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A couple weeks ago, I heaped praise upon the Spectacular Spider-Man TV show, saying that it "might be the best media adaptation of Spider-Man, period!". I still believe that holds true, but Sony's Into the Spider-Verse definitely gives Spectacular a run for its money.

Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Verse isn't really an adaptation of any of the Spider-Man comics. Not the original Amazing comics, or even the more recent Ultimate comics. It's a completely original story featuring the modern Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles Morales, the son of an hispanic nurse and a black cop in New York. So in that sense, Spectacular remains the most faithful adaptation of the original 60's and 70's, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko comics featuring Peter Parker. I was kind of hoping to see a Josh Keaton Spectacular cameo in this film, but no such luck. Damnit, Sony, bring back Spectacular Spider-Man! Make it happen!

I also said in the Spectacular review that Spider-Man (and perhaps all comic adaptations) are best-suited to television shows in which the long-form, character-driven storytelling of comics can be allowed to play out. Into The Spider-Verse, however, proves that Spider-Man (and perhaps all comic adaptations) also work much better in animation! The animation here is fantastic. The images are crisp and vibrant, and they really "pop" to the point that the movie almost looks 3-D without actually watching it in 3-D. The action is fluid and kinetic. The character designs and costumes are all interesting (especially Spider-Gwen, Doctor Octopus, and Prowler). Kingpin's massive, hunchbacked visage kind of stands out as odd, considering that all the other characters have somewhat realistic body proportions. Everything else, however, looks really good!

Seriously, this movie's visuals will blow you away. I'm talking, like, remember how you felt when Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Toy Story came out. That's how good this movie looks.

Animation if crisp, vibrant, fluid, and kinetic.

Not only is it pretty to look at from a technical level, it's also ingeniously-imaginative. There's some reality-warping, dimension-hopping dreamscapes that put Doctor Strange and Inception to shame. Most of the action is semi-realistically drawn and animated, but certain action scenes go extra comic-bookey with brief still-images of comic-like panels, complete with sound effects and speech bubbles drawn on the screen. Peni Parker, Noir, and Spider-Pig all have their own distinct animation styles that blend in flawlessly with the rest. Peni and her robot mech are from a future Japan, and are drawn and animated in a distinctively anime style. Noir is drawn like penciled-in black-and-white. Spider-Pig is full-blown Merry Melodies cartoon.

A "good bye" to Peter Parker?

Despite the flashy animation, the whimsical story, the constant quips and jokes, and the generally upbeat pacing and tone, I actually got a lot of Logan vibes from this film. Just like Logan, Spider-Verse is, in essence, saying "good bye" to the classic Peter Parker / Spider-Man, as we've seen him in the 60's, the 90's animated series, the Sam Raimi / Tobey Macguire films, and so on, and it is ushering in a new age of diverse Spider-People that a younger generation can more strongly relate to. Or at least, these movies are trying to say "good bye". Despite Logan ostensibly saying "good bye" to the prime X-Men movies, Fox is going ahead with Dark Pheonix, which still takes place in that pseudo-prime continuity created by First Class. Disney / Marvel is also going ahead with Spider-Man: Far From Home, and will probably continue making Spider-Man movies with Tom Holland for the foreseeable future. So the original Spider-Man and X-Men aren't going anywhere any time soon.

There's a very self-aware, deconstructionist bent at times. It reminded me of Logan, but not depressing.

These Logan vibes come from an older Peter Parker who has been battered down by real life. He's pudgier, bitter, depressed, and self-destructive almost to the point of being suicidal. Much like Logan, this jaded Peter has to reluctantly train a younger mirror of himself (Miles). This movie also does some fun things with its own self-aware, somewhat-decontstructionist attitudes towards the commercialism of comic characters and their place in the pop culture. There's also a tear-jerking funeral that pays loving tribute to Spider-Man, as well as Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, who both passed away this year (during the production of this film).

This isn't a depressing story like Logan. It's the same ideas as Logan (and also what Zach Snyder wanted to do with Batman v. Superman), but it isn't as jaded and cynical as either of those movies. At the center is a heartful, inclusive, coming-of-age story that is just perfect for this time and place in our culture. Miles' relationship with his dad and his uncle works really well, as neither father nor uncle come off as being as an absolute saint or villain (respectively). They're more complex and nuanced.

Miles' relationships with his father and uncle are complex, and these characters aren't morally black-and-white.

The overarching theme of "anybody could be Spider-Man" really does permeate every level of the story and comes through clearly, but without feeling too ham-fisted. It's like Logan, by way of Ratatouille, wearing a Spider-Man costume, and with the energy and visual creativity of The Lego Movie.

Despite not wanting to see the movie initially, and resisting being taken to it, our 8-year old daughter walked out of the movie happily telling us about how much she loved Spider-Gwen and Peni , not to mention nit-picking details of Mile's climactic confrontation with Kingpin -- my little girl is making comic book movie nitpicks, [tear] so proud! In fact, we might even take her to the comic store later this week so she can spend some of her Christmas money on a Spider-Gwen comic. As great as it was to take her to see Wonder Woman, she walked out of this movie having seen someone who genuinely looks like her (a young girl) putting on a superhero costume and helping to save the day.

The cast is diverse and inclusive.

There really is something for everyone in this movie. While the young, half-black / half-hispanic kid is the main character, young girls will get to see heroes that closely resemble them, and us older white guys who grew up with the original comics will get to see multiple iterations of our beloved Peter Parker. There's no explicit gay, bisexual, or trans representation (unless ... Aunt May and Liv? ... no! ... maybe? ...), but pretty much everybody should see a little bit of themselves in at least one of these Spider-People. As much as I liked A Quiet Place, Black Panther, Infinity War, and Upgrade, Into the Spider-Verse might very well be the best movie I've seen all year. It might also be the best Spider-Man movie to date. Pack kids into the car over the winter break and go see this movie!

If this same creative team goes on to make another Miles Morales Ultimate Spider-Man movie, or a Spider-Gwen movie, or a Nick Cage Spider-Man Noir movie, or even a Spider-Man 2099 movie, I will definitely go and see it! And if they want to turn any of them into an animated TV series, I'll watch that too!

Damn, this movie is pretty!

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