There have been a few critics who have seen this film a few weeks ago. And some of us lucky few managed to grab a ticket from some select theaters showing the movie before the premiere date. I was one of the lucky few.
My girlfriend and I managed to grab a couple of passes to an earlier showing of the film. She’s not a comic book person, so she was about as general audience as general could be. I was as comic-book nerd audience as there is. I figured one of us would hate it and the other would love it.
Surprisingly, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse blew us both away.
The Story of Miles
We all know from the trailers that this is a Miles Morales story. People not familiar with the character from the comics, he was created by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli and made his premiere in Ultimate Fallout #4. As a lot of what happens in that book regarding Miles Morales is also in the film, it’s best just to read the comic or watch the film to get a sense of where the story of the new Spider-Man begins. But the story of Spider-Man has been done so many times before, and it was refreshing to get a new take on the story from a different side of New York, and from a different community.
Miles’ creation by Bendis was inspired by Donald Glover and then-president Barack Obama. The changing tides in culture spurred Bendis to create the Afro-Latino teenager, a Spider-Man for a new age. He gets bit by a spider of a different nature than the one Peter Parker encounters, so along with getting Spider-powers, he inherits some other abilities like the ability to shock his enemies and completely camouflage himself.
And The Spider-Team
And with that, we have to introduce a subset of wacky, zany, outlandish characters in the mix if we want to get into what the Spider-Verse really is. The movie takes heavily from the Edge of Spider-Verse comic story, so along with Miles Morales, we were bound to get some screen time with Spider-Ham, Gwen Stacy, Spider-Noir, and SP//dr.
I love how they introduce these characters. And while their introduced was enjoyable, the movie didn’t really get to dive into their backstories and characters. Some of the characters, Spider-Ham in particular, had some lengthy time in the comics and in television.
In retrospect, I understand the direction Phil Lord and Christopher Miller wanted to take the film. This is a Miles Morales story, through and through. It’s his development as a character, and how he ultimately becomes the Spider-Man of his universe.
There are these beats in the movie where they constantly go over a character’s origin story. Some origin stories are shorter than others, but it’s almost comedic how they constantly revisit a character’s history. And it doesn’t get old, or overused in any way. And, my girlfriend as a general audience member, appreciated the TL;DR the movie gave her. It’s not like she could read up on almost 30 years of comic book history in preparation for the film. She got the idea of multiple realities and string theory and dimensional travel… I guess our sci-fi media being inundated with the concepts have made it as common as the idea that the earth is round.
A Deeper Appreciation for the Comics
I can go all day about how this movie is just an art piece in motion. How brilliantly the story is crafted with such a tender care to the origins of not only Miles Morales, but to each of the other characters in the film as well. Heck, they even give us a villain we can sympathize with in Kingpin. The motivations of Kingpin in this film are very much like those of the Kingpin in the Netflix Daredevil series, may it rest in cancellation peace. Anyone who has seen that series will have a good inclination of what I’m talking about.
Before I saw the movie, I figured I would complain about frame rates and how there are some jumpy scenes here and there when it comes to the action. But as my eyes adjusted to the style of it, I hardly noticed. At these points, I am so wrapped up in what’s happening, in both story and some of the art styles being splashed on screen. If there were frame rate jumps, at some point I didn’t care because I was watching comic book panels jump out at me and I was enjoying every minute of it.
Lord and Miller Legacy
Lord and Miller were famously the directors for Lego Batman, and for that film they pulled much from the Batman history and lore. DC fans praised the film as being the most Batman of all the Batman films they have seen to-date, some even putting it on par with The Dark Knight.
What Lord and Miller have done here for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is nothing short of amazing work. They’ve integrated the complicated story lines of the comics with Peter Parker. They pay homage to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man with Tobey Maguire. At the same time they manage to put in a few humorous jabs at the films. They also managed to fit in the history of the character in media and merchandise. That combined with an art direction that pays homage not only to writers like Bendis, but artists like Mark Bagley and Sara Pichelli.
The Styles You Can Feel
It’s hard to explain the feel of the film as something that you can feel. Yet, we have this soundtrack accompanying in a way that feels like it is part of Miles Morales’ world. The art styles are so dynamic and interesting, as part of Miles Morales’ personality. It is the journey of a young boy taking on the role of a hero. He has difficulties he must face, and in doing so breaks past his own barriers.
There were scenes in this movie where my girlfriend was crying in her seat. There was a moment in the film where the hairs on my arm were standing up and I was ready to jump up out of my seat. This was inspiring. It was something new, a beginning that we hadn’t experienced in film before. This was the mantle passing on from Peter Parker to Miles Morales. I think at that moment in the film, accompanied by the soundtrack just carrying the young Morales through the city, it took me on the jump point with him. I felt like I could jump.
Maybe a part of me wants to as well.
The art just stood out in a way that you could only get from the coloring of comics and the styles only the inker could draw out. It even takes some aspects of urban culture and integrates it through modern art like graffiti and pop art. Some character designs are over-the-top, yet are so to exhibit their sense of power and looming presence. Kingpin and Spider-Noir are two characters that really stand out for me in that regard.
Honestly, it has its flaws. It has frame rate issues. And maybe they could’ve dove into some of the side characters a little more. But these flaws are forgivable. The film doesn’t fall into the conventional traps of other films (big CGI monster fight at the end. There’s a girl in danger- the hero has to save her). There’s also a massive amount of Spider-Man lore Lord and Miller have at their disposal. And they utilize that rich background to its utmost in almost every frame of this film. Combine that with an art style that pulls you in to Miles Morales’ Brooklyn, and a soundtrack that gives the city a certain feel. It makes for a great overall experience. I haven’t been a Spider-Man fan since the Raimi films, and this one made me excited for Spider-Man again. It has been a good year for Marvel comic book films. It’s nice to see that they can finish this strong for 2018.
- Homage to art/writers of comics for each of the characters history
- Strong storyline with interesting/developing main character
- Art/Music/Writing keep audiences engaged throughout
- Framerate of animation might be choppy in places
- Side characters may need more time to properly explain their involvement