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Family-friendly 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' has heart

Cary Ashby • Dec 27, 2018 at 6:00 PM

Mid-December puts us in the middle of the holiday hustle and bustle, but this time of year there has been quite the rush of movie releases too.

There seems to be something for all film fanatics: the family-friendly “Mary Poppins Returns,” “Bumblebee” (a “Transformer” prequel) and plenty of superhero flicks: “Aquaman,” “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and “Once Upon a Deadpool,” a PG-13 version of the hilarious R-rated “Deadpool 2” that came out in mid-May. As if Christmas time wasn’t enough of a strain on my wallet, I’d love to see to each of those.

Fans are saying “Bumblebee” is the best “Transformers” film in the franchise, so I guess the sixth time is the charm. With “Aquaman” earning $105.7 million in its first five days, that makes it one of the biggest moneymakers released around Christmas time. On Twitter, fans are praising the DC film with a lot of love.

Since the “Deadpool” sequel was the rare movie I saw twice in the theater, you bet I look forward to seeing actor Ryan Reynolds’ mouthy mercenary mutant retell his own story in new scenes with Fred Savage, an homage to the 1987 cult classic “The Princess Bride.” Besides, Fox is donating $1 of every ticket to “Fudge Cancer.” 

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (rated PG) is the one film out of this bunch that was a must-see. The animated flick has a lot of heart, which is essential to a great movie-going experience and a tricky element that more superhero movies need to have.

“Into the Spider-Verse” isn’t afraid to thrill the nerds who love Spidey and the gang, yet the casual fan also can enjoy it. The story also doesn’t back down from sharing some genuine laughs, the journey of self-discovery or addressing the theme integral to every great and memorable Spider-Man adventure — Peter Parker’s burden of great power mixed with great responsibility.

Miles Morales, a teenager of black and Hispanic descent, is the focus. This only matters because his heritage serves to affirm the message that being a hero and person of integrity is more important than the person behind the mask. After all, in this dimension-crossing story, we are introduced to two versions of Parker’s Spider-Man as well as Gwen Stacy’s (known as Spider-Gwen in the comic books), an anime incarnation, the moody Spider-Man Noir (voiced by Nicolas Cage) and even Spider-Ham. It’s a delight seeing a middle-age Peter Parker being a reluctant mentor to Miles.

To say the animation is high quality doesn’t do it justice. The character designs are a mix of Saturday morning cartoons, computer-generated faux-realism and “Incredibles”-style body proportions. My only complaint is the Green Goblin is more of an oversized monster than the mad, grinning villain from the comics. The visual punch of the cinematography — particularly in the bold colored, hippy-trippy finale — is a delight for the senses, but definitely could be overwhelming for some audience members.

It’s well worth your money to experience “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” in the theater with your family or date. This lifelong comic fan considers it the best Marvel-based movie released this year. By far. Grade: A

Follow Reflector staff writer Cary Ashby on Facebook at “Cary Ashby — reporter & comic book blogger” and on Twitter at @Cary_reporter.

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