By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Very soon, if not already, a ranking of all the Spider-Man movies made to date will appear. In my list, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 is the best. I am hard pressed to say which is number two, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse or Homecoming. Both are terrific in their own ways. For visual direction, the Spider-verse wins hands down. The same applies to Aquaman–both films are competing for holiday dollars. Both are worth seeing together; it can make for a fun night during the holiday week! Fans can feed off the energy of one to continue into the other.
The mix of different design elements made presenting a comic book in the big screen format truly come alive. This movie is a game changer for future works to come, much like how Dick Tracy stuck to a specific colour palette. The 3D presentation did not always pop. When it did, the illusion was to have the webhead navigate in a space like I was watching it with VR goggles. Unlike Ghostbusters (2016), where part of the IMAX screen was cropped to have effects blast out of the screen, this one keeps it all within the frame. The illusion of flying on air was certainly there.
On a traditional screen, the movie is just as terrific. The blend of 2D characters ( namely Spider-Ham) in a 3D space akin to Who Framed Roger Rabbit was not glaring. The comic book panels provide for much of the flashback elements, as each new Spider-person gets introduced. A few action sequences take on an air of familiarity, namely in how the style is borrowed from Batman the TV series. The colour spectrum certainly reflects that while still remaining cutting edge. Some of that style from MTV’s Spider-Man (2003) is also visible and the nods do not end there.
The movie trailers are telling; we know Spider-Ham, Spider-Gwen, an alternate universe Peter B Parker, Spider Noir, and Peni Parker visit and help Miles Davis (Shameik Moore) learn about his abilities. This movie is less about him taking the lesson from Uncle Ben–”With great power comes great responsibility”–and more about realizing that inner potential. Some individuals choose to shy away from it and others embrace what it is. Miles has a tough go of becoming a superhero. The exploits of his world’s Spider-Man are well known and recognition has extended to as far as getting his adventures retold in comic books Miles reads. However, they are not training manuals. Not even an alternate universe version of Peter Parker (voiced by Nicolas Cage) can help; he has problems of his own. Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman had to find what’s common with the versions of Spider-man (or woman) and deliver a product to inspire than put down. They all come from similar places and to put that common denominator down is important.
When considering the title, to decide on which Spider-person should be the mainstays must have been tough for Lord. He offers more than one cameo from the twenty plus individuals bitten by a spider. If further Easter eggs exist, like references to past television animated versions of Spidey’s many adventures, I’m wondering if Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends (Firestar and Ice Man) quickly flashed by before I even noticed. Madame Web has to be somewhere. I always felt the 1994 series ended a season too early when Spidey learned of alternate realities and is off to find M.J. along with this sorceress.
The fact the television shows have been acknowledged says something. The post-credits scene is worth noting and sticking around for as it completes how Spidey entered the mainstream media.