Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) – The Best Spider-Man Film

       Sony has made so many crappy films recently. “The Emoji Movie,” the past “Amazing Spider-Man” films just got worse over time and felt like commercials for franchise management. The clips I’ve watched of “Venom” haven’t helped that as the writing I witnessed was just awful so I really don’t want to spend money to even rent that film, it makes “Suicide Squad” look like a work of amazing art. So Sony doesn’t have a good track record with Spider-Man outside of the first 2 Raimi films and their co-operation with Disney with “Homecoming,” until this film. This is my favorite Spider-Man film and easily one of my favorite films of the year, and is likely to end up in my Top 5 Films of 2018.

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” was directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman who was one of the writers along with Phil Lord. Phil Lord is the writer behind “The Lego Movie” and he brings that same fun and surprising level of depth here.

The story follows Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) who is a young kid in Brooklyn is bit by a radioactive spider in an abandoned ally and witnesses Peter Parker facing off against foes. He soon realizes there are many other Spider-Men and must deal with the consequences of their plans as well as coming to terms with becoming Spider-Man himself.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is on it. It taps into the core emotions of Miles and the other characters and when they reach their highs it soars, and when there is a threat you can feel the tension eating at your skull. Daniel Pemberton did an amazing job. This music explores the full spectrum of what it means to live and is energizing at so many moments in the film. The impact of scenes would not have been the same without the power of this music.

The Animation -They started work on this film back in 2014, and I can see why. “Into the Spider-Verse” combines multiple animation styles (anime for Peni Parker, black and white for Spider-Noir, WB Cartoon for Spider-Ham and real life inspired for Gwen, Peter B. Parker, Peter Parker and Miles) and never stops being beautiful. From the Particle Accelerator being activated and the colliding of multiple dimensions, with the creation of a near black hole at the finale, to a forest with golden leaves contrasted with the red of Peter and Miles and the White of Gwen…this team knew how to use color and styles to make a seamless masterpiece. This film better win best animated when the Oscars role around.

The Villains – This is a film with some well designed and sometimes extremely compelling villains. I’ll cover 3 of them here. There is Liz Octavius who works for Kingpin and invented the Particle Accelerator that brought all the Spider-Men out of their universe in the first place. She is the passionate mad scientist and I love how she is never afraid of Kingpin even when we know he will kill anyone for failure.

Kingpin is the main baddie and his motivation is to bring back his wife Vanessa and their son as they died in a crash when he as about to kill Spider-Man years ago. You get his motivation as he is a man full of guilt who is ready to risk everything for another chance with the people he loves. This is no Netflix’s “Daredevil” Kingpin but he serves his purpose well. I wanted to see more of who he was and know more about his past, so he succeeded at keeping me interested.

Prowler is the best of the villains. Prowler we learn is Miles’s Uncle who has been supporting his art and is in deep with owing his life to the Kingpin. We see the threat of who he is as he helps Kingpin kill the original Peter Parker, but also his empathy as when he is given the choice to kill Miles, he saves him and admits he admires the person Miles is becoming. In the books Prowler is a black-mailing, gas-lighting bastard and inspires Miles to be better by how terrible he is. The complexity is still there, but I enjoyed this version so much more. Mahershala Ali is also one of my favorite actors and him voicing Prowler helped. I loved seeing his dynamic with Miles and that even though he was doing bad, he never stopped loving his nephew.

The Heroes – The heroes are easily the best part of this film and they do more in less time than Marvel’s MCU. Most of the characters of the MCU we love have had at least one film of development. These are character who don’t receive that but accomplish more, largely from the writing, acting and animation that is able to add a level of depth that is wholly unique to the film while still taking inspiration. If the Villains had been on this level chances are this film would be the best film of the year, they were great…but not as great as the heroes and I’m going to explore why.

Miles’s Parents are great in that his dad is a police officer who has so much suppressed masculinity he can’t talk to his own son and is showing him up early on until he is willing to open up after he is afraid he is going to what relationship he has.

Aunt May is the heart of the film as she is the one who is carrying on Peter Parker’s legacy after he is killed by Kingpin. She is the mentor figure for all the different Spider-People and can hold up her own. Lily Tomlin gives so much gravitas and empathy to the role. I loved every scene she was in as each time it revealed something more about whatever Spider-Person she was interacting with.

Peni, Spider-Ham and Spider-Noir are the support characters and play off the core leads of Gwen, Peter B. Parker and Miles really well. You have Peni who is the young sincere anime girl, Spider-Ham as the classic cartoon  pig who jokes but works with cartoon physics so is quite powerful and the grim and gritty Spider-Noir (voiced by Nicolas Cage) who is the edgy private eye who spends his time fighting Nazis in his universe. The way they play off the villains the heroes is a lot of fun and I’d watch films from all of their universes. Spider-Noir I especially found intriguing.

