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DEFCON 1 Reviews: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

The Ups, the Downs, and the Animated Hero of the Next Generation

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DEFCON 1 Reviews: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Sony (In Association With Marvel)

Sony (In Association With Marvel)

Sony (In Association With Marvel)

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Innovation is daring to do something that isn’t guaranteed to work. To innovate is to enter the unknown with the confidence of someone who’s seen it a million times. The Spider-Man franchise has gone through six movies in the last ten years, depicting three separate iterations of the webslinger. Of those, the most critically acclaimed only appeared within the last two years.

Spider-Man is a fan favorite character, and the very persona of Peter Parker has been an iconic symbol of pop culture for decades. Still, the big screen has seen a bit of a drawn out stretch on the Spider-Man franchise, and as much as I enjoy Tom Holland’s Parker, a fresh, different Spider-Man is long overdue.

I didn’t expect Miles Morales to be that Spider-Man.

I heard from the start that Spider-Verse was a good flick, but I had no idea that it’d transcend anything I’d seen from an animated superhero film. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was fun, emotionally compromising, and phenomenally animated, incorporating an aesthetic that’s relevant to modern teenage life, but also nostalgic of 90’s hip-hop era New York.

A lot of different components make Spider-Verse a good film, but the seamless cohesion between them makes it great. The movie had few outstanding flaws, and I’d say that, more than anything, I enjoyed the fact that Spider-Verse was simultaneously a lighthearted animated film and a dark noir chronicle about murder and redemption.

So, you know how it goes, let’s start with the good stuff.

 

Smells Like Teen Spirit

FINALLY. FI-NA-LY. There’s finally a movie that actually portrays what 2018-19 teenager’s life is like. Spider-Verse didn’t stuff itself full with teen-flick stereotypes and High School Musical cliches. Miles Morales woke up in the morning listening to a song that he loved, but didn’t even know all the lyrics. Perfect.

This is a spoiler-free review, so I won’t give away too much, but one of the themes throughout Spider-Verse is ‘expectations’, and that’s something that truly melds into the setting of a teenage boy moving to a school that‘s environment is different both financially and racially.

A major part of Spider-Man’s character arc has always been that he’s a conflicted teenager trying to balance school and superhero-ism, and, thankfully, that doesn’t change, in Spider-Verse.

Even though Peter Parker isn’t the one in the spotlight, Miles Morales picks up where he left off, struggling to juggle high expectations, ridiculous homework loads, and a set of new abilities that he isn’t sure what to do with. He’s an A-TECH kid.

That’s a big part of what makes Spider-Verse so great; Miles is often times his own enemy. Speaking of enemies…

The Shape of Your Heart

In my opinion, Kingpin was a better villain than most of the live-action antagonists that Spider-Man has faced over the years. His role is parallel to the comics; he’s a big-ole, swole-ole leader of a criminal organization who’s battling the past just as much as the present.

Kingpin, voiced by Liev Schreiber, plays a phenomenally sinister part in the film, almost acting as the dark ‘yang’ to the film’s lighthearted ‘yin’.

Kingpin’s mere presence onscreen, as well as his exceptionally macabre musical score, give him an overwhelming ambience whenever he appears.

You may be wondering why I named a subsection of this article after an Ed Sheeran track, and beside the fact that he’s also a villain, it’s because it’s important to mention the literal shape of Kingpin.

The character is essentially drawn as a rectangle, often times taking up the entire screen. This is, after all, what Kingpin is. He’s a massive figure, dark and towering, who exists in a boxed state, unable to let anyone in or anything out.

The cinematography here is brilliant, because Kingpin is, in his most menacing sequences, portrayed as massive, inescapable, disproportionately consuming. But, in his more vulnerable scenes, this villain is portrayed as small, distant and rigid, no longer uncarriable and now susceptible to being picked up; a small box in a big city.

Nuthin’ But a G Thang

My favorite non-plot part of this film was undoubtedly the soundtrack. Now, the film of course had its award-winning recorded soundtrack, which consisted more of big names in pop and hip-hop, like Post Malone, Juice WRLD and Swae Lee.

