Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Yes, I know I’m way late to the party, even by my standards. I meant to see this movie a lot sooner, but life just keeps throwing me curveballs lately. Better late than never.

Miles Morales in Into the Spider-VerseI’m sure by now I don’t need to provide a synopsis. I think by now we all know the general idea behind Into the Spider-Verse, and honestly, even if you don’t, it’s probably better to watch things unfold in the theatres. All you need to know is there are a lot of Spider-People involved, and that this is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen in my life.

I’m not kidding. I want in with high expectations after hearing a lot of positive buzz, and it still blew me away.

Pretty much everything about Into the Spider-Verse is perfect. The characters are lovable. The animation will blow your mind and then some. It’s funny, it’s heartfelt, it’s exciting, it’s fun.

In a movie that’s excellent from top to bottom, there are a few things that I would like to point out as being especially brilliant.

One is the amount of thought and detail that went into realizing every version of Spider-Man. Not just in terms of characterization, but even simple visual touches, like Gwen’s ballet shoes.

Something really cool they did that I didn’t notice in the trailers is that several of the more exotic Spiders are actually done in different animation styles. While Miles, Gwen, and the various Peters Parker are done in a uniform CGI style, Peter Porker is drawn like an old Bugs Bunny cartoon, Spider-Man Noir is in black and white, and Peni Parker is an anime character.

Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman in Into the Spider-VerseThe other thing that Into the Spider-Verse does so well — and what more than anything puts it over the top from a fun blockbuster to a truly excellent piece of cinema — is how well this movie gets what makes Spider-Man compelling as a character.

There aren’t a lot of superheroes I really like. Spider-Man is one of the few I have genuine passion for. The reason for this is how relatable he is. He’s not an alien, or a god, or a billionaire, or someone with top secret government training. He might have some powers, but at the end of the day he’s just a nerdy kid who’s doing the best he can. He feels like a real person.

And Into the Spider-Verse nails that. All of the various incarnations of Spider-Man in this movie all capture that feeling of reality. (Well, okay, maybe not the pig, but still.) They’re all people with vulnerabilities, and real problems. They’re not perfect. They make mistakes. But they’re doing their best.

The thing about Spider-Man is that he’s not a hero because he can shoot webs. He’s a hero because he’s a normal (ish…) person who chose to use his abilities to make the world a better place, which is something anyone can do. That’s what makes him work as a character, and that’s what Into the Spider-Verse gets so right. Anyone can wear the mask. Anyone can be a hero.

Because I am a naturally critical person, and because I’m trying to at least pretend this a Serious Review by a Professional Writer, I will mention I do have one problem with this movie: It’s too focused on being an origin story for Miles Morales.

I’m tired of origin movies. It’s the same tropes over and over again. And especially in this case, we all know Spider-Man’s origin story. Yes, Miles is a different version of Spider-Man from the more iconic Peter Parker, but at the end of the day their stories just aren’t that different.

This bothers me especially in light of how colourful and interesting the other Spiders are. Miles is a good character, and I like him, but I wanted to see more attention put on Gwen, Peni, Noir, and hell even Ham. Gwen especially was played up a lot in the trailers but doesn’t actually get that big of a role in the movie.

But even then I have to say that as much as I’m sick of origin stories this is above average as origin stories go.

I can pick nits like that, but at the end of the day this is still an amazing movie. If you’re somehow even more of a slowpoke than I am and haven’t seen it yet, get your ass to a theatre and go see it ASAP. Into the Spider-Verse is not just another superhero movie. It’s something special.

Overall rating: 9.7/10

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Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

I almost didn’t bother seeing this movie. The various controversies surrounding the film, and especially Johnny Depp, left a very sour taste in my mouth, and I started to feel as if paying to watch it would be a violation of my own values.

The poster for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of GrindelwaldBut perhaps my values aren’t so ironclad, because here we are. Hey, I loved the original.

In an attempt to balance my karma and/or assuage my guilty conscience, I did make a $10 donation to the North York Women’s Shelter. If anyone else is feeling similarly conflicted, I’d recommend making a similar donation to a charity in their community.

Anyway, on to the movie.

As I said above, I was very impressed by the last Fantastic Beasts movie. It provided a surprisingly dark and powerful tale with far more depth than I anticipated. Crimes of Grindelwald is perhaps not quite so impressive, but I still enjoyed it.

Once again, my expectations were defied. With a title like “Crimes of Grindelwald,” I was expecting an action-packed, Empire Strikes Back style tour de force. Instead, the experience is much more introspective and character-driven.

The theme of Crimes seems to be the wizarding world choosing sides. Grindelwald is marshaling his army, and people must choose to either stand with him, or against him. This takes place both on a grand, societal scale and a more intimate scale as the cast — including all the main characters from last time plus a few new faces — also must begin to take sides.

I don’t want to say too much, but you should expect to be surprised by how some characters choose to place their loyalties. I sure as hell was.

Newt Scamander and Albus Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of GrindelwaldThe cast of Crimes of Grindelwald is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness.

On the one hand, every character is once again excellent, both in terms of writing and acting. Even Newt’s started to grow on me.

Much as it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, I must give special praise to Johnny Depp, who absolutely nails Grindelwald’s dark charisma. The cartoonish evil of Voldemort this is not; as sinister as he is, Grindelwald is a man I can believe people would want to follow.

However, there is a downside. The cast has become quite bloated. On top of all the characters from the first movie, quite a number of new ones have been added, and while they’re also good characters played by talented actors, there just isn’t enough time in the movie to give every character their due. It’s spread too thin.

As a devoted Tina fanboy, I was particularly distressed by how small her role in this movie was. She’s hardly there, and she doesn’t contribute anything of value to the story. Honestly, she doesn’t need to be included at all. It would be almost exactly the same movie without her.

Aside from that issue, though, Crimes of Grindelwald is another surprisingly dark and thoughtful movie that is worth your time if your morals are as evidently flexible as mine.

Overall rating: 8.1/10