“Why are all my thoughts so loud?”
Mike’s Rating: 10 out of 10 Sunflowers
Mike’s Review: Since his humble origins in Amazing Fantasy #15, the man that is also spider has become a worldwide cultural icon. For nearly 60 years Peter Parker’s exploits as the wise-cracking webslinger have captured the imaginations of people everywhere. In 2001 when the first Spider-man movie was released, people went nuts. Box-office records were shattered, merchandise was purchased, popsicles were made. In the decades since, we’ve seen 5 more movies across two reboots and with the exception of the MCU outing Spider-man: Homecoming, the law of diminishing returns seemed to be firmly in place. Sony faced the increasingly difficult task of keeping the public interested in a bookwormy nebbish with superpowers and endless financial problems. As has been the case since the beginning of time (1962), the answer lay in the source material. It was time to go back to the (ink)well.
Flashback to 2011: Brian Michael Bendis, having written the alternate universe version of Peter Parker in Ultimate Spider-man for a decade, does the unthinkable and has Peter murdered by the Green Goblin. The title is rebooted and a new spider-powered young upstart is introduced. The new Spider-man, an Afro-Latino teenager named Miles Morales is widely embraced by the comics-buying populace….all eight of them. Three years later Morales would factor heavily into a comics crossover event entitled Edge of Spider-verse, featuring an army of alternate universe Spider-men teaming up to defeat a family of interdimensional energy vampires. These stories proved to be a narrative goldmine, but instead of simply copy/pasting the comics stories as had been done before in animated adaptations of comics properties ad-nauseum, Lego Movie writer Phil Lord crafted an original story that went on to become one of the best comic book adaptations ever.
As the movie opens we get a quick tongue-in-cheek refresher course on the Spider-man mythos which includes some brilliant meta-commentary on past theatrical outings. Then we meet Miles, an unassuming artistic Brooklyn teen dealing with being the new kid in a charter school, having a police officer dad and the general awkwardness of adolescence. Having difficulty assimilating, Miles seeks the advice of his cool uncle Aaron and the two make their way into an industrial tunnel near a tech company to tag the walls. While there, Miles is bitten by a spider and you can guess where this is going. Without going too deep into the plot, Miles finds himself sticking to like, everything, and gets involved in a struggle to shut down a dimensional super collider, which has created dimensional rifts through which a buttload of alternate versions of Spider-man has come through
There’s Peter B. Parker, an overweight burn-out who reluctantly takes Miles under his web, Spider-woman (or Spider-Gwen if you’re in the know) easily the most capable of the group, Spider Noir, a hard-boiled 30’s detective and the single greatest character ever brought to life by Nicolas Cage, Peni, an anime style Japanese schoolgirl with her pet Spider-mecha, and Peter Porker, The Spectacular Spider Ham, an anthropomorphic pig with a mallet and in this age of Covid19, an admirable penchant for washing his hands. A few words about these doppelspiders (spidergangers?): While each one has its origins in the comics, they’re handled in new, interesting and hilarious ways. From the incredible voice acting, to each character being animated in a separate style, to some disarmingly poignant moments, everything about the spider people is astonishing and delightful.
This is a difficult film to review only because there are so many absolutely perfect aspects coming together to form the final project that it’s really hard to know where exactly to start. I suppose the most obvious aspect is the animation. This is a CG animated movie but nails the aesthetic of a four-color comic book, and at no point is it anything other than gorgeous to look at. The intermixing of hand drawn frames into the action, the use of Ben Day dots (yes I know they’re really halftones, but they’re meant to recall Ben Day dots, so back off), yellow dialog panels illustrating Miles thoughts, the way the backgrounds are slightly out of focus, composition of shots, every time I watch this flick I see something new to blow my mind.
The writing here is next level. The dialog is natural, there’s no forced exposition, no throwaway scenes or wasted time. Repeated viewings pay off in dividends as there’s always some new easter egg in the background or a little hint at later scenes. The attention to detail is astonishing.