Gwen Stacey / Spider-Woman is one of the core leads of the film as she is one of Miles’s teachers and saves him and Peter B. Parker after they steal from Kingpin in order to stop his plan. I’ve read the first “Spider-Gwen” comic and I like the world. The righting for Volume 0 isn’t the best but I’m willing to read on because I love the character, the art and the world. This version is not quite that Gwen Stacey (this one dances) but takes inspiration from it, just as Miles takes inspiration from the “Ultimate” comics universe he was created in. She is a character alone until her friendships with the other Spider-People and seeing her open up is a really cool arc. Hailee Steinfeld is wonderful in the role. I hope they do some spin-offs in her universe as I think she is the best character in the movie outside of Miles Morales.

Peter B. Parker is from a world where Spider-Man’s personal life falls apart. In his world he buried Aunt May, he ends up getting divorced from Mary Jane and is wholly Spider-Man. He has no life outside the character so is a perpetual child. He takes up the mentor role when the machine pulls him into Miles’s world and it is from this he grows up, discovering that he even wants kids. His arc is really cool as he has a death wish for most of the film because of how miserable his life is and it is only through Miles showing him there is another way that he finds a reason to live again. Jake Johnson does a fantastic job in the role and gives the character a lot of depth.

Peter Parker is voiced by Chris Pine and exists in Miles Morales’s universe (like in the “Ultimate” comics). He rescues Miles but is killed by Kingpin before he can teach Miles how to be Spider-Man. It is a powerful death that you feel through the entire film. Mary Jane makes a speech on how Parker shows anyone can be Spider-Man and Stan Lee as a comic book owner says the same thing. This Spider-Man is very much the Parker from the comics but with inspiration from the Sam Raimi films and it is wonderful how they blend those elements together (Spider-Man has a flashback of him doing the dance from “Spider-Man 3”) and it is because this Peter is at the top of his game and still so young (having married Mary Jane pretty recently it seems) has his life together, only for Kingpin to take it all away. It is a tragedy that matters and he doesn’t come back. Death matters in this world and it means everyone we lose during the film is felt.

Miles Morales is the main character of the film and his arc is taking responsibility for the role that was thrust upon him. He is full of so much fear (new fancy school, new powers by accident) and that is a difficult path for him. What makes things complicated as well is his relationship with his dad, who is a cop who doesn’t let anyone close. It is only in the death of Prowler (when Prowler chooses not to kill Miles) that healing finally happens. Miles was always closest to his Uncle Aaron (Prowler) and his dad regrets the relationship he lost with his brother. This motivates both Miles and his dad to try and make a relationship happen. It is beautiful and organic and I can’t wait to see how things develop further. Miles is also the rookie out of all the Spider-People and none of them take him seriously except for Peter B. Parker so he has to not only prove that he can be a hero to himself, but to those already excelling in their roles as heroes. I loved how it was executed. Miles is one of my favorite characters and I highly recommend Bendis’s “Ultimate Spider-Man” run where Miles is introduced to anyone. This one has more heart than that run (Prowler is handled better) but both are amazing and if you loved Miles in this film, you will love him in the comics. Shameik Moore gives this character so much heart.

This was the perfect film and I hope it at least wins Best Animated Film at the Oscars. There is so much heart in all the characters who are each compelling, there is loss with the deaths our heroes experience and each action has consequences. This is a film that pays tribute to the creators (Ditko, Lee and Bendis) and truly shows that anyone can be a hero. If you enjoy great animation (seriously this is one of the most beautifully animated films I’ve ever watched) and amazing stories you owe it to yourself to see this film. Sony has put out a lot of crap and there hasn’t been a great Spider-Man film since “Spider-Man 2.” As a Spider-Man fan this was everything I could ever want in a film and I can’t wait to see it again.

Final Score: 10 / 10. Can’t wait to see what they do with the Spider-Verse in the future.

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Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 30 – Perchance to Dream – Trapped in a Dream

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The premise of “Perchance to Dream,” is that Batman wakes up in a world in which his parents are alive, he’s marrying Selina Kyle and someone else is Batman. It is all his best dreams made real so of course he suspects something is up and investigates to find the truth.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Premise – Being trapped in a dream that is everything you want…this has been used before by Bruce Timm and DC Animated Universe, but it is especially powerful this time. It allows us to explore Batman’s psyche and to see that even the best dream is still only a dream and therefore a prison from the real.

