I’ve been reading comics since the mid 1980’s, and watching the movies and tv shows as they come along. Let’s just say I’ve seen a lot of them, and enjoyed most of them. All that said, and admitting I had a few reservations going in, I’m going to say Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse might be the best Spider-Man movie I’ve seen, and yes, I liked Tom Holland, Tobey Maguire, and Andrew Garfield. The first of all of those were good, whatever happened to the runs after that.
A staple of the two best known comic book worlds, Marvel and DC, has been the idea of the multiverse, where different versions of different Earths have familiar yet not quite the same characters. This all started when the “modern” Flash, Barry Allen, met the original Scarlet Speedster, Jay Garrick, in the famous “Flash of Two Worlds” story, and writers have been playing with the idea ever since.
Marvel’s most popular version of this was the “Ultimate Universe,” with updated versions of the classic characters. In that world, Peter Parker’s career as Spider-Man ended prematurely when he was apparently killed in battle with the Green Goblin. Miles Morales, a young man of black and Latino heritage, had similar powers to Peter, but didn’t become a hero. Crushed by guilt after the original Spider-Man’s death, Miles took up the costume and name, and was wildly popular in the comics. In the present, he’s a member of Marvel’s team of younger heroes, the Champions.
This movie is sort of his story, along with several other Spider-variants. Miles’ version of Kingpin has a nasty machine that he built for his own tragic reasons, but poses a threat to reality in general. The obsessed Kingpin isn’t going to stop himself, so it’s up to a band of Spiders, drawn to Miles’ world by Kingpin’s machine, to stop him. There are a lot of surprises along the way, with really interesting spins on such classic Spider-characters as Doc Ock and Prowler. All this going on at once, and a few personal tragedies, make for a very rough origin for poor Miles.
What made this work was, well, a lot of things. There’s an amazing sense of humor throughout. I had a lot of laugh out loud moments, as did most of the audience there with me. But it wasn’t just a string of jokes. There was some great storytelling, some brilliant effects and plays on the comic book medium, and a lot of self-awareness. They not only included the admittedly silly character of Spider-Ham (voiced by comedian John Mulaney) but they made him work. There were a lot of references and nods to just about every version of Spider-Man, including the 60’s cartoon. There was a Stan Lee cameo which was both wonderful and a little sad, considering there can’t be too many more of those. Aunt May (Lily Tomlin) was not just a warm, sympathetic presence, she was a bad-ass. And the message of heroism and family, both so important to Spider-Man, echoed throughout the movie.
What I liked: Everything. Seriously. The soundtrack, the brilliant graphic designs, the comic book motifs, Stan’s cameo, everything. It was a brilliant movie. You don’t need to know anything about any Spider-Man to enjoy it, but if you do, it makes it better and richer. They even mock some of the worst of the earlier live action Spider-Man movies. Miles is a fantastic character. The writing was phenomenal, from humor to action to great fights and notes of sadness and surprises. There are end credit scenes that are great.
What I didn’t: Only one thing, and I’ve been ranting about it for years. Characters with masks and secret identities should keep their faces covered in public. In live action versions, I’ve wondered if it’s some degree of ego or contract clause for the actors. In a cartoon, it makes even less sense. And that’s it.
I’ll give this movie a rare 5 out of 5 for me. It’s just… well, to use one of Spider-Man’s usual adjectives, Amazing.
I’m a good writer, but I know it when I see a better one. So I’ll close with this great Stan Lee quote they did at the end as a memorial for both Stan and Steve Dikto, the men who created Spidey and have both sadly passed on:
“”That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.”