Monday, March 8, 2021

‘Spider-Verse’ catches the eye

On June 20, 2017, filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired from the infamous production of “Solo: A Star Wars Story” by Disney. 

A year and a half later, Lord and Miller have won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” breaking Disney’s seven-year winning streak.

 Lord and Miller were also behind “The LEGO Movie” and the rebooted “21 Jump Street” films, proving that stories can be truly entertaining when they embrace their eccentricities.

Shameik Moore voices Miles Morales, an over-his-head teenager that gets bit by a radioactive spider and becomes Spider-Man. You know how the story goes. 

What this story introduces is an infinite number of universes with infinite variations of Spider-Man. After Kingpin’s, voiced by Liev Schreiber, “super-collider” malfunctions, five other Spider-Men are pulled into Morales’ universe. The most important Spider-Man is Peter B. Parker, voiced by Jake Johnson, a past his prime Spider-Man that Miles latches onto for guidance while navigating his new powers.

When dealing with computer generated animation, anything is possible and the 180 animators that worked on this project took this to heart. 

Kingpin is cartoonishly oversized with a body to head ratio of 100:1. One inter-dimensional Spider-Man is Spider-Ham or Peter Porker, voiced by John Mulaney, a pig with Spider-Man qualities and Looney Tunes sensibilities with cartoon sound effects and hammers that can easily fit in a pocket.

The art style itself is accurate to the comic books that inspired the story in a way that has not been seen on the big screen before. The backgrounds are colored with numerous diagonal lines similar to those found on a printed comic book page. The frame rate of the animation is not as smooth as live action and has the feeling of a stop-motion picture that uses multiple comic strip panels to create a scene. When the Spider-Men start to sense that danger is approaching, little squiggly lines appear above their heads to show their spider-sense.

The most important theme of “Spider-Verse” is feeling like an outsider. Clearly these new characters that have been dragged into Miles Morales’ universe are fish out of water and they have to learn to adapt to a new world. 

Even Miles is facing a change in setting as he is moving to a new school in his introductory scene. He has to stay on top of his work, get to class on time and impress the cute girl in his science class. The overwhelming feeling of high school makes Miles a very human character and one that can be relatable to almost everyone.

A difference that sets Miles apart from previous incarnations of Spider-Man is his race. An African American Spider-Man has been around since Amazing Fantasy #15 debuted in the summer of 1962, but this is the first time he has been portrayed on the big screen.

This really opens up the audience’s perception of who Spider-Man can be. The president of Sony Pictures Animation, Kristine Belson, said in an interview with Variety, “they’re sort of modern heroes for a modern world.”

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” may be marketed on the idea of having a group of unique inter-dimensional superheroes teaming up, but Miles Morales is the emotional heart to this story and the reason why Spider-Verse can grow into a phenomenon as big as the Avengers.

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