Anyone Can Wear The Mask - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Pleasant surprise is almost an understatement on this one. The idea that this, the fourth reboot of a franchise that has pumped out six movies over the last six years and has never really hit it’s stride, would be one of the year’s very best movies seemed highly unlikely.
Nevertheless, it is one of the very best superhero movies you will ever see. It is one of the very best animated movies you will ever see. And it is one of the very best examples of what is possible within this medium if people slow down and focus on infusing their work with the right amounts of everything. There is humor, there is heart, there are laughs and there is candor. It could have easily gotten away with being so much less, but we should all be thankful it didn’t.
The plot for this one is beyond convoluted, so I will try to condense as much as possible. Miles Morales is a bi-racial high school student growing up in some version of New York City. One day, he is bitten by a radioactive spider, which gives him powers he doesn’t fully understand. One night he comes face to face with Spider-Man, who is taking on Kingpin and trying to destroy the machine Kingpin is using to bend time and space. Spider-Man is killed in that fight, but the machine accidentally opens a portal that brings several other Spider-Men into Miles’ universe.
Once those Spider-Men are stuck in Miles’ world, they must band together to take down Kingpin and help Miles unlock his powers, so they can get back to their own universes. One Spider-Man is a cartoon pig that blends Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny, another is a high school girl, and another is a small Japanese girl who is accompanied by a robot powered by a telepathic spider. They are all Spider-Man in their various universes.
While this outlandish synopsis sounds like a recipe for failure, they somehow make it work. The film’s three directors deserve all the credit in the world for turning this nonsense into a smart commentary on identity, teenage angst and the forces that make us who we are. It does all of this on the back of truly groundbreaking animation. This is the closest thing imaginable to seeing a comic on-screen. The frames feel like you are flipping through a book and the action is often broken up into panels that give you the feel of having pages in your hand.
The only thing keeping this from being a perfect outing is that it leaves several questions open with regard to the motivations of some of its villains. The very strongest superhero movies (think Black Panther and The Dark Knight) often invest just as much in exploring their villains as they do their heroes. That is not the case here.
But honestly, Miles is such a wonderful character and the film uses him to say so much that it is hard to be too upset with the final product. This is a fresh take on a story that has been told so many times; only this time, children of color and young girls will be able to see themselves on-screen. It is a sort of Hamiltonification of the superhero that deserves all the praise it’s getting.
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