You’ll notice something odd with this movie; it’s doesn’t look like the other Sony Pictures Imageworks animated features (Smurfs, Hotel Transylvania). Using a fresh and unique approach, they combined Italian artist Sarah Pichelli’s classic hand-drawn comic book illustrations with CGI and came up with this very cool & stylized animated design.
R.I.P. Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man). Well, at least in this universe he is. Spidey failed to stop Wilson Fisk, aka The Kingpin (voiced by Liev Schrieber), a notorious behemoth of a man (and criminal) from using a huge particle accelerator in order to bring back his dead wife & son. BUT in doing so, that nefarious machine opened an inter-dimensional portal to other multi-verses and brought forth other Spider-people! But more on that later…
Now meet teenager Miles Morales (voiced by Shamiek Moore), a half-Puerto Rican/half-African-American kid from Brooklyn who gets bitten by a radio-active spider and, after seeing Peter Parker die, wants to take his place since HE’S got super-powers, too… not to mention some new ones as well. Donning a Halloween Spider-Man costume (care of the late, great Stan Lee in a cameo), he wants to fulfill the deceased wishes of Parker to destroy Fisk’s machine, but he’s gonna need help since Miles is still in school and his parents (Brian Tyree Henry & Luna Lauren Velez) haven’t a clue. Welcome those other Spider-people!
There’s Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), a slightly older Spider-Man, black & white Spider-Man Noir (Nicholas Cage) with his flowing trenchcoat and fedora, Spider-Woman (Haliee Steinfeld) aka teenager Gwen Stacey, Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), an anime schoolgirl with a robotic spider-droid, and Peter Porker (John Mulaney) as Spider-Ham, a Warner Bros-type cartoon pig that fights with anvils and mallets. All together they get help from a tough Aunt May (Lily Tomlin) to defeat a host of villains that come a’callin’.
There’s multi-tentacled Olivia Octavious (Kathryn Hahn) aka Doc Ock, the Scorpion (Joaquin Corsio), and the Prowler (Mahershala Ali) to name a few, but their real challenge is to stop ‘glitching’ and to stay alive long enough to get back to their own universe before they die in this one! The whiz-bang screenplay by Phil Lord (The Lego Movie) and director Rodney Rothman (22 Jump Street) is definitely written for the fanboy at heart. Self-referential, dozens of sight gags, and more than a few references to the old Sony (Sam Raimi/Toby McGuire) Spider-Man movies, this wildly fun and enjoyable animated movie crackles with humor and energy.
A blend of action, drama, comedy, super-hero genre, and kids hi-jinks is a tough mixture to pull off, but directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rothman do just that. You can’t help but admire the care and attention that was put into making this movie, especially when the plot wasn’t dumbed-down for the audience; it caters to both children and adults. The direction is fast-paced and only slows down for a few moments, but when it does, it still delivers.
If you’re a Spider-Man fan, you’ll love all the comic-book characters thrown in, and even if you aren’t, there’s plenty of meaty story to get involved with. Not satisfied with just having an exhilarating eye-candy kids movie, Lord and Rothman wrote some great scenes and dialogue that are both tragically deep and over-the-top hilarious. And enough cannot be overstated about the dazzling style of the animation used here: it’s CGI, but taken to a whole new level with comic-book ‘word balloons’, color pallets and rendering that is more like hand-drawn… but it isn’t. Honestly, if it were JUST visually stunning alone with no story, that would have been good enough, but to get BOTH? Wow!
The One (2001)
Combining The Matrix with Time Cop and Highlander, this forgettable sci-fi actioner stars Jet Li (the other Jackie Chan) as an ex-officer that used to police the universes’ multi-verse. It also stars a young Jason Statham before he got really famous in The Transporter and his career exploded.
Gabriel Yulaw (Li) realizes that, if you kill yourself in another dimension or multi-verse (and apparently there are about 124 of them), you absorb their energy & strength. So, he illegally travels through inter-dimentional wormholes, hunting down and wiping out variations of himself. After being captured by multi-verse agents Rodecker (Delroy Lindo) and Funsch (Statham), Yulaw is sentenced to life to a penal colony in the Hades universe. BUT he escapes to the last universe where his final self (he already killed 123 other Gabriel’s) to find Gabriel Law (Li again), a respected L.A. Sheriff.
Yulaw, who has Matrix-like speed, agility, strength, and ‘bullet-time’ moves, is more than a match for the local cops as he goes gunning for Law, but misses his target this time around. Hot on his trail, however, are Rodecker & Funsch, quite possibly the worst shots in the known universe. They make Stormtroopers look like Annie Oakley! Making good on his escape… again… Yulaw tracks Law down to a local hospital where he plans to do a little switcheroo with Law, but Law’s confused wife, T.K. (Carla Gugino), gets in the way.
From there on it’s nothing but Yulaw tracking down Law (while killing anybody that gets in his way) and Funsch giving loads of exposition to Law about multi-verse’s, why Law is so suddenly strong, and how he’s got to remain alive or else the universe may implode or something dumb like that. Chase after chase after chase ensues until the inevitable show-down between Yulaw and Law, who go at it mano-a-mano with a very long martial arts fight. The ending is just plain stupid and schmaltzy.
Written by director James Wong (AHS and the X-Files TV series) and Glen Morgan (Final Destination), this movie tanked at the box office and for good reason. Originally meant for Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Jet Li was not exactly a bankable name here in the U.S. Oh, sure, the man can kick-ass better than most (Fearless is his best), but unlike Jackie Chan, acting is not his strong suit. Then there was that boring, one-note script that had a single-idea and ran it to death. It’s one very long chase movie that leaves you waiting (begging) for something to happen. *snore*.
At least you got to see some decent martial arts by Li who, you gotta admit, is pretty damn good, even if he resorts to ‘wire work’ (being suspended by wires to make him fly or appear better than he is). The ending fight is unique as Yulaw & Law (both Li) adopt different styles of martial arts against each other.