Monday 24 December 2018

Spider-Man - Into The Spider-Verse

Morales Dilemma

Spider-Man - Into The Spider-Verse
2018 USA
Directed by Bob Persichetti,
Peter Ramsey & Rodney Rothman
UK cinema release print.

After a sequence from this movie played by way of a second post-credits scene in Venom (reviewed here) I was really not that into bothering to go see Spider-Man - Into The Spider-Verse at my local cinema. After all, this film looked from the trailers like it was going to be focusing on the Miles Morales version of the character, with Peter Parker as a secondary character and, I have to say that, for the most part (with a few minor exceptions) I have pretty much only ever read the first ten years or so of Spider-Man’s comic book adventures, starting from his first appearance in an issue of Amazing Fantasy (which is nicely parodied as an alternatively titled comic book in the version of reality in which this movie is set). So I have absolutely no idea who Miles Morales is.

Two things changed my mind. One being that the score for this one has been composed by one of my favourite ‘new’ composers Daniel Pemberton and, frankly, I expect what he does to be exceptional (this movie score is certainly that).

The other reason I finally decided to give this one a go is that the film has been getting some exceptional word of mouth on Twitter, with some people citing it as their favourite movie of the year... and I didn’t want to get left out. So I went and saw the thing and... yeah... I didn’t regret it.

This film manages to do a lot of cool things and get most of everything it juggles just about right. It has many separate different versions of Spider-Man from multiple dimensions that have crossed over... including two versions of Peter Parker (one of them played by Chris Pine), Spider-Gwen (the spider powered version of Gwen Stacy), Spider-Man Noir (a black and white one from the 1930s, played here by Nicolas Cage), a strange manga/anime based looking version called SP//dr (consisting of a girl, a robot and a spider) and everyone’s favourite Spider-Pig, Peter Porker - The Spectacular Spider-Ham... there’s even a Spider-Man 2099 cameo too but... yeah, I won’t say too much about that. And, of course, Miles Morales, whose story we follow in a little more detail than the others although we get some incredible back story flashbacks for all the other characters by way of a running gag which, frankly, really works well.

As you can tell from the diverse character cast consisting of different tonal styles, the film is trying to juggle a lot of balls in the air as it switches from moving drama to broad humour and all the things in between at a fair pace. The amazing thing, though... perhaps even more amazing than The Amazing Spider-Man... is that it manages to tell a story of a team of Spider-Heroes working together in all these different styles while being as post-modern as can be and with a fairly quirky, bordering on very surreal, animation style and it doesn’t at any point lose you and, frankly, it all meshes together very well. Which seems to me to be very against the odds.

It’s fast, it’s colourful and there are some really great compositions as several source references often fight for space in the frame... this is an incredibly detailed movie and I know I’ll notice a lot more when I catch up to this one again. There’s quite a lot of the syntax of comics throughout history used, all colliding with different styles and a wonderful use of typography all clamouring for attention. In fact, even the blink and you’ll miss it typography hits have some nice jokes in certain parts which reference each other. There’s also some visual references to off-set litho print being off-register in a few cases (if I’m reading the intention of the filmmakers correctly... at first I thought there was something going wrong with the projection).

Another really great thing in this is that the non-stop cleverness never lets up and is with you right from the start. Since the nature of the film is about several universes colliding and constantly going out of phase in terms of the characters when they’re in Miles’ version of the universe, even the Columbia Pictures logo and the Marvel logo at the start of the picture are doing some dazzling things (including a nice little shout out to Cat Ballou, of all things). The logos are even followed by a nice big ‘Approved By The Comics Code Authority’ stamp... which should have a lot of people my age tripping down memory lane (are those things still on modern comics?

As you would expect, there are lots of metatextual references to various things in the Spider-Man comics and also, from very early on, quite a few references to the various Spider-Man movies over the years... but there’s also a lot of little jokes about other things making their way in there too (I loved the Shaun Of The Dead parody poster they kept flashing up in the background) and, of course, the usual nice cameo from the now departed Stan Lee (I believe it was the last ‘voice performance’ he recorded... which I suspect means we’re far from done with the cameos in the live action movies at the moment).

And, yeah, the glue which makes all this possible in terms of keeping it all together as one coherent experience, as far as I’m concerned anyway, is Daniel Pemberton’s wonderful score, which should be swinging it’s way on a shiny disc to my letterbox in a week or so, fingers crossed. I can’t wait to hear this thing as a stand alone listen.

So, all in all, glad I went to see Spider-Man - Into The Spider-Verse (the film with too many hyphens) to find out what all the fuss was about. One last thing before you rush to your nearest cinema, though. If you’re a fan of the old 1960s Spider-Man cartoon show, not to mention internet memes, then you’ll really want to wait until the end credits are over because... well, just watch it. You’ll see what I mean.

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