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[Herald Review] ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ dazzles in its own way

When you’ve been told the same story for the umpteenth time, is it possible for it to still feel original?

Apparently yes, as yet another take by Sony Pictures’ on the wildly popular Spider-Man character hit it out of the ballpark for a well-animated, witty, dazzling and, most importantly, fun superhero movie in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

caption: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (Sony Pictures Korea)
caption: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (Sony Pictures Korea)

I’d first like to point out the filmmaking duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, whose new flick is reminiscent of previous work “The Lego Movie.” They have the guts to admit their franchise is a cash-grabbing, over-the-top, chaotic mess essentially to entertain the child in you -- whoever that may be -- and that turns it into a wonderful joke.

In an age where every superhero has it in his or her contract to brood in self-importance, this film knows not to take itself too seriously and instead indulges itself in a ton of fun.

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” starts by retracing the footsteps of the Spider-Man characters in the previous movies that starred Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield. It takes place in a universe where Maguire’s Spider-Man -- aka Peter Parker -- has been doing his superhero duties for years and is now a married man.

Mils Morales, a teenager brought up in a Puerto-Rican and African-American background, is having trouble adapting to his new prestigious school when he inadvertently gets his spider-like superpowers. Amid his struggles to adjust, Miles is entrusted with a mission from Spider-Man, one he finds burdensome.

But the evil Kingpin’s plan has the parallel universes merging and Spider-Men from other universes visit, including an old washed-up Peter Parker who becomes a reluctant mentor to Miles.

What stands out most about this film is that it is among the first mainstream movies to venture into the “Multiverse” of Marvel Comics. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has toyed with the concept, it has not yet featured prominently in its films the Marvel Comics’ concept that each universe has its own versions of the same characters.

The result? Spider-Men, Spider-Women and Peter “Porker” roaming around in a hilarious chaos.

A key element in any superhero film is the characters, and the movie hits the mark just about every time. Watching the relatively unknown second-generation Spider-Man Miles Morales is a joy, as is watching various versions of previous Peter Parkers evolve in their own story arc.

Gwen Stacy as Spider-Woman was another wink to those who know the character has much more story in the comics than just being Peter Parker’s love interest, and the introduction of Peni Parker and “Spider-Ham” -- the pig version of the character -- was a pleasant reminder of the depth of the Spider-Man lore.

The appearance of Spider-Man Noir, a darker version of the web-swinger set in the 1930s, was delightful, and to have Nicolas Cage play his voice was an ingenious move.

Miles’ chemistry and story with his family is pretty much by the book, but the father and mother were not bad and didn’t really take up much screen time. Also the thing with Miles’ uncle Aaron was quite standard, and Kingpin was not so impressive as a villain. Nevertheless, these are still well-written and well-portrayed characters.

A twist with the usually quiet and fragile Aunt May being a master scientist was a cute little change.

But the focal point of the movie was in its various Spider-Man/Woman/Pig characters and the chemistry they shared. They were just tremendous fun to look at together, and this is where the brilliant animation stood out. Even as they share the same screen, each has his or her own distinct animation style that stands out.

The animation of New York was a joy to look at, from the school scenes to web-swinging to the chaotic final battle.

I particularly enjoyed the humor, which had some genuine laugh-out moments. It also paid homage to other Spidey films through action sequences and lines mirroring them,

Overall, this is a film that knows its potential, and just runs amok with it, creating a ton of fun along the way. It is a smart flick that knows exactly where it came from, and where it wants to go.

One more thing: My respect for the primary creator of the Marvel world notwithstanding, I’ve never enjoyed what I thought were gratuitous Stan Lee cameos in Marvel films.

But here it was touching to see the late great Lee’s image once again on the big screen. The posthumous cameo in such an entertaining movie was the perfect tribute.

The film opens in Korea on Wednesday.

By Yoon Min-sik (