prior to the year 2000, you could basically count the successful superhero movies on one hand and the only heroes able to really break through were Superman and Batman. This meant Marvel was completely shut out despite feeling like the hotter publication for a long time. That company’s forays into the world of cinema were largely terrible and the only semi-successful venture was probably The Incredible Hulk television series.

Now though it seems like anything Marvel wants to send to the big screen is a massive success. It’s not that surprising that X-Men eventually worked or that Spider-Man could become a big player. Captain America? That one is pretty surprising considering how lame he was when I was a kid. Basically everyone associated with The Avengers had been pushed aside. Those were the heroes your parents might have read about, but us 80s and 90s kids wanted mutants, pouches, and clones, damn it! We once thought that in order for these movies to be successful they needed to be more grounded than a comic and basically not look like one. Drab costumes for the X-Men, realistic villains for Iron Man, and so on. Now we’ve learned that doesn’t matter. Bright spandex is in, heroes leave the planet, and a big, purple, bad guy can lead one of the most successful movies of all time.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse pushes the super hero movies even closer to the world of comic books. It’s a bold movie on the part of Sony Pictures and Marvel, though considering the budget for this film is far less than what is spent on a typical live-action super hero film it’s perhaps not perceived as being a great risk. Spider-Verse is a film aimed at the longtime fans of Spider-Man. It’s not really made for those who liked Spider-Man comics as a kid and then moved on, or simply know the character from his other films. This film is modern, it contains references to the old Peter Parker who fell in love with and married Mary Jane Watson, something Marvel has undone. It also references a Spider-Man who divorced MJ, a Spider-Man who is actually a woman, and a Spider-Man who is black. Only in comics could all of these different, yet all valid, versions of one character exist and this film seeks to throw them all into one movie. It’s a transdimensional gathering of Spider-People (and animals) which is the type of story usually reserved for the world of comics as comic fans are used to differentiating from Earth-616, Pre-Crisis, Ultimate, etc. It sounds complicated, and it kind of is, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse ends up being far more accessible than it has any right to be.


I hope you like Spider-Man, because there’s a lot to go around.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is based on a screenplay from Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman directed by Rothman, Bob Persichetti, and Peter Ramsey. It’s a computer-animated film that seeks to emulate the look of a comic book. Movement is intentionally janky as a low frames-per-second was utilized to make sure that basically every moment of the film could work as a still image from a comic book panel. It’s the careful planning of the screenplay and the direction that allows the viewer to ease into this one as it slowly peels away layers making the plot more complicated as it goes along without becoming overwhelming.

miles morales

Miles never leaves home without his trusty Sony headphones.

The movie focuses first on teenager Miles Morales (Shameik Moore). Morales is a young man who is an only child to police officer Jefferson Davis (Brian Tyree Henry) and nurse Rio Morales (Luna Lauren Velez). His father is african american and mother Puerto Rican, and even though he shares a last name with his mother, his parents are a couple and they all live together in Brooklyn. Miles though is sent to a special academy for schooling which functions like a boarding school. He doesn’t like it, but his father insists it’s for his own good. His mother is more sympathetic to his concerns, but not enough to interfere on behalf of her son. Miles is quite smart and apparently gifted, but he desires to be what he feels is normal. As a result, he has a kindred spirit in his uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) who encourages Miles’ preferred form of expression:  tagging. Aaron and Jefferson apparently had a falling out of some kind and aren’t on speaking terms, so Miles has to sneak around to hang out with him.

It’s partly through sneaking out with his uncle that causes Miles to run into Spider-Man (Chris Pine). While tagging a tunnel in the subway, Miles is bit by an odd looking spider. The next day, he feels off and finds he’s sticking to everything and unable to make sense of it. When he returns to find the spider that bit him he encounters Spider-Man, who is battling with a massive, monstrous, version of the Green Goblin who is working for Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber), also known as The Kingpin. Kingpin also employs The Prowler and Tombstone and they’re trying to prevent Spider-Man from destroying a particle accelerator. He will be unsuccessful, and it’s the turning on of that particle accelerator that opens up a rift between the various dimensions which causes other versions of Spider-Man to enter Miles’ world.

store bought costume

Spider-Man may be in the title, but this is a Miles Morales movie.

