For the past few years, we have gone hiking for New Year’s Day. This year, a few movies came out in mid-December that we simply haven’t had a chance to watch, largely because we’ve been gone on weekends and the only time our theater in town has a movie at 3:00-ish …is on weekends…
Every since I saw the trailer for this movie, I wanted to see it. You can see pictures that get the idea across (“it’s ‘just’ an animated Spider-man movie”), but you really need to see it in motion to get a sense for how magical it is. It’s animated like a comic book. You see words from time to time on the screen (like Spider-Ham hitting a bad guy with a hammer and seeing the word “BONK” show up above his head). The animation is even “choppy” sometimes, as if you were paging through comics seeing each page a frame at a time. Seriously: the way this movie is animated is unbelievable and perfect.
Second, the voice cast was exceptional. Some of the actors I’ve never heard of (though they were all great), but others like Lily Tomlin, Liev Schreiber, John Mulaney, Mahershala Ali and Nicholas Cage are instantly recognizable. Heck, even Chris Pine is in it for all of 10 seconds.
However, it’s Jake Johnson, Shameik Moore and Hailee Steinfeld that are probably the three “primary” voices heard throughout. Respectively, they’re voicing Peter B. Parker, Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy. Without getting to “into the weeds” of Spider-man lore, there was a separate timeline where Peter Parker died and young Miles Morales took on the mantle of Spider-man with his own similar powers, but not identical (for example, Miles can camouflage himself while Peter could not. Gwen Stacy famously died at the hands of the Green Goblin decades ago, but in an alternate timeline, it was Peter who died and Gwen who was bitten by the radioactive spider, granting her powers instead (and going by Spider-Woman, or Spider-Gwen).
I should also note that Miles is a person of color, the son of a black man and a latina woman. He’s also still in high school. The central part of the Peter Parker character when he was first introduced was that he was “just like you, Dear Reader, with real-life problems like homework and girls and rent and getting a job.” As Peter Parker got older, he moved away from that life, just as we all do. What better way to make Spider-man relevant in the modern world than by thrusting him back into high school in Brooklyn?
Now, with decades of Spider-man lore across multiple comic series, timelines, characters…how could one tie that all together? How about having a villain create a super collider beneath New York with the purpose of trying to bring his family back to him from another dimension…and then accidentally pulling Spider-people together into “our” world instead?
Yeah, it’s kinda dumb…but I can’t think of a better way, so we’re going with it. And honestly, seeing all of those characters together in the same universe was cool. Star Trek has done similar things over the years, so I can’t really complain.
Overall, I loved it. Because I’m not as familiar with the Miles Morales “Ultimate Universe” side of Marvel Comics, some of the events were foreign to me, so it’s nice to be surprised. The movie is produced by Sony, so it also kinda tied together the Tobey Maguire Spider-man movies into this one, which was fun.
The movie was genuinely funny, too. There’s a part in the movie where Miles’ uncle is teaching him how to meet girls by putting his hand on her shoulder, looking into her eyes, and saying “hey” in a sultry way. In the movie, Miles struggles to replicate what his uncle is doing, but it serves as a funny moment. After this happened in the movie, Calvin leaned over, put his hand on my shoulder, and said “hey.” And it was hysterical.
So yeah, day one purchase for me when it becomes available. It was very good and showed what animation can bring to to these movies rather than always relying on live-action Marvel films. Highly recommended.