Talking Movies [Spidey Month]: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse


Easily Marvel Comics’ most recognisable and popular superhero, unsuspecting teenage nerd Peter Parker was first bitten by a radioactive spider and learned the true meaning of power and responsibility in Amazing Fantasy #15, which was first published in August 1962. Since then, the Amazing Spider-Man has featured in numerous cartoons, live-action movies, videogames, action figures, and countless comic book titles and, in celebration of his debut and his very own day of celebration, I’ve been dedicating every Wednesday to talk about everyone’s favourite web-head!


Released: 14 December 2018
Director:
Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman
Distributor:
Sony Pictures Releasing
Budget:
$90 million
Stars:
Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, and Liev Schreiber

The Plot:
After being bitten by a radioactive spider and gaining the proportionate strength and agility of the arachnid, Miles Morales (Moore) finds himself caught up in an elaborate plot by Wilson Fisk/The Kingpin (Schreiber) to cross dimensions. In the process, Miles is mentored by, and joins forces with, other incarnations of Spider-Man from across the multiverse while stull struggling to carve out his own identity in the role.

The Background:
In 2011, writer Brian Michael Bendis decided to kill off Peter Parker/Spider-Man and replace him with a younger character in the pages of Ultimate Spider-Man (2000 to 2011), Miles Morales, an African American youth of Puerto Rican descent, a decision which created much controversy at the time. Miles, however, soon became a popular character and appeared not just in cartoons and other merchandise but also the mainstream Marvel continuity (“Earth-616”). After the poor reception of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Webb, 2014) led to Spider-Man finally being incorporated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Sony were determined to continue producing Spider-Man films and spin-offs separate from the MCU.

After Peter died in Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles took over as the Earth-1610 Spider-Man.

Writers Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman chose to focus their efforts on Miles since he hadn’t yet featured in a film and, to further separate the project, it included not only Spider-People from across the multiverse but also a distinct and intricate animation style that was as vital to the story as the music and dialogue. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse received unanimous praise upon release and made over $375 million at the box office, won numerous awards, and is highly regarded as one of the best and most unique Spider-Man movies ever made. Its massive success meant that both a sequel and a spin-off were soon announced and no doubt contributed heavily to Miles’ continued popularity.

The Review:
First and foremost, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is Miles Morales’ story, even amidst all the chaos and multiverse madness permeating the plot; unlike the traditional Peter Parker, Miles’ parents are still alive and, while he struggles to adjust to boarding school and to make new friends, he’s nowhere near the social outcast Peter is often portrayed as during his teenage years. A big fan of music (though he is amusingly poor at reciting lyrics) and with an artistic flair, Miles is a slightly rebellious and resentful youth who struggles to live up to the expectations of his father, Jefferson Davis (Brian Tyree Henry), a police officer who regards Spider-Man (Chris Pine) as a menace and delights in embarrassing his son at his new school with typical dad humour.

Although Miles’ relationship with his dad is strained, he’s very close to his uncle.

A somewhat streetwise kid who was a popular figure at his old school, Miles is largely an outsider at his more officious and pretentious boarding school; he’s uncomfortable in the mandatory uniform, feels like he doesn’t really fit in, and is intentionally trying to sabotage his future there so he can go back to his old school and his old friends. Believing that his father doesn’t really understand him or his dreams, Miles has a far closer relationship with his uncle, Aaron Davis (Ali), who encourages his penchant for street art and actually takes the time to connect with him on a more peer-to-peer level. To Jefferson’s chagrin, Miles idolises his uncle, who indirectly leads to him gaining his spider powers.

Miles’ struggles with his spider powers are directly paralleled to the onset of puberty.

Already somewhat uncomfortable in his new environment, Miles’ newfound spider powers (which are explicitly compared to the onset of puberty) only increase his agitation; he struggles to adapt to and master his abilities, gaining a far louder and more noticeable internal monologue and accidentally attaching himself to Gwen Stacy’s (Steinfeld) hair in an awkward attempt to flirt with her. Interestingly, Miles’ exploration of his abilities is a source of as much entertainment and amusement as it is an integral part of Miles’ character development; throughout the film, Miles struggles to master his powers, which seem to trigger unconsciously or involuntarily, and a massive part of Into the Spider-Verse revolves around Miles living up to the lofty expectations now placed upon him by his amazing new abilities.

In Miles’ world, Peter is a competent, renowned, and experienced superhero.