Most of the movie will then center around Miles and one of the other Spider-Men, played by Jake Johnson. With Miles trying to figure out his own spider-powers, he turns to Peter B. Parker, but unfortunately for Miles this version of Parker is older, out of shape, and not really a good teacher. They need to steal a code from Fisk in order to destroy the accelerator and return Peter to his own dimension. It becomes apparent that they’ll need help though, and gradually more versions of Spider-Man are introduced including Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) and Spider-Man Noir (Nicholas Cage). Each time a new one is introduced, they get a little 30 second origin story that all utilize the same concept. It’s both informative and amusing and never gets old.

While a lot of different versions of the classic character appear, the film never loses sight of the fact that this is really Miles’ story. He has to deal with disappointing his father and trying to find his footing amongst a group of people that have all been at this Spider-Man thing for quite awhile. He’s insecure, and unsure of himself. He just wants to be a normal kid, and while we see right away he’s a fan of Spider-Man, it’s not really something he necessarily wants to be. It’s a movie of self-discovery, camaraderie, and family. Most of the villains are simply physical adversaries, though some time is given to Fisk, and yet the film doesn’t suffer because of it.

spider odd couple

A good chunk of the movie is devoted to an odd couple pairing of inexperienced Miles with past his prime Peter B. Parker.

The story in the film is well-told, but the major take-away from the film will be its look and style. It’s computer-animated, but there’s a hand drawn quality to everything present not seen in something  from the likes of Dreamworks or Pixar. It’s bright, bold, and unafraid to take chances. There’s a sequence where Miles and Peter are stuck via webstring to a subway car and are pulled throughout New York at night. They pinball off of cars, slam into pillars, and slide across windows. It’s a chaotic, visual, experience that never gets out of hand or hard to follow. The finale is even more ambitious as the heroes battle the villains while the accelerator goes nuts and starts sucking in buildings and vehicles from other dimensions with everything suspended in a surreal setting. The film doesn’t need those tricks to be interesting though as even watching Miles walk down the street or emerge from a subway car is visually engauging. Sony stumbled onto something that really works here and I doubt this is the last we’ll see of this style.

spider hide

There are a lot of big fights and moments in this one, but no matter what there’s always going to be a scene where Spider-Man needs to hide from someone in an amusing manner.

The vocal cast is wonderful with not a bad performance to be found and the music the film turns to is appropriate as well. The film opens with Miles listening to the film’s featured song, “Sunflower” performed by Post Malone and Swae Lee, and the rest of the songs used in the film all sound like something Miles would listen to. It’s heavy on hip hop and R&B, while composer Daniel Pemberton mixes similar concepts within a traditional superhero score. Like the film’s visual, the soundtrack and score meld beautifully with the scenes and characters and it’s hard to imagine the film having a soundtrack that could possibly be more appropriate than what is here.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a technical and artistic marvel in cinema. It’s a film made for the Spider-Man fan, but one that isn’t exclusive to that fan base. The character of Miles Morales is portrayed in such an authentic manner that it’s almost unfathomable to think someone could watch this film and not fall in love with the character of Miles. His journey from typical teen with typical problems to full-fledged Spider-Man could feel too familiar, but the film makes it compelling and interesting every step of the way. It’s also impossible to talk about the film and not mention how important and refreshing it is to see a character of mixed race assume the spotlight in a superhero film. I’m just a dumb white guy, so perhaps my opinion isn’t relevant, but I found it exciting and awesome to see Miles assume the mantel of Spider-Man and make it his own. The message of the film is that a hero can come from anywhere, anyone can be Spider-Man, and it’s a message the film takes to heart. And it isn’t just Miles as we also get a wonderful portrayal of Spider-Woman via the Gwen Stacy character. I’d love to see another adventure from Miles, and I’d also love to see a Spider-Gwen movie because I found her character really compelling as well. Hell, I’d even take a Peter B. Parker movie to see how things turned out for him.

gwen stacy

I would love another movie centered on Miles, but if Sony wants to give us a Spider-Gwen I won’t be complaining.