Still, I was actually more enamored with the 90s boom-bap beats that played throughout the film. The kick drums and percussion were jumping, keeping the tempo of the film’s frequent chase scenes (and often mirroring specific events in the most satisfying of ways). This was a direct parallelism to the bright, colorful, 90s vibes that were portrayed throughout the film. The music seemed to slip in at exactly the right times, especially Sunflower by Swae Lee and Post Malone, which was Miles’ favorite tune.

A Web of Meaning

There are so many hidden analogies and metaphors in Spider-Verse that I sometimes shake even thinking about them. I can’t spoil anything, but small details throughout mark milestones (pun intended) in Miles’ journey into (spider-) manhood. If you didn’t catch them, or you haven’t seen the film, I encourage you to look at Miles’ reflection in the glass when he’s in Peter Parker’s lair. It changes as the movie goes on.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the number ‘42’ is scattered throughout the film. Miles Morales is an afro-latino teenager, and the number 42 belongs to legendary afro-latino baseball player Jackie Robinson, who transcended the stark barriers of race in the 20th century to be an all time MLB great.

In such a complicated film, attention to detail makes for an astonishing touch, and these tiny but impactful details urge the film along at just the right pace.

Get Animated

Being an animated film from the Marvel universe, Spider-Verse was bound to have some serious high-budget animation, but this wasn’t what I anticipated. The entire movie was like a comic, book, and it seemed aware of this throughout. This was a pretty experimental move from the animators at Sony, but it really kept the film ‘alive’, moving, constantly turning like the pages of a good book.

The colors were cool in a way that I can only describe as ‘groovy’. Everything was like a flashback, but it was obvious just based on terminology and the many easter eggs (everything from The Weeknd to Chance the Rapper to the literal Spider-Man ‘67 meme with the two Peter Parkers looking at each other) that this was set in modern day.

Every Spider-Person from each dimension was animated to fit whichever era they came from: Peter Porker (Spider-Ham) looked like a Looney Tune, Penny Parker looked like an anime, so on and so forth.

Miles had was a multiverse worth of Spider-Homies in this movie, but they never got old, annoying or too overbearing to enjoy. The characters were foils to Miles, giving him their own advice based on their own experiences. They were written and animated in a way that didn’t get in the way of Miles’ origin story, and that’s possibly the most impressive part of Spider-Verse’s: seamless cohesion.

As I move into the negative part of this review, I should note that it was difficult for me to find flaws while watching Spider-Verse. Leaving the theatre, I only had one in mind. There were also plenty of other pros to Spider-Verse, but a lot of them involved spoiling the end of the movie.

There’s really only one category for this one, and that’s surprising to me, because I love nitpicking.

Shattered Dimensions

(If you really ‘bout that Spider-Man life you understand what that subheader means) The only true flaw that I found with Spider-Verse was that it began to lose its pacing as it moved from exposition to rising action (thanks Dr. Park). The movie started with a bang, kind of explaining what it was gonna bring right off the bat. Unfortunately, I got a little bit bored when the first action scene concluded.

There was a kind of void here; no action took place, no quips or meaningful dialogue. The movie dragged along for about 15 minutes. This was just long enough to be noticeable but, fortunately for Spider-Verse, not long enough to taint my overall opinion of the film.

The Wrap-Up

Marvel, as much as I gravitate towards their franchises, tend to be formulaic when they play with new characters, but this wasn’t the case with Spider-Verse. Miles Morales was relatable on an infinite number of levels, both as a teenager and a member of society trying to find his way.

The writing in Spider-Verse was stellar, the animation was phenomenal, and the whole time, I felt like the writers had my heart in the palm of their hand.

I was connected to and invested in the story every step of the way, and this kind of comic-book film is an example of a worthwhile experiment.

Good things happen when you think outside of the frame, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse made audiences fall in love with a character that few people knew.

Viewers learned Miles’ story as he learned his own, and it was through a heart-pounding, heart-warming ride that they both watched a Brooklyn boy become a Spider-Man.

Verdict:

EXCELLENT

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About the Writer
Kieran Armstrong, Senior Editor

I’m a senior editor for the Maverick Pulse. I mostly cover entertainment, showcases and news. I’m a Star Wars fanatic, I love comic books, and I’m...

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