Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A promotional poster for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Groan, you must be thinking. Another Spiderman movie. Not only have we had six Spiderman movies in the last 16 years, but we’ve had three separate Spidermen from three separate universes! With how many superhero movies are being pumped out each year, must another Spiderman movie be one of them?! To my very delight, however, this is not only a great film but probably the best superhero and animated film of the year!

Now, I have a quick confession to make. While I do love the character and lure of Spiderman (having grown up with two different animated Spider-man TV shows) I have yet to see all of the movies. I’ve only managed to see Sam Raimi’s Spiderman (2002), half of Spiderman 2, and The Amazing Spiderman (2012). I have yet to see Spiderman: Homecoming and only know of Spider-man 3 and The Amazing Spiderman 2 and what they are most infamous for (emo Peter Parker, Venom, and too-many-villains syndrome). With that being said, if someone who has seen all of the Spiderman films were to tell me this was the best one, I would have no problem believing that. Without having seen all of the films, I can feel the passion the filmmakers have for this character (or should I say characters), and I think this film perfectly captures what Spiderman is.

Without going into spoilers, the film is told from the perspective of not Peter Parker, but Mile Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), a high school boy who struggles to connect not just with people at his new school, but with his parents, especially his father (voiced by Brian Tyree Henry). After an encounter with a radioactive spider, Miles soon develops strange abilities, including heightened senses, increased agility, and the ability to stick to nearly everything. Troubled, Miles decides to go back to the scene of the incident, where he is caught in the middle of a fight between Spiderman (Chris Pine) and several other villains, including criminal mastermind, Kingpin (Liev Schreiber). The Kingpin ultimately succeeds in activating the Super Collider which in turn brings together several different Spidermen from different Universes into Miles’ dimensions, where they must work together to take down the Kingpin and the Super Collider before it’s too late.

First and foremost, I must talk about the animation, because it is spectacular! To say it is ‘stylized’ would be an understatement because it’s one of the most unique, spectacular looking animated films to come out in recent years. Not only does it lend itself to some very fast-paced action sequences and beautiful backdrops (especially when they are in the forest and during the final fight sequence), but there are also other small details that make it seem like a comic book come to life. From multiple frames being shown at the same time to look like moving comic book panels, to actual words and captions being displayed, to the way certain characters are animated. One thing I love about the animation is there’s always something going on, whether it be in the background or foreground, yet the film always knows when to slow down and what to focus on (especially in the more sentimental scenes, which are quite effective I must say).

Speaking of which, I must talk about the characters. Before this film, the only other versions of Spiderman I knew were even a thing were Spider-Ham (from a single episode of a TV show I watched), Miles Morales, and Spiderwoman, but not specifically Spider-Gwen. This film has so many characters, but it never feels overstuffed. Excluding Miles, each of the five main Spidermen are given quick, but very cleverly done, introductions that deviate from the traditional Spiderman origin story that we’ve seen so many times in their own fun, unique ways. Even the heroes who don’t go through an actual “arc,” Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), Spiderman Noir (Nicholas Cage), Spiderwoman (Hailee Steinfeld) and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) are all super fun and voiced brilliantly. The primary focus is where it should be, on Miles and how his relationship with his father and his uncle affect his transformation into Spiderman. What I really like about his story is that he doesn’t become Spiderman right away. Not only does he struggle to figure out his powers, but it’s through his struggles that we get to see how his story both diverges from all the other Spidermen stories and connects him to all of their stories. This movie really understood what makes Spiderman Spiderman and what connects all of their stories to eventually become the heroes that they are.

Miles Morales (center right) must team up with several different Spider-men each from a separate universe in order to stop the Kingpin and get them all home safety.

I want to take a moment to discuss this movie’s version of Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), a character we’ve seen brought to the silver screen countless times. In this version, we find a middle-aged Peter Parker struggling to balance hero work with living a stable, happy life. As we see, his life has basically gone into a downward spiral, so it’s interesting to see how both his experience being Spiderman for so long affects Miles and how Mile’s journey affects him. It’s quite refreshing to see a more disheveled version of a hero who’s gone through so much over the years and that, yeah, heroes can hit rock bottom, but what matters is how they chose to bounce back from it.

While the villains aren’t the primary focus of this story, they are still a lot of fun (and at times even a little surprising). The main villain, while certainly not the most complex or compelling one we’ve seen, is given some motivation behind what he is doing, making him a little more sympathetic than just “generic baddie who wants power.” Still, most of the focus is on the heroes as it should be. The final thing I want to talk about is the comedy, which is spectacular and never feels too forced or cringe-inducing. The comedy is timed perfectly and extends beyond generic one-liners and quips to some clever visual cues and character-driven lines/moments. There’s also a pretty damned amazing Stan Lee cameo in here (who I’m sure would have been very pleased with how this film, featuring one of his most beloved characters, turned out).

Honestly, I cannot recommend this movie more. This may well be the best animated/superhero films of the year, and certainly one of my favorite movies of the year! Also, stick around for an after-credits scene (as if you need to be told to do that by this point). Not only is it downright hilarious, but also features what may as well be a pivotal plot point for (hopefully) many sequels to come.

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I Just Read: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐☆

So while I didn’t technically just read this play, as I took it out from the library over a month ago, I did just complete it. One aspect of my new blog is book reviews, which will include dramatic scripts, as is the case today. The first play I read in my quest to become a better writer and to read more often, is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf published by Edward Albee in 1962.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf follows the story of middle-aged married couple Martha and George, who have just returned to their New England home from a University faculty party late at night. Martha has invited a younger married couple, Nick and Honey, to their house after the party for a drink. Nick, who serves as a new biology professor on campus, and Honey then must endure an entire night of “fun and games” with this couple as George and Martha proceed to peel back the surface of their own lives and the lives of this young couple.

This story is much less plot-driven as it is character driven. A lot of the character’s motivations and secrets are revealed through long conversations between two or more characters. This, for me, both helped and hindered my opinion of the play. On the one hand, this greatly affected the pacing of the story because there was so little story. For the first act into the second act of the play, it felt like nothing was really happening or being developed. Things about the characters would slowly be revealed through long conversations, and at times this made the story really drag on for me and leave me frustrated that not much was happening.

From the 1966 film version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, directed by Mike Nichols. From left to right, Nick (George Segal), Martha (Elizabeth Taylor), and George (Richard Burton).

With that being said, how the play really benefited with being so character driven, is that I found these characters to be super fascinating. Martha, the campus president’s daughter, and George, an associate professor of history, are constantly at each other’s throats, trying to both embarrass each other and get the upper hand. While it did get rather tedious listening to them consistently insult each other, I think that was the point. Both George and Martha seem as though they want to “win” at this game they call their marriage. It’s rather compelling and invigorating trying to figure out what George and Martha will pull out of their sleeve next, and what embarrassing relic from their past they will use to humiliate the other. It comes to the point when in the final act when they both start insulting Nick, and their motivations aren’t even that clear anymore. It makes them seem all the more human. Even Nick and Honey, who seem like a simple and rather dull young married couple, are discovered during this one night to have their own secrets beneath the surface of their seemingly innocent marriage.

Overall, I found the character’s to be very compelling, between the way both of their marriages are exposed for what they are, to the large, twisted, and even quite depressing, end result of all of this (which I had to look up afterward to fully understand), to the clashes of tension between characters. What really bogs this story down for me is the pacing which can often get tedious as we have to wait through long conversations before all that much is really discovered.