Miles lives in an alternative world that isn’t quite Earth-616 or the Ultimate universe; it’s one that draws inspiration from all over Spider-Man’s various adaptations and interpretations but one where Spider-Man is a renowned and experienced superhero. Carrying himself with the confidence of a veteran of many battles, life lessons, successes, and failures, this Spider-Man is, honestly, uncharacteristically competent in a lot of ways (he’s still married to Mary Jane Watson (Zoë Kravitz), has the full support of his beloved Aunt May Parker (Lily Tomlin), and even has a Spider-Cave full of different Spider-Suits, for God’s sake). During an intense battle with the monstrous and demonic Norman Osborn/Green Goblin (Jorma Taccone) and the slick and efficient Prowler, Peter is shocked to meet Miles, someone who shares his abilities, and vows to train him and give him the opportunities he never had when he was first starting out, such is his commitment to using great power with great responsibility.

Kingpin may look ridiculous but he’s a formidable threat who killed Peter with his bare hands!

Sadly, and unexpectedly, Peter is killed right before Miles’ eyes by the Kingpin; Fisk, who blames Spider-Man for exposing his criminal deeds to the world and thus driving away his wife and son, has built a gigantic Super-Collider which he plans to use to rip a hole between dimensions and retrieve his family from another time and place. When Peter costs him this opportunity, Fisk beats him to death in a brutal and surprising scene and spends the remainder of the movie desperately trying to track down and reacquire the USB flash drive that allows the collider to work. Like Green Goblin, Fisk is a comically exaggerated version of himself, even compared to the creative flair of some comic book artists, but as preposterously absurd as Kingpin looks, his threat has, arguably, never been more tangible and brutal than in Into the Spider-Verse. Exuding unmatched power, wealth, and authority, he commands some of Spider-Man’s most notorious foes with a cold menace and is more than happy to get his hands dirty in his desperate attempt to be reunited with his family.

Peter B is an out of shape, world-weary version of Spider-Man who’s far from his prime.

Shaken by Peter’s death, and overwhelmed by the immense responsibility now in his hands, Miles is shocked to meet an alternative version of Peter, Peter B. Parker (Johnson), who arrived during the brief period that the Super-Collider was active. Unlike his counterpart from Miles’ world, Peter B is an out of shape, jaded, wreck of a man who has lost his way, and everything near to him, and yet, despite his crushing losses, obvious depression, and having grown weary of the power and responsibility that comes from being Spider-Man, Peter B still continues to be Spider-Man and does his best to tutor Miles in coming to grips with his powers. He’s obviously not as effective or competent a mentor than his counterpart promised to be but he does what he can regardless and is fully willing to put his life on the line to allow his fellow Spider-People to return home.

Thanks to her friendship with Miles, Gwen learns to open herself up to others once again.

Speaking of which, Miles is also joined by a whole host of unexpected Spider-People; the first one he meets is Spider-Woman, Gwen Stacy, although he is unaware of her true identity at the time. A vastly different version of the traditional Gwen, Spider-Woman gained her powers in Peter’s place in her world and is a tough, sarcastic character who, while having a soft spot for Miles, is reluctant to open herself up to him, or anyone else, for fear of losing them. In a film arguably crowded by Spider-People, Gwen stands out by being one of the more recognisable and fleshed out characters and is, basically, a tertiary protagonist as her growing friendship with Miles is a major part of her (and his) character development.

As fun and interesting as the other Spider-People look, there’s not enough time for them all to shine.

Sadly, the same can’t really be said about the rest of the Spider-Crew; Peni Parker/SP//dr (Glenn) is perhaps the least developed and expendable of the group. While she is rendered in an outstanding anime aesthetic and has a heart-warming bond with her spider mech, she’s largely inconsequential to the story and could have been spliced out with any other version of Spider-Man. Spider-Noir (Cage) and Peter Porker/Spider-Ham (Mulaney) manage to stand out a little better thanks to being rendered in monochrome and talking like a thirties gangster or being a literal cartoon character, respectively, but we don’t really learn a great deal about them and they’re mainly there to emphasise that every universe has a Spider-Man and that Spidey’s legacy and ideals are carried by a variety of characters all throughout time and space, which all directly ties into Miles’ character arc of growing into, and finally accepting, his role as Spider-Man.

The Nitty-Gritty:
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse immediately sets itself apart from other Spider-Man movies not just by focusing on Miles as its main character and its cross-dimensional subplot but also by virtue of being an animated movie. Truthfully, animation suits Spider-Man down to the ground as, often, some of the more exhilarating sequences in Spider-Man movies are the computer-generated fight scenes and web-slinging moments and Into the Spider-Verse definitely uses its medium to its full advantage, featuring a unique aesthetic, comic book-like sound effects for emphasis, and even varying the frame rate to emphasise the differences between the various Spider-People and Miles’ comparative inexperienced compared to them.

Jokes, gags, and quips are just part of the film’s humour, which is full of amusing banter.

