“One thing I know for sure: don't do it like me. Do it like you.”
Fact: When you have kids, you watch a lot, and I mean a lot of animated movies. Also fact: When you are a comic book lover and somewhat on the geek side of life, you see a lot of animated moves. When these two worlds meet, you have the ultimate joy. This weekend, we plunged into the Spider-Verse. And with that, move over, Pixar, we have a new leader in the clubhouse for favorite animated movie of all time. We piled into the family Truckster and even convinced Mom since should join in on the ride. We took our places in the IMAX 10:30 a.m. screening, the first of the day. What happened over the next 2 hours was pure Spidey gold.
Every story needs a hero. In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, we get not one but six heroes. First we meet Miles Morales (played by Shameik Moore), a teenage boy with an admiration for Spider-Man and all he does for his city. But Miles’s father is a police officer who doesn’t care for Spider-Man or his vigilante actions. Miles is starting at a new school, a boarding school for gifted students, which takes him away from his old friends and his comfort zone. Miles must adjust and meets a new friend, Gwen Stacy (played by Hailee Steinfeld). Miles’s passion for graffiti is not looked upon kindly by his father as well, but his Uncle, Aaron Davis (played by Mahershala Ali), encourages Miles to tag and shows him a place where he can work on his craft. An underground abandoned subway is where this story officially begins.
Miles is bitten by genetically altered spider created by Alchemax, a story you might have heard before. Miles starts to develop powers and abilities that he does not know how to control; this is shown in a great interaction with Gwen that alters her hair style.
Like in all great comic book stories, there is a secret lab, and Miles stumbles upon this lab looking for his Uncle. Miles interrupts Spider-Man fighting the Green Goblin, who is protecting Wilson Fisk, better known as King Pin and his super collider. Wilson Fisk (played by Liev Schreiber) is creating an experimental supercollider so that he can bring back alternate versions of his wife and son who had previously died in a car wreck.
Spider-Man senses Miles and realizes they are the same, and offers to help Miles and train him. But the story quickly changes, as the Peter Parker that we know is no more. Wounded during the fight, he is finished off by King Pin, and Spider-Man is dead. A City mourns. During the fight a portal opens up, and five different Spider heroes enter.
Peni Parker (anime version of Spider-man)
Spider-Ham (voiced hilariously by John Mulaney)
Spider-Man Noir (a black and white Spider-Man from the 1930s, voiced by Nic Cage)
And finally, Peter B. Parker, a down on his luck Spider-Man (voiced by Jake Johnson)
And this is where we will end the storyline portion of our review, to keep it spoiler free from here on out. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a comic book come to life. Complete with beautiful colors and action, the screen seems to flip from page to page for you. From traditional comic book dialogue boxes to the film’s score, everything about the Spider-Verse is what we love. When you hear the buzz words “Updated Version,” or “A Spider-Man for a new generation,” it seems laughable, but then I saw my kids completely enthralled with the movie and as they edged closer to the end of their seats I knew they were hooked on Miles Morales and his journey to Spider-Man.
Unfortunately, during our viewing the theater lost power for about 10 minutes. We sat there with the screen frozen, but it gave us time to discuss what we were seeing. All three of the kids turned to me said, “This is absolutely amazing.” From his humor to what now will be his trademark Air Jordans, Miles is exactly what we need right now in the Marvel universe: diversity and hope. Kids need kids that look like them; not every hero has to be 6’5”, blonde or brown hair, blue or green eyes, and white. Seeing vulnerably and compassion in your heroes and seeing them struggle and succeed is exactly what Stan Lee wanted all those years ago.
For me, this was a dream come true; I knew long ago that Miles would be a hit someday, not only with my kids but with the public. I hope we can keep him as is and let the character grow as my kids grow; I hope Sony Animation knows what they have and doesn’t let it slip away. My hope is that everyone sees it and loves it the way the Boyds loved it. I hope that everyone who sees it talks about it the whole ride home without picking up their devices. And I hope that days later after seeing, they turn to each other and say, “Let’s go see it again.”
A few things to look for in the Spider-Verse:
- At the opening credits, comic book lovers are rewarded with the Comics Code Authority Seal before the film, a nod to the CCA that was formed in 1954 to help protect content and alert parents that it was safe for their kids to read.
- A montage of Spider-Man at the beginning shows all his best (and worst) moments in the Sam Raimi universe.
- Time Square is littered with Easter Eggs, too many to count or speak but look for the Kisslnd, a play on The Weeknd and his album cover.
- Oh man, all the alternate Spider-Man costumes.
- Aunt May, a.k.a. New Alfred.
- And a moment that made me choke up, and will continue to do so for a while: The Stan Lee cameo, complete with the line, “Yeah I am gonna miss him too.”
If you’ve read this far, stop reading and head out to the movies. Take a friend, take a loved one, and take a kid. This movie was made for sharing, and this movie is now my favorite animated movie of all time. Thanks, Sony!
PS: As always, there is an after-credits scene!
Jaxwing Scale – 10/10