I suspect that given the success of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse that we’re not done with this setting. I don’t expect a sequel to feature dimension-hopping unless it’s flipped and Miles journeys to help another Spider-Man. I think more likely is that a more conventional plot is scripted for Miles. However it happens, it needs to because Miles is too wonderful to only receive top-billing in a single film. I think most who see this film will walk away pondering if it’s their favorite Spider-Man film or close to it. I want to watch it again, but I think I would put Homecoming ahead of it, but it’s not an easy call. This film may be crowded with Spider-People, but it understands Spider-Man and presents what is a perfect Spider-Man story. It may be animated, but it’s paced like a live-action film and definitely isn’t aiming to lure in children, like many animated films developed primarily for a western audience aim for. If you passed on this one because it’s not tied into the Marvel Cinematic Universe or are intimidated by the plot then you made a mistake. There’s time to fix that mistake though and I urge you to do so.


The Amazing Spider-Man and Reboots

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

There are two big superhero movies set to hit theaters this summer.  One, The Dark Knight Rises, figures to close out a trilogy that could go down as the best superhero trilogy ever conceived to this point (and one of the all-time best trilogies in general).  The other, The Amazing Spider-Man, hopes to launch a new franchise that could one day be among the best.  The two films are not very similar, but The Amazing Spider-Man hopes to do for Spider-Man what Batman Begins did for Batman.  That’s a tall order and complicating things is the fact that not a lot of time has elapsed between the original Spider-Man film franchise and this new one Sony is looking to start.

How much time needs to pass between two films based on the same property before a reboot can be introduced?  A reboot refers to a new beginning for a character.  The Amazing Spider-Man will ignore the three previous Spider-Man films directed by Sam Raimi.  When it hits theaters it will have been 5 years since Spider-Man 3 was in theaters.  For Batman Begins, 8 years had elapsed between that film and the most recent Batman film before it, Batman & Robin.  In the case of both, these new films are arriving after the last one was poorly received, though to different degrees.  Batman & Robin was panned by critics and filmgoers alike.  There is almost nothing positive that can be said about it.  It was the sequel to Batman Forever, a film that received a mixed reaction, and was also the fourth film in a line of movies but introduced its third actor to play the starring role.  There was little continuity in that series following Batman Returns and every film seemed to be worse than the one that preceded it.

For Spider-Man, Spider-Man 3 returned the same cast and crew as the previous two.  The first film was received warmly and accomplished what it set out to do, and the second was roundly praised as one of the best comic-to-film adaptations ever.  Spider-Man 3 had a lot to live up to, and though it was not as good as the first two, it actually has a “fresh” rating on rottentomatoes.com, albeit barely so.  It wasn’t a terrible film, but it was a mess of a movie that encountered numerous problems.

What the Hell were they thinking?

I’m not sure if it was the intention from the start, but it felt like going into Spider-Man 3 that this could be the endpoint for the Rami directed movies.  The third one rounds out a trilogy and there seems to be a natural tendency to view films within a franchise in groups of three.  I’m not sure why, but that tends to be the reality of things.  The main actors were originally signed for three films so a potential fourth one was likely to get expensive.  As such, both Raimi and Sony/Marvel tried to cram everything into Spider-Man 3 they ever wanted to address on film.  From the onset, Raimi and star Tobey Maguire had mentioned they liked The Sandman and wanted to get him into a film.  There was also the Green Goblin plot which developed over the course of the first two films that had to be addressed in the third.  And then there was Sony and Marvel (and to a certain extent, the fans) who wanted to see Venom make his big screen debut.  If they had bothered to do any fan research though, I think they would have found most fans would not have wanted Venom in this film and would have preferred to see him introduced slowly across multiple films like he wan in both the comics and television show.

