Tag Archives: christopher miller

‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ is Creative and Colorful

Unrelated fact: Tobey Maguire is the best Spider-Man we’ve ever had and the Sam Raimi trilogy is the best superhero saga ever put to film. Ok. On with the review.

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is an animated telling of the titular character (the ninth in many a year). It features Shameik Moore as Miles Morales, a Hispanic/African American teen in Brooklyn who is bitten by a freaky spider and soon discovers his universe has merged with others, resulting in multiple different Spider-Men. Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Jake Johnson, Liev Schreiber, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Vélez and Lily Tomlin also star, while Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman direct.

The film is animated like nothing I’ve really seen before; basically, it looks like a comic book. To achieve this look, the filmmakers took rendered 3D character models and placed them over 2D backgrounds, and added dot pigments to the frame. Most of the time the film comes off colorful and alive and their goal is realized, but there are a few instances where the shot is straight-up out of focus, as if you’re watching a 3D movie but the kid at the counter forgot to hand you the glasses.

As Miles Morales, Shameik Moore (great in his breakout role in 2015’s “Dope”) conveys the mixture of anxious, confused and scared as he begins to discover his powers, and cracks a few one-liners, too. Jake Johnson takes on this universe’s version of Peter Parker, playing the “grumpy old hero who no longer believes in what their image stands for” that we’ve seen from Bruce Wayne in “Batman v Superman,” Luke Skywalker in “The Last Jedi” and Logan in…well, “Logan.”

The rest of the cast is perfectly assembled, from John Mulaney voicing Spider-Ham, a Porky Pig-type Spider-Man, to Hailee Steinfeld as Gwenn Stacy (who here is her own Spider-Man and isn’t getting her neck broken) and the perfect Nic Cage depicting a noir Spidey. There are also a few fun surprise cast members, and you’ll play everyone’s favorite animated game “dammit I know that voice” until you see their names in the credit.

Where the film falters is that while these are characters and an animation style we’ve never seen before, the plot is been there-done that. There’s nothing new about seeing a young teen struggle to figure out his new spider-like powers or him yelling at his mentor that he is ready to take on the big bad guy even though he isn’t. The film throws some quips in there and a few fun Easter eggs for fans, this is co-written and produced by the guys behind “The Lego Movie” after all, but they’re mere momentary distractions from a rinse-and-repeat plot.

Also, the climax goes on for a little too long and by the end is essentially nonsensical, full of colors slamming into each other without much rhyme or reason.

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is basically like a cover album of all of the highlights from the previous eight takes on the character, packaged in a pretty box with a stylish bow. The soundtrack is at times infectious and the voice performances inspired, which are at times enough to keep you entertained when the plot is not. There have been better Spider-Men films before and there will be after (especially if some of these characters get their own spin-offs) but as far as December entertainment goes, you can do a lot worse than this.

Critic’s Rating: 7/10

’22 Jump Street’ is a Sequel that Soars

22_Jump_Street_Poster               You know the old saying: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This usually is the model for comedy sequels, and more often than not it results in a familiar, lackluster film (see: “The Hangover Part II”). And here comes “22 Jump Street”, a sequel that once again uses the exact same formula as the first film; the only difference is it knows it.

Once again starring the perfectly paired Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, this time around the duo has a new mission: they must infiltrate a college in order to find the supplier of an extreme new drug that is posing a threat to teenagers (yeah, sound familiar?). Phil Lord and Christopher Miller once again direct.

Self-relevant humor, when done right, can be the funniest version of comedy (just look at “This Is the End”, “Seven Psychopaths” and even the first “Jump Street”). Much like how “21 Jump Street” knew it was an unnecessary spin-off of an old TV show, “22 Jump Street” knows that it is an unnecessary sequel, and pokes fun of that fact. It notes that Hill and Tatum’s second undercover mission now has twice the budget, and that they should investigate everything as they did the last time; the characters do everything short of turning and winking towards the camera.

The chemistry between Hill and Tatum is so good, it’s almost unfair. There may not be a pair of actors that work better together in Hollywood than these two, and there has certainly never been a better buddy cop couple. Tatum looks like he’s having the time of his life, and there is one scene where he parades around that had my sides hurting.

Directors Miller and Lord once again show that they are perfect for this project, as they insert sound effects and animation into the most random of scenes, and it only adds to the comedy, as if giving the audience a cue of when is the perfect time to laugh.

Because this is a sequel, the film takes advantage of every stereotype that accompanies sequels: from larger, over-the-top action scenes (exploding goalposts), to more colorful sets (the climax takes place in spring break Mexico), all the way to unneeded (but not unwelcomed) returning characters.

Now for all the funny self-deprecating sequel jokes, the film does make a bit too many (they literally say “just like last time” until the film’s final scene), and at times it does feel like they were beating a dead horse with the same one-line. There are also some plot points that are never resolved, but they aren’t glaring enough to ruin the film.

“22 Jump Street” is what every sequel should do, but very few attain: it makes improvements upon the first film while at the same time doesn’t ruin the legacy of the original. “22 Jump Street” is just as funny as its predecessor, and I would very quickly shut up and give Lord and Miller my money if and when “23 Jump Street” comes around…even if this film jokes that a third film may not be the best idea (culinary school, anyone?)

Critics Rating: 8/10