We have to talk about Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.
Mostly because it’s nominated for Animated Feature Film by The Academy this year. It’s possible it could beat out Disney/Pixar, who in times prior has dominated that category with their animated films. And secondly because it is a super-hero flick, the only other animated film to get that honorable spot being Incredibles waaaaay back in 2005. Thirdly, because it’s the first time I’ve really been digging on Spider-Man since the Raimi days. Heck, this movie might stand just a bit taller comparatively.
Along with Black Panther’s seven nominations, this might be the year that comic book based films start making the rounds in critic circles. It could be the first time in a long time that the Academy selects films that not only perform extremely well at the box office, but can hold their own when faced with critical analysis.
On the flipside, Black Panther got nominated for Best Picture from the Academy. That’s the highest possible honor for a film, aside from winning the award. Just being nominated is saying something. But now I believe with these two films up for Academy Awards, we have something else to look forward to. More comic book films that aren’t just cash-grabs for the box office, but actual quality movies that challenge the social conscience, and shake us to the core of who we are like Logan or The Dark Knight did.
Miles to Wakanda
Let’s look at these two films. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is flying high with both critics and audiences, getting Rotten Tomato scores at 97% and 94% respectively. Certified Fresh by all metrics, the film will probably get near $200 million by the end of its run in the theaters. While Black Panther garnered the same critical score at 97%, it only received 79% audience approval. Still being certified fresh, it didn’t quite hit audiences as positively as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It got a bit more money though. About $1.2 billion more.
This says something about the cultural landscape. The fact that our film houses are starting to trend toward more super-hero films speaks volumes about what kind of social environment we are living in. And the Academy is finally starting to acknowledge it. The idea now is that fine writers don’t come from just Sundance one-off films, who have spent hours dissecting The Godfather, Citizen Kane, and The Piano. Now the good writers are coming from the pages of comic books. We are getting that Jeff Lemire, Christos Gage, and Dan Slott can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any dynamic screenplay writer. There is an understanding that Kirby, Kubert, Molina, and Šejić can produce just as stunning a scene as any auteur filmmaker.
The Landscape Comic Books Shaped for us
It shouldn’t be any surprise that Stan Lee and Bob Kane found the pulse of American youth during the silver age and bronze age of comics. They kept on that pulse for the rest of their lives. And that these youths would eventually be the leaders of industry, politics, entertainment, infrastructure, and pretty much every other aspect of society. We are everywhere now, the comic book nerds. We stand to influence all areas of the cultural landscape with whatever nutty idea we have about the next Avengers film, diving into plot holes in a Star Wars show, or talking about a scandal about one of the actors from A Game of Thrones.
Yet we strive to do more than just be participants in the culture. We want to be active influencers. As trend-setters, we create memes and invent witty images and dialogue that catch the attention of wider audiences and make the internet rounds. We want our piece in the game as well, now that we know we have the ability and credentials to play.
If they Win
Their nominations are telling enough. But for these two comic book movies to win? There had been some long stigma regarding comic book films at the Academy Awards. It wasn’t until The Dark Knight that some of that was lifted, especially with the performance of the late Heath Ledger as Joker. But even as Logan got an Oscar nomination for screenplay last year, folks were still throwing shade. Even Ethan Hawke was bitter about the Hollywood landscape leveling the playing field with comic book movies.
“Now we have the problem that they tell us Logan is a great movie. Well, it’s a great superhero movie. It still involves people in tights with metal coming out of their hands. It’s not Bresson. It’s not Bergman. But they talk about it like it is. I went to see Logan cause’ everyone was like, This is a great movie and I was like, Really? No, this is a fine superhero movie. There’s a difference but big business doesn’t think there’s a difference. Big business wants you to think that this is a great film because they wanna make money off of it.”
If these two films should win their respective categories, it’ll send quite a powerful message for comic book nerds out there. We finally did it. We’ve made it. The ones licking at the boots of their betters now wear the damn boots. There were no riches to gain, no treasures to be found, no prize at the end of this game. There is a satisfaction in crafting the very landscape of a culture for now and for all time. It is a priceless reward for the lifelong journey of some of those who went before us.
Yeah, Stan probably took note of the great society he had helped create. It probably made his passing a bit easier, knowing and seeing his work had been done.
Wherever you stand on the Spider-Verse movie, or whatever you thought about Black Panther, you should take note on February 24th. Keep in mind that these two movies, both originally Stan Lee creations, are on the cusp of winning at the Academy Awards. And perhaps changing the entire landscape of film for the foreseeable future.
What are you looking forward to with the Spider-Verse and Black Panther’s inclusion into the Academy Awards? Is this a win for the comic book community? How does this shape the future of the Hollywood landscape? Let us know in the comments below or let’s talk about it over a cup of coffee on social media!