Batman/Bruce Wayne – Are fantastic in this episode. We see that he is unable to accept good happening because of both his commitment to true truth and the reality of his trauma as a child. Batman has become so much a part of his identity that being forced to be Bruce Wayne is too much and allows him to see that it is an illusion.

The Mad Hatter – Hat’s off the Mad Hatter. This is one of the best schemes of any villain and his worlds at the end are awesome, “You, of all people, have the gall to ask me that? You ruined my life! I was willing to give you whatever life you wanted, just to keep you out of mine!” It is twisted that he was going to force Batman live a lie…and he is not a good guy, but for a villain that is the nicest punishment ever. I got to respect him as rogue after this episode.

The Dream World – Is very well done, it really didn’t need books to be empty or jumbled…in the end Batman was willing to die to come back to reality and that should have been enough. It is still well done. Selina Kyle not being Catwoman, Bruce’s parents, Alfred…all these illusions are close enough to the real that they are great temptations to stay.

Dream Mad Hatter – A great antagonist and like Harvey from “Farscape” in John Chriton’s head. He is limited in that he can’t let the Original Hatter know what is up and who Batman really is…but he uses all of Batman’s desires to craft the amazing illusion and fights for Batman to stay till the end.

This was a perfect “Batman: The Animated Series” episode. Batman stories are always great when they are exploring Batman and his rogues psyche since in that there is so much discovery and drama. You see the humanity behind the identities they’ve adopted and what drives them to do what they do.

The perfect episode 10 / 10.

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 29 – Eternal Youth – The Dangers of Vanity

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“Eternal Youth,” is the return of Poison Ivy the scene. The premise is she is posing as a scientist hosting a spa to keep people young but targeting Industrialists to go to it. Once there she gives them a substance that they become addicted too that allows her to turn them into trees.

Here is the assessment:

The Pros: Poison Ivy – Is amazing! She manages to capture a whole bunch of industrialists and even manages to capture Alfred and his partner? Maggie. She is a good threat to Batman throughout the episode and it gives a good glimpse into her psyche…she see’s herself as a Batman who kills.

Alfred and Maggie – Are adorable and a fun couple to watch.

Alfred – Is great in this and we get to see more than just his dry humor and wit. It is nice to see him care about someone outside of Batman in regards to love. He has some great puns thrown in too.

The premise – Poison Ivy’s plan has one that has nothing to do with her sex appeal and it is awesome! By appearing to others vanity she uses it to destroy them. It is a great premise and executed well in this episode.

Okay: The music – Once more it isn’t great like last episode.

Maggie – She seems to be there for mostly comedic purposes and to develop Alfred, she herself doesn’t have much characterization.

This was a good episode that I definitely recommend. Poison Ivy is once more seen as a worthy rogue.

My score for it is 8.7 / 10.

 

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 28 – Dreams in Darkness – Batman in Arkham Asylum

Dreams in Darkness

“Dreams in Darkness,” is another amazing Scarecrow Episode. The premise of this one is Batman is on a mission and he gets hit with some of Scarecrow’s toxin, he is then sent to Arkham Asylum to receive treatment and the story unfolds from there.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

Pros: Scarecrow – The fact that his toxin works so well on Batman that the police capture him and put him in Arkham says loads about how smart he is this episode. The trap he set at the spa for Batman went just as expected…and Arkham doesn’t realize he is missing until much further into the episode.

Batman – This episode is a great exploration of his mind and how he does in fact fear his rogues…especially the Joker who kept popping up when the hallucinations began. You see that he may be on the side of good, but he is also is nuts and that there is reason they chose to put him in Arkham for this episode. What would it take for a man to dress up like a bat and beat up criminals? Also there is one point where a bat is seen like an angel to Batman as light shines through it’s wings when he is back safe in the batcave.

Arkham Asylum – You get to see how inept they are but that the intentions are good. The doctor genuinely wants to help people even if at times he is misguided.

The music – Captures the trapped feeling of Arkham really well, and the acid nightmares of Batman’s poisoned psyche.

This is an episode that I highly recommend. Probably the best Scarecrow episode and a great Batman episode too. Where before Scarecrow was used to explore Batman’s guilt, this one explores his powerlessness in regards to the rogues he always must face and what they represent to him.

I give this episode a 10 / 10.

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 27 – Mad as a Hatter – The Dangerous Stalker (The Mad Hatter)

Mad Hatter

“The Mad Hatter,” is a great episode in regards to introducing a creepy new villain and the importance of what love really is (which isn’t stalking). The premise is a scientist (Jarvis) creates a mind control device and begins to use it on his enemies and on Gotham to impress his assistant Alice he wants to own. From there the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment:

The Pros: The Mad Hatter – Is a really creepy villain. He mind controls those who disagree with him and sabotages the engagement between Alice and her fiance, and in the end even goes so far as to mind control her. All the while claiming love…it is sad that there are people like this in the world and he represents the worst of them so well. A worthy adversary and terrible human being.

