And the award goes to...Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (spoiler-free)
Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse is a brilliant movie in almost every way. In short, it’s a comic movie, written by comic fans, that sells newcomers on what makes Spider-Man great and rewards devoted Spidey fans.
If I could give out awards, here’s what I would give:
Best comic movie. Sure, there’s been some great comic-to-movie properties, but never before has a film captured what makes the medium of comics so great. From panels, to thought balloons, to SFX, to the slightly pulpy feel of the digital, (an homage to the ink-dotted comics of old), it is a comic come to life.
Best adaptation of source material. I don’t mean Spider-Verse (2016) by Slott, Cage, et al. All that’s adapted from that 648 page tome is the concept of a multiversal team-up. I mean how wonderfully they’ve adapted Bendis and Pichelli’s origin story of Miles Morales. They take some liberties with it, but they capture the heart of Miles’s character and his journey from kid to hero.
Best Stan Lee cameo. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry and I barely made it through. All I can say is that the movie and the cameo are Stan’s last, wonderful, gift to his Spider-fans. Excelsior, true believers.
Best breaking of the 4th wall. I know Deadpool is supposed to own this, but by now you expect it from him. I didn’t expect it here and I loved it. My favorite non—spoiler ‘wall break’ was a moment when Miles pulls up his contacts list in his cell phone with “B. Bendis,” at the top, and “Sara Pichelli” in the list along with “Uncle Aaron.” I’m sure Slott was in there but I didn’t have time to take it all in. This was a brilliant nod to the authors of the modern day Spider-verse and those who love their work.
Best credits and post credits scene. It’s a gift to everyone who loves Spider-man as the king of ‘camp.’
Best Spider-Man movie. Sure, I might quibble with a few things. In terms of villains, the sheer number would overwhelm a non-Spider-man aficionado. While the motivations of Fisk are compelling, the lack of development between Miles and his Uncle Aaron hurt the narrative a bit. While the overall artistic direction is outstanding and the film direction is spot-on for Spider-man, I did find Kingpin a bit comically distorted (‘comically’ as in ‘funny-looking’ but I get the homage to Sienkiewicz). Will new comers to the Spidey-verse catch everything? There is no way. Even as a huge Spider-fan I’m sure I missed a good deal which I’ll uncover in subsequent viewings. Thankfully the film stands on it’s own as a film and Mile’s journey is enough to tie everything together.
What about the ensemble cast and characters? Like the books that came before Miles, and like the movies that came before this one, each have their own merits and charm. Mid-life crisis Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen were especially strong in the film, but in this movie even the strongest are minor supporting roles to help Miles shine. Don’t expect any spin-offs here, except maybe in the straight to digital market.
Despite a few minor short-comings, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a triumph. As a lifelong reader of Spider-Man, who loved Bendis and Pichelli’s work, this just nails it. As a comic fan, this just nails it. As someone looking for a great movie for myself, my friends, and my younger kids, this just nails it.
Thwip your way into a theater and see this movie. It’s a gift to all Spider-fans everywhere.