So, I went to see SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (2018), a new animated Marvel superhero movie, because the initial reviews were off the charts wild.
Best animated movie of the year! Best Spider-Man movie ever!
That’s some high praise, and so while I don’t usually catch animated films at the theater (I save those for Netflix) I decided to see this one to judge for myself: best Spider-Man movie ever?
I’ll save you the suspense: Nope!
While I enjoyed SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, to call it the best Spider-Man movie ever is an overstatement. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017) with Tom Holland was a better movie, as was Tobey Maguire’s SPIDER-MAN (2002) way back when.
The theme of SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is that Spider-Man is not the only game in town. We are all superheroes. We all have value. It’s a message of inclusion that resonates, not only because these days promoting messages like this seem to be an uphill battle, but also because it was an ongoing theme in the work of Marvel giant Stan Lee, who just recently passed away.
Speaking of Stan Lee, he lent his voice to this one before he passed away, and so yes, there is yet another Stan Lee cameo in this movie, albeit an animated one.
When the movie opens, Spider-Man boasts that he’s the one and only Spider-Man. But then young Miles Morales is bitten by a radioactive spider, and soon he finds that he too possesses Spider-Man’s abilities. Then, when Wilson Fisk’s secret weapon opens up portals to different dimensions, other versions of Spider-Man enter our present reality. Together, they have to fight Wilson Fisk and also find a way to return the other Spider-Beings back to their proper realities.
As stories go, it’s ambitious but handled in a way that made me cognizant that I was watching an animated feature. The pace was nonstop, which for some folks is a good thing, but for me I just wanted it to slow down a bit. It simply never resonated as well with me as it would have had it been a live action flick.
Regarding the boast that it’s the best animated film of the year, while I haven’t seen enough animated films to comment on the suggestion, I will say that the animation didn’t impress me. Again, maybe I’m showing my age. Things moved so fast, especially the action scenes, that I found them difficult to follow. The animation also appeared blurry at times, and I felt as if I were watching a 3D movie without 3D glasses.
I actually enjoyed the personal story of Miles Morales more than the Spider-Man plot and the battles with Wilson Fisk. Miles is in a deeply troubled relationship with his dad Jefferson Davis, who wants the best for his son but can never seem to say the right thing, constantly coming down too hard on the teen. To further complicate matters, Miles relates much better to his uncle Aaron, his dad’s brother who is viewed by Miles’ dad as not being a very good role model, and for good reason. This story works well and for me was the best part of the movie.
The voice work is pretty impressive throughout. Shameik Moore is excellent as young Miles, making the teen likable and sympathetic.
Mahershala Ali knocks it out of the park as Uncle Aaron, which comes as no surprise. Ali is one of my favorite actors working today, and he show here that he can even dominate a movie just by using his voice.
Also lending their talents to this one are Hailee Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy, Brian Tyree Henry as Jefferson Davis Morales, Lily Tomlin as Aunt May, Jake Johnson as Peter B. Parker, Nicholas Cage as Spider-Man Noir, Liev Schreiber as Wilson Fisk, and Chris Pine as Peter Parker.
SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE was directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman. Rothman also co-wrote the screenplay with Phil Lord.
And like most other Marvel superhero movies, there is an after-credits scene, and you have to wait until the very end to see it. As after credit scenes go, I found this one a head scratcher. Don’t expect to see Thanos turning anyone to dust.
SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is a decent enough Spider-Man movie, and is sufficiently satisfying to make it a solid animated film.
But the best Spider-Man movie ever?
Not even close.