The Message – The story reveals the importance of consent and respect for others (especially when romance is involved). These are all things the Mad Hatter misses because he believes he’s entitled to Alice and is in love with the idea of her (She is his Alice to his Mad Hatter (the name he takes for himself). In the end rather than friendship having the potential to become love naturally he sabotages himself and relationships leading into his end in Arkham.

Batman – Is great once again at discovering what is going on and protecting the people who are mind controlled by the Mad Hatter as they are used to fight him. His resourcefulness is great in this episode.

The music – Is fantastic and whimsical. They took the “Alice in Wonderland” theme and ran with it to create the great score for this episode.

Okay: Alice – She is basically a blank slate. She has a fiance and is a supportive friend but besides that she doesn’t get much characterization sadly.

Cons: The Fiance – We know nothing about him and he is important to this episode. I wish we could have had him better contrasted with The Mad Hatter.

This is a good episode and even has a theme I hope kids back in the day got. You don’t stalk people and you aren’t entitled to people. Relationships arise out of consent, if not you aren’t really loving a person…just an idea, like the Mad Hatter.

I give this episode a 9 / 10.

 

 

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 26 – Appointment in Crime Alley – Those Who are Sacrificed for Greed

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“Appointment in Crime Alley,” is a great episode that shows the lives of the poor of Gotham and the cruelty of Roland Daggett. The premise is Daggett is going to destroy Crime Alley to set up a mall and develop the area by destroying it since he lost the right to zone it due to the City Council Vote. To do this he hires an arsonist and the story unfolds from there.

Here is the assessment:

The Pros: The people of Gotham – This is a great episode for seeing the poor of Gotham being active in their own lives. Whether it is protesting Daggett or reporting to Batman where his goons are. They take charge of their own lives even as everything is looking hopeless.

Roland Daggett – Is an amazing baddie. He once again shows himself to be untouchable and turns on the arsonist he hires when the plot fails so he doesn’t get captured by the police, leaving Batman feeling angry and hopeless and once again given hope by the Doctor who lived in the area who comforted him after his parents death.

Batman – This is a great Batman episode. You see how much he cares for the people and wants to help. You also see him powerless against Daggett which you rarely see in these episodes. Batman doesn’t always win. Was an important message for Batman in this episode.

The Message – Is powerful. We need to provide for and take care of the forgotten and the poor. Money is not more important than people. Daggett mentioned the corporate uncaring greed to Batman as the one who stood for the people (and the people stood for the people) against this. It is a very well done message and does it without telling us, it does it by showing us.

Okay: Music isn’t super memorable again.

An amazing episode that I highly recommend. It is still relevant today too as the poor and homeless are looked over in order for those who already have much to have more. There are some great emotional moments and this episode answers the “So What?” on why it was made brilliantly.

My score for this episode is 9.5 / 10.

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 25 – The Clock King – When Time Drives you Mad

Clock-King

“The Clock King,” is our introduction to the character by the same name. He is most reminiscent of the Riddler but his schtick is times and clocks rather than Riddles. This episode is his origin story and also explores the Mayor more. The episode begins with Temple introduced as an efficiency expert who has an important case to keep…the mayor says he should take a break…everything goes wrong on the break and he goes mad as his case fails, after it flashes forward seven years and the consequences of the actions from that day.

Here is the assessment:

The Pros: The Clock King – I like the Riddler and The Clock King is no Riddler but he has class and smarts that make him a worthy adversary. He even escapes Batman and the collapsing Clocktower he is so good. He also started out as an anal retentive normal guy. He just snaps cause his day goes so wrong (a theme of Batman’s rogues).

The Mayor – We once again see how he is possibly corrupt. We learn that he might have set up the break in order for Temple to fail. Of course this could all be The Clock King’s delusion but the mayor may be kind but he is also manipulative and all about power as established in past episodes. We see more of that in this one.

Batman – We see his brains as he manages to save the mayor and get himself out of an elaborate trap where the room is poisoned and oxygen is out of the room leaving Batman minutes to live. We see the brains of Batman this episode…as well as him discovering who The Clock King is.

Okay: The story – It wasn’t the strongest, but wasn’t bad either. Average I’d say. Batman investigates, minor villain origin story explored, etc.

The music – Not super memorable this episode and forgettable.

This episode does a great job of providing Batman with a new adversary who actually manages not to get caught (like Clayface). He is fun to watch too and actually challenges Batman intellectually…which doesn’t happen often enough with his rogues.

Good episode. I give it an 8 / 10.