Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman
Honestly this whole “Oscar Season” thing has felt rather muted this year as I really haven’t seen that many movies that would fit the archetype we often associate with them. Other than Welcome to Marwen, the holiday season has been just an extension of summer with huge blockbusters coming out back to back with three presumed major money makers (Bumblebee, Mary Poppins Returns, and Aquaman) fighting over a single weekend right before Christmas. However out of all those movies that we’re getting right now, the one that really caught my attention was this film; not because I had any particular reason to think it would be great (though I do certainly hope that’s the case!) but because it looked so much different than everything else. An animated film with a unique art style about Spider-Man characters other than Spider-Man? Heck, that’s PRACTICALLY Venom considering how much CG they used, and that wasn’t TOO bad! Can the cinematic debut of Miles Morales, Spider-Gwen, and… others I guess, manage to be up there with the best that Disney can put out, or is this only gonna look good in comparison to Sony’s other recent Spider-Man efforts? Let’s find out!!
Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is your typical Marvel nobody; slightly smarter than everyone else, painfully insecure, and doesn’t realize how good his life is until some tragedy will inevitably strike it after they get super powers! For now though, he’s just bummed about having to go to a fancy new school that his parents (Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Velez) want him to attend while all he wants to do is be with his friends and hang out with his uncle (Mahershala Ali) who understands him a heck of a lot more than his parents do. During one such hang out session where he and his uncle tag a wall in an abandoned subway tunnel, Miles gets bit by a radioactive spider and goes through the typical Spider-Man first day of school; make a fool of yourself, stick to things, and eventually realize how awesome these powers are! Then again, there’s already a Spider-Man roaming the streets (Chris Pine) so it’s not like he needs to get himself involved in Super Hero shenanigans, right? Oh wait, Spider-Man’s dead. Huh. Didn’t see that coming (especially if you don’t know anything about Miles Morales already) and not only that, the big Super Villain plot he failed to stop is some sort of interdimensional portal gun thingy that The Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) is making and is merging alternate realties into this one. It makes a lot more sense when you see in the movie. Trust me on that. ANYWAY! One of the alternate dimensions has spout out Peter B Parker (Jake Johnson) who is like this universe’s Peter only a lot less dead and a lot less competent, and he and Miles end up crossing paths through even more convoluted shenanigans. So now that we’re up to TWO only somewhat competent Spider-People, they can do what the actually GOOD Spider-Man couldn’t, right? Eh… maybe, but let’s see if we can find a few more Else Worlds Spiders like Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Noir (Nicolas Cage), Spider-Bot (Kimiko Gleen), and Spider-Pig (John Mulaney) before storming The Kingpin’s castle. I’m sure they’re around here somewhere! Will Miles learn how to use his powers for good and accept the responsibility that comes with them? Can the other Spider-People not only show him what it means to be a hero, but stop The Kingpin before their universe’s become endangered as well? Can we somehow find a way to go to an alternate dimension where this film is ALSO part of the MCU!?
I knew that while I was writing my review of this movie that there was no way I could fully express my utter bewilderment at what happens in the final twenty or so minutes without having a damn near incomprehensible rant right in the middle and without giving away HUGE spoilers. Well now that the review is finished and you can find out my thoughts (essentially spoiler free) there, I think now is the time to get all this built up frustration out in a constructive and hopefully coherent manner. Needless to say that this will contain ALL OF THE SPOILERS for the movie as so much of my problems with the logic of this (both from my understanding of technology and from the rules the movie sets for itself) is what is ultimately revealed by the end, so don’t read this before going to see the movie which I still recommend you do despite how much I HATED the ending. Before we begin though, there’s still one very important question to answer.
Why Do I Care So Much!?
Honestly? I don’t really know. I mean, one of my favorite movies of the year is The Purge Election Year, and can I honestly say that THAT movie makes any more sense than this one? Probably not, but I think it ultimately comes down to what each movie is trying to accomplish. The Purge: Election Year is upfront with what it wants to be and infuses every moment of screen time with that sense of purpose. There’s no bait and switch or a drastic shifts in tone that make you questions whether or not the filmmakers want you to believe in what is going on (beyond as a scathing and blunt metaphor for the current state of US politics), so it manages to stay consistent all the way through. This movie feels disingenuous when it eventually gets around to turning Nerve from a plot device into the main dramatic thrust of the final act as it turns out to be SUPER EVIL. To be fair, it’s not like they aren’t dropping hints throughout the movie (and Nerve at no point doesn’t come off like the worst kind of hacktivist bro-centric garbage) but the movie doesn’t want us to focus on that until the end and when it does I don’t feel the movie earned the right to use this sloppy and barely defined entity in the way that it does. The Purge has a backstory and mechanics. Nerve has neither and so its constantly pulling stuff out of its ass to make it more threatening than it has any right to be in this grounded (if SLIGHTY exaggerated) world that the movie takes place in. When shit started to hit the fan, it just didn’t feel necessary to me, and they were biting off way more than they had any hopes of chewing. Well then, let’s get to it! Spoilers form here on out! Oh, and FYI, I’m not an expert (or even all that smart) in ANYTHING I’m about to discuss, so if someone out there wants to point out how stupid I am and how any of this makes sense, then go right ahead.
Nerve and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Well if they were gonna make a teenaged version of a David Fincher film, The Game is probably a good place to start. You don’t want to go with Se7en or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo right off the bat! Then again, he already made his own teen movie with The Social Network. Anyway, this new movie starring the less famous (though probably not for long) Franco brother as well as the star of Hotel for Dogs and Nancy Drew (Okay, she was also in American Horror Story and Scream Queens) seems to be trying to tell us something about social media and… I guess dumb asses on YouTube? Whatever this movie is about, it at least has an interesting (if super spoilerific) trailer, so is it possible there’s something actually here to chew on? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Vee (Emma Roberts) who’s on the cusp of graduating high school but isn’t sure what college she wants to go to. In fact, indecision seems to be her biggest defining feature; possibly brought on by the untimely (and unexplained) death of her brother only two years earlier. Now she’s about to leave the comfort of compulsory education while still never living that true HIGH SCHOOL EXPERIENCETM. Luckily for her, social media and… probably a bunch of libertarian basement dwellers, have JUST the thing for her; an online service called Nerve. Her friend Sydney (Emily Meade) turns her onto it, and it’s basically a webcam site only instead of whipping her boobs out for money, she’s given dares to complete instead. I’m pretty sure whipping her boobs out would have been at least half the dares if this was in the REAL world, but in this movie she’s basically given Jackass style stunts instead. Her “Just Friends” friend Tommy (Miles Heizer) is being a super wet blanket about all this which gives handsome as fuck Ian (Dave Franco) a chance to swoop in as another Nerve Player (you’re either a Player or a Watcher on Nerve) ready to take her on a city wide adventure with riskier and riskier dares for them to complete! Will these two make it through the night of dares with their internal organs intact? What is the true motivation of Ian who JUST SO HAPPENED to be in the same area as Vee? Just what are the evil puppet masters of Nerve planning!? Is it a pizza party!?