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Tom’s Take: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider senses …tingling! “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is a fresh, visually striking, rousing, funny, and above all else, fun spin on the Spider-Man mythology.

His name is Peter Parker. I’m pretty sure you know the rest.

Whether you’ve ever picked up a Spider-Man comic book or not, odds are, you’re already familiar with the character, his origins, his powers, and the various Spider-Man films of the past several years.

Just after the dawn of the new millennium, there were a couple of good Spider-Man movies, followed by a “meh” one, a promising reboot which also was followed up with its own “meh” sequel. By 2016, Spider-Man was incorporated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the first time in “Captain America: Civil War,” and in 2017, in his own film “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” Suffice it to say that Spider-Man’s cinematic history has been as up and down as the webslinger himself, zipping around the skyscrapers of New York.

With the release of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” the web-head’s cinematic reputation is again as spectacular as it’s ever been, in what is arguably (and in my opinion) the best Spider-Man film to date. While each new spin on the character has cancelled the previous incarnations (Tom Holland’s Spider-Man negating Andrew Garfield’s version, which itself nullified Tobey Maguire’s version), as paradoxical as it sounds, “Into the Spider-Verse” doesn’t negate any of the previous Spider-movies, but rather, is a sequel to them – all of them.

As it turns out, each of those versions (and more!) of Spider-Man did indeed happen, only in parallel, slightly different universes. “Into the Spider-Verse” also takes place in one of those alternate dimensions, slightly different from our own, with Brooklyn middle-schooler Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) admiring local hero, Spider-Man (Chris Pine) before he himself is bitten by a radioactive spider.

When Spidy is taken out of commission by the Kingpin (Live Schreiber), Miles tries to take over the job, but his budding powers are unstable and he’s young and inexperienced when it comes to crime-fighting. The Kingpin, as it turns out, has a particle accelerator which Spider-Man (the out of commission one) was trying to deactivate, when he was incapacitated. As he feared, the device opens portals to other dimensions, and soon, Miles is joined by several other Spider-People, each from a different version of reality.

Among the various Spider-Folk are Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), in his late 30s, weary, paunchy, and separated from Mary Jane; Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), aka Spider-Woman; Spider-Noir (Nicolas Cage, a black-and-white Peter Parker from the 1930s, who’s a detective by day, and a webslinger by night; Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), an anime girl from the future who has a big honkin’ robotic spider assisting her; and Peter Porker, aka Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), a cartoon pig version of Spider-Man (not to be confused with Spider-Pig from “The Simpsons Movie” from 2007, which, given the logic of this movie, probably also exists in another version of reality).

Together, the Spider-Team has to stop the Kingpin, who’s in cahoots with other familiar Spider-Man rogues (no spoilers here), and send everyone back to their respective home universes, otherwise, they may cease to exist.

A large portion of the story deals with the more burnt out version of Spider-Man showing Miles the ropes, giving him on-the-job training (so to speak) while seeming bored with it all the while (this version of Peter Parker has been in the super-hero game for so long and is so familiar with the job, he usually knows what the bad guy is going to say even before they say it). The dynamic between Peter B. Parker and Miles is funny and endearing, with the older Spider-Man gradually warming up to the young one, and the younger one trying to understand how to use his new powers while staying off the radar of his police officer father (Brian Tyree Henry), who dislikes vigilantes, like Spider-Man. “Into the Spider-Verse” (based loosely on storyline of the same name in Marvel Comics) is a rollicking success on every level, not the least of these being the movie’s messages that every one of us can be a hero, and that, regardless of how different you may feel, you aren’t alone – the latter of these in particular is important for kids to hear, and with “Into the Spider-Verse” being PG-rated, and open to a larger audience of younger viewers.

The screenplay is sharp, funny and mature, treating viewers (and longtime fans) with respect, with something for veterans and newcomers to the Spider-Universe. The artwork and animation are unlike anything ever seen before in a movie, animated or otherwise — bold, and frequently, stunning to behold, sometimes being ultra-stylized, other times, almost looking photo-realistic. The characters (and other images) have an interestingly textured look to them, made up of colored dots (not unlike old comics), while the action is fluid, and undeniably contemporary. Ultimately, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is a high-flying, hyper-imaginative comic book adventure movie, funny, exciting (but not too exciting, so it’s safe for the youngest of viewers), and sometimes bonkers, but with an impressive amount of heart and genuine emotions at its core. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is rated PG for fantasy violence and gratuitous Comics Code Authority stamp of approval. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is playing local at Claremore Cinema 8. For showtimes, call 918-342-2422.

-by Tom Fink

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