SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE: Along with death and taxes, a reboot of the SPIDER-MAN movie franchise every couple of years has seemingly become one of the inevitabilities of life. Now we’re presented with an entirely animated version that tells yet another origin story of Marvel’s web-slinger while incorporating six various Spider-People from different “realities” who are trying to thwart the bad intentions of a rather ill-defined gangster type called Kingpin (voiced by Liev Schreiber). However, the main storyline centers around a 14-year old mixed race kid named Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) from Brooklyn who’s something of a juvenile Banksy with his artistic spraypainting on subway walls. In fact, much of the visual style is done in a fashion that fuses graffiti art with the look of four fold comic book panels that tend to overwhelm the visual senses as the movie wears on. The screenplay by Phil Lord (THE LEGO MOVIE) attempts to infuse a theme that “we can all be Spider-Man”. But if we can all be Spider-Man, doesn’t it sort of take the “super” out of being a superhero? I’m just saying. There are lots of self-referential homages to characters and villains from previous works in the series which contributes to the feeling that this is something of a work solely for fanboys. The movie has a sort of self-congratulatory air about it with a storyline where Peter Parker (voiced by Jake Johnson) has become cynically jaded with his fame but grudgingly becomes a sort of mentor to Miles. Dare I say that the film has taken on the serious, pretentious feel of a DC Comics cinematic universe? Okay, I will. There are some humorous bits of dialogue that occasionally surface but for the most part, the humor feels rather contrived and obvious as though it were pandering to its’ fan base. I get the feeling that this movie wanted to strive for something different but it’s negated by resurrecting the same origin story by only trying to spin it in a different way. I’m reminded of a favorite expression from my late grandmother who once said, “You can call a hot dog many things, but deep down it’s still just a ‘weenie’”. CRITIC’S GRADE: C+
CLOSING CREDITS: Aficionados of Marvel movies are probably the only group of filmgoers who will sit through all of the entire work to see the post-credit sequence. At the conclusion of SPIDER-VERSE, we’re treated to a veritable “pointing match” between two Spider-Men. One is from the distant future while the other one is from fifty years ago. The former is actually Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac) who’s also known as Spider-Man 2099. When O’Hara sees that the Spider-Persons in SPIDER-VERSE have returned to their own “realities”, he travels to the 1967 world of the old animated series which was on television. When the two argue over “who pointed first”, they’re making reference to the goofy pointing memes that have been appearing online since they first turned up in 2011. It isn’t clear just why Miguel is traveling through the multiverse, but casting a big name like Isaac (EX MACHINA) likely means that he’ll have a significant role in a SPIDER-VERSE sequel which MAY feature creatures known as Inheritors who are immortal vampire-like beings who feed on people with “spider powers”. Of course, this is just speculation which makes it all the more fun.