It’s no surprise then that Spider-Man 3 became a bloated mess.  Raimi tried to bring everything full circle for Peter Parker by revealing another piece of the puzzle where Uncle Ben’s murder was concerned.  And not content to let Mary Jane and Peter have a conflict free movie, he put a lot of focus on their relationship and tried to create a love triangle with Harry, the New Goblin (who looked ridiculous).  And then they had to get Gwen Stacey in for some reason, and introduce Eddie Brock and the black costume.  The fact that the movie actually does have a coherent plot is some-what commendable, even if it’s not a good one.

The film made a ton of money riding on the strength of the franchise more so than on the merits of the film itself.  The ending tied up some loose ends for the trilogy, mostly the Green Goblin story, but left things open where MJ and Peter were concerned.  I hated this ending, though the film did such a good job of making both Peter and MJ unlikable that I really didn’t care what became of their relationship once the credits began to roll.  Because it did make so much money, there was some speculation that Raimi and the main cast would return for a fourth film.  Things appeared to be moving in that direction until Sony abruptly cut ties with all involved.  This actually was met with a positive reaction by the fan-base, or seemed to be.  Fans actually seemed on board with a reboot of sorts for Spider-Man, partly because the existing films seemed to lose their way with all the melodrama thrown into the films, and because the Venom character was so thoroughly botched.

The new leads: Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield

A fresh start was definitely in order, but I’m not sure if The Amazing Spider-Man is what fans had in mind.  This new film is copying the Batman Begins formula perhaps too much by re-telling Spider-Man’s origin.  When Begins came out it had been well over a decade since Batman in 1989 and his origin really wasn’t explored in as great of detail as Begins set out to do.  With Spider-Man that’s not the case.  This film does give film-goers a look at Peter’s parents, which was never addressed in the previous trilogy, but it also goes through the whole bitten by a spider thing again.  I don’t speak for everyone, but I have no interest in seeing that re-hashed.  The film’s main villain is going to be The Lizard, who supposedly would have been the villain had Raimi’s franchise continued for a fourth film as well.  He’s another scientist with good intentions who has a horrible accident that leads to him becoming a super-villain.  That type is quite common in the Spider-Man universe, but The Lizard may be one of the most boring.  The film could portray him differently than most mediums, but for the most parts he’s just a mindless rampaging creature that tests Spider-Man physically, not so much intellectually.  He’s been around for a long time so he’s had other portrayals, but that’s the basic one.

If this isn’t the reboot fans were looking for, then what was?  Well, I think fans would have been happy to see a new actor dawn the red and blue tights without an origin story.  The film could have still ignored the Raimi trilogy and laid the groundwork for a new one.  It makes sense to go with a villain that wasn’t captured in the first three films already to provide some added freshness, though I’m not sure The Lizard was the right one.  Ideally, Eddie Brock would be in it to set the stage for Venom in a later film, but a main villain would be needed for the first one.  A grounded, real world type of villain might have worked best just to get away from the whole science gone wrong angle.  He may have shown up in Daredevil already, but The Kingpin could have been utilized again, maybe even the Spider Slayers?  The plot could show how Spider-Man, portrayed as a teen out having a good time stopping muggings and other petty crimes, confronts an enemy far more dangerous than anything he’s confronted before.  Kingpin could even have a lackey to beat the tar out of Spider-Man, someone like Hammerhead, Tombstone, or The Rhino.

The new costume has a Ben Reilly feel to it. That's not a good thing.

Or my concerns could amount to nothing.  It’s not impossible that The Amazing Spider-Man turns into a great movie, though I don’t consider it likely.  Maybe I’m just being pessimistic, but this thing looks dead in the water.  I expect it to do well at the box office, but perhaps not so well critically.  This may just end up being the example of what not to do when rebooting a franchise.  It has a “too soon” feeling already, and if a large chunk of the film’s run time is spent going over things the previous films already covered people may react negatively.  Then again, maybe the casual movie-goer doesn’t care and just wants to be entertained.  Spider-Man bouncing around and wailing on a CGi Lizard may delight audiences, and a lot of people seem to like Emma Stone who plays Gwen Stacy (whom has the misfortune of expectation as comic fans will basically just be waiting for her to die).  The trailer is linked below, so you can form your own early opinion on the film.  Mine seems obvious, but in the interest of spelling things out, I don’t expect this to end well.




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