As a middle-schooler, I was a real fan of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, because unlike Batman, Superman, or my favorite crimefighters, the Teen Titans, Peter Parker articulated a truly identifiable humanity with his trials of mastering a new set of powers without help. Today, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse accurately depicts more than just that: what it means to put on the red mask.
It’s no secret, however, that superheroes give bad relationship advice, as Mary Jane Watson has always been so awful to Peter. Here, while there’s also a usual mentor relationship for Brooklyn teen Miles, things really get kicked off by his affection for Gwen Stacy, who mostly stands as a believable yet cheap love interest. She does get to become more of a character later, but the way she’s introduced isn’t enough to hook female viewers. Spider-Man is essentially worshipped as a god for everyone to submit their identities to, but this movie also tries to make us feel sad for the “humanized” villain, Kingpin, by giving him a forgettable tragic backstory. Any sadness attempted falls flat because it’s brought up using a noisy, hyper, seizure-inducing color spectrum; the worst possible method of entertaining kids.
We perhaps are getting a taste of the dark cinematic superhero era of 1995, back when its insincere cheesiness peaked by a certain director whose name rhymes with Moel Bumacher. Although in this case, it works to its advantage, as some anime influence pops up by the visual of a spider on ultraviolet hallucinogens. Other old comic book imagery makes its way in, like yellow box text projecting Miles’ thoughts. There are plenty other creative spins to make this its own distinct identity, one that sprays graffiti paint over your own eyesight of Ben Parker’s “great power, great responsibility” quote. Miles’ extra-dimensional mentor, Mister Peter B. Parker, now hates Uncle Ben’s quote, so a new uncle figure (and aunt figure) arrive for a new 2018 audience. Such new changes to the formula help deliver an important new message to learn: You can’t save everybody.
Regrettably, the screenwriters, which include Phil Lord of The LEGO Movie, couldn’t save their script. I know superhero worlds often embrace absurdity, except the logic of this superhero world matches a child’s mind, its coincidences removing justification of the ridiculous dialogue, particularly Miles’ incapacity to tell his dad he loves him. Also, Spider-Man comics exist within Miles’ world… for some unexplained reason. The poor writing goes to the unconvincing dialogue ruined all the further by overly dramatic music queueing in a surprise villain twist. These detriments to Miles’ character arc spark the numerous bad qualities of old comic books.
That doesn’t mean the good visual qualities of old comic books are useless, quite the opposite in fact. As a response to his police officer father forcing him to attend “Visions Academy,” Miles appears to imagine the entire world as a comic book. Little “peck-peck-pecks” pop out of several pigeons in a sense of comic book cheesiness done correctly. While a retro battle against a giant Green Goblin takes on an old classic feel, a snow-ridden grave under flowers suggest influence from modern graphic novels. These moments all come together with a constant implementation of little vinyl dots across the screen to match an old comic strip on newsprint. Those little details balance the harshness of the past and harshness of the present, like cartoons birthing a “millenialized” baby boomer society to redefine heroism.
Its satire of the Raimi trilogy comes full circle to be not just funny, but insightful, in what needs to change. To complete revisionist touches of the superhero icon’s maturation for our modern lens, the women get their chance to suit up, particularly Gwen Stacy and her accidentally awesome haircut; not to mention Doc Ock is now female! That means we ALL get a chance to be Spider-Man!
Now, how am I Spider-Man? For one, the many difficulties come at times when helpful people aren’t always around. Example: Several months ago, I lost my wallet at the grocery story, so then began the recovery process by ordering a replacement driver’s license… which arrived a mere days before I found my wallet in the pantry. It’s a stupid moment of unnecessary freaking out, but sums up what 2018 was all about for me: becoming 100% financially dependent on myself in the same process of self-discovery and self-help that Peter Parker went through when he needed to become Spider-Man.
And finally, I ought to point out how this movie tributes Stan Lee. Amid his recent death, Stan’s latest cameo gives the man great respect that would guarantee tears of joy. It proclaims to accept the lemons life throws toward your lemonade stand, so that the product you juice out refreshes the nerves, which Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse did in its adaptation from the mind of a confused teenager. Thus, anyone can be a Spider-Person.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Moviefone. “'Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse' Official Trailer #2 (2018) | Shameik Moore, Mahershala Ali.” Digital image. YouTube. 2 Oct 2018. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJ9G0l-ReZY>.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Sony Pictures. Web. <http://www.intothespiderverse.movie/>.