The score is another aspect that is astonishingly executed. From Prowler’s terrifying music and sound effects, to the punk rock guitar playing over Spider-Gwen’s entrance, to the movie’s orchestral score mixing with Blackway & Black Caviar’s What’s up Danger during the most breathtaking sequence this side of the portals scene in Endgame, there are no moments where the action isn’t perfectly punctuated by the music. Even Post Malone’s Sunflower playing over Miles’ introduction to the audience says everything we need to know about the guy ten seconds in. And of course there are the Marvels staples; a hilarious post credits sequence hinting at a sequel, a heart breaking Stan Lee cameo, even the Marvel logo is sheer comfort food. Everything comes together to create an entertaining, funny, ground-breaking and altogether fun experience. There are very few movies I would place in the “perfect” column, but this is for sure one of them.
- Several alternate versions of the Columbia logo
- In Uncle Aaron’s apartment a scene from Community featuring Donald Glover in Spider-man pjs is playing on the TV. Glover played Aaron Davis in Spider-man: Homecoming
- This is the first movie Phil Lord has written without writing partner Christopher Miller (Lord wrote the story and wrote the screenplay with Rodney Rothman)
- Fun stuff seen on the billboards in Times Square: Seth Rogen as a jockey in a movie called “Hold Your Horses”, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in “From Dusk Till Shaun”, the cast of Bridesmaids in “Baby Shower”, a poster for “Clone College”, based on the MTV cartoon “Clone High” written by Lord and Miller
- There is no use of visual comic language, (word bubbles, panels and such) until after Miles is bitten by the spider.
- The frames of Olivia’s glasses are octagonal, and she has octagonal light fixtures in her office, hinting at her identity before it’s revealed.
- The film is dedicated to Spider-man’s two creators; Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
- Hehe… Red Man Group.
- With Lily Tomlin playing Aunt May in this film, all four actresses to play her in a theatrical film (Tomlin, Rosemary Harris, Sally Field and Marisa Tomei) have been Academy Award nominees
- As a fun game, check out all the costumes visible in Spider-man’s “shed”, and see if you can guess where they’re all from
- My one gripe: almost no Ganke due to the MCU poaching him and turning him into Ned Lee for Homecoming
- In addition to Stan Lee’s speaking role, he can seen all over the place throughout the movie.
Miles Morales: With great power comes great…
Peter B. Parker: Don’t you dare finish that sentence!
Miles Morales: Why did I get stuck with the janky old, broke, hobo Spider-Man?
Peter B. Parker: This could literally not get any weirder.
Spider-Ham: It *can* get weirder! I just washed my hands. *That’s* why they’re wet…no other reason.
Spider-Man Noir: Is that all you got? You gonna fight or you just bumping gums? You hard-boiled turtle slapper.
Peter Parker: I cannot let you open a portal to another dimension! Brooklyn is not zoned for that!
Spider-Man Noir: Hey, fellas.
Miles Morales: Is he in black and white?
Peter B. Parker: Where is that wind coming from? We’re in a basement.
Spider-Man Noir: Wherever I go, the wind follows. And the wind… smells like rain.
Peni Parker: Can you re-wire a mainframe while being shot at?
Gwen Stacy: Can you swing and flip with the grace of a trained dancer?
Spider-Man Noir: Can you close off your feelings, so you don’t get crippled by the moral ambiguity of your violent actions?
Aunt May: Can you help your aunt create an online dating profile so she can get out of the dang house once in a while?
Spider-Ham: Can you float through the air when you smell a delicious pie?
Girl: Hey, your shoe’s untied.
Miles Morales: Yeah, I’m aware. It’s a choice.
Peter B. Parker: And it’s a “no” on the cape.
Peter B. Parker: Everyone knows that the best way to learn is under intense, life-threatening pressure!
Aunt May: You look tired, Peter.
Peter B. Parker: Well, I am tired.
Aunt May: And older. And… thicker.
Peter B. Parker: Yeah, I’ve heard that already.
Aunt May: Oh, jeez, are those sweatpants?
Gwen Stacy: Yep. That’s what they are.
Spider-Man Noir: In my universe, it’s 1933, and I’m a private eye. I like to drink egg creams, and I like to fight Nazis. A lot.
Spider-Man Noir: Sometimes I let matches burn down to my fingertips just to feel something, anything.
Miles: What if doesn’t fit?
Stan: It always fits…eventually.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Spider-man 1, 2 & 3 (Sam Raimi trilogy)
- Spider-man: Homecoming
- Spider-man: Far From Home
- Nobody needs to see the Amazing Spider-man movies ever