Humour is an important element of the film; Into the Spider-Verse is full of amusing lines, sight gags, and comedic moments that come naturally and are incredibly amusing thanks to some effortless and believable line delivery from the likes of Moore, Pine, and Johnson (Spider-Man’s quips during tough situations and battles are a notable highlight). Characters have an easy banter and sass to them that allows even the least developed of them to appear far more nuanced in the short space of time they have to shine and humour is emphasised through Miles’ inexperience with his powers, wry commentary on his increasingly chaotic situation, and the frantic nature of the action scenes and character beats.

Action and fights are colourful and frantic, ensuring no two fights are the same.

Speaking of action, Into the Spider-Verse is crammed full of some of the most impressive, intense, and frenzied action scenes in any Spider-Man movie; the freedom offered by relying on animation allows for some of the most diverse and varied web-slinging as each Spider-Person swings, fights, and moves differently. The use of music and onomatopoeia emphasises the action, which is fast-paced, memorable, and impactful thanks to the film showcasing a wide variety of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, which includes the likes of the Green Goblin, Lonnie Lincoln/Tombstone (Marvin “Krondon” Jones III), and Mac Gargan/The Scorpion (Joaquín Cosio).

Though a vicious mercenary, Aaron’s hesitation to kill Miles costs him his life.

Apart from Fisk, though, the most prominent villains of the film are Doctor Olivia Octavius/Doctor Octopus (Kathryn Hahn) and the Prowler; while Doc Ock is a sadistic and formidable, half-crazed scientist, it is the Prowler who has the most emotional significance to both the plot and to Miles. Constantly accompanied by an ominous, animalistic theme, the Prowler is portrayed as Fisk’s top mercenary; a brutal and vicious, cat-like fighter in a sophisticated suit of armour, Prowler stops at nothing to hunt down Fisk’s missing USB drive. Miles is absolutely devastated to find that the one person he thought he could rely on in the whole world, his Uncle Aaron, turns out to be the Prowler and even more crushed when, upon discovering Miles’ identity, Aaron chooses to spare his nephew and is executed by the Kingpin as a result and dies in Miles’ arms while urging him to continue on as a hero.

Miles finally embraces his role as Spider-Man, defeats Kingpin, and returns his new friends home.

In the end, against all the odds and his own doubts and inexperience, Miles customises one of Peter’s suits (crafting an absolutely bad-ass variant in the process) and fully embraces his role as Spider-Man to confront the Kingpin and put an end to his destructive scheme. It’s a real coming of age moment for Miles, who previously could only look up in awe at Spider-Man’s legacy, and allows him to not only finally live up to the lofty expectations placed upon him by his father and the various Spider-People but also repair his relationship with his father (and his father’s opinion of Spider-Man) through his actions. With the Spider-People returned home, Miles becomes the one true Spider-Man of his world, gaining lifelong friends and a renewed sense of responsibility, confidence, and identity in the process. It’s a strikingly effective story largely thanks to how relatable and complex Miles is portrayed throughout the film, being a rebellious and well-meaning kid who is simply struggling to find his place in an ever-changing world.

The Summary:
If I’m being completely honest, I’m not really a fan of how often a street-level superhero like Spider-Man gets caught up in multiversal misadventures and meets alternative versions of himself; just like how I’m often a bit perturbed by how often Bruce Wayne/Batman has to put up with the same events, I feel like Spider-Man works better as a more grounded hero who only occasionally dabbles in cosmic-level events. To that end, I feel like Into the Spider-Verse would have been just as appealing to me, if not more so, had the multiverse elements been dropped; Peter B could have just been the version of Spider-Man in Miles’ world, Gwen could have been the same or swapped out with Cindy Moon/Silk, and the other Spider-People could have been replaced by, say, Ben Reilly or Kaine Parker and the idea of a multiverse of Spider-Man could maybe have been saved for the next movie.

The film is a superb coming of age story charting Miles’ acceptance of his new role as a superhero.

However, having said that, that doesn’t mean I’m not a huge fan of Into the Spider-Verse as it is; make no mistakes about it, this is a fantastic movie from start to finish, with an extremely appealing aesthetic identity and some absolutely fantastic action. It also carries a very emotional heart to its story, which is one of identity, legacy, and expectation; a coming of age story that follows a young, emotional kid who is struggling to live up to the role his mentors expect of him, Into the Spider-Verse says a lot about not only the nature of Spider-Man but also the struggles of youth and puberty. I’m glad Into the Spider-Verse did so well and I’m genuinely looking forward to the sequel delivering more of the same high-octane action and heartfelt emotion, visual flair, as well as introducing more Spider-People and, hopefully, expanding upon the brief cameo from one of my favourite Spider-Man, Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac).

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

What are your thoughts on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse? Where does it rank among the various other Spider-Man movies for you and what did you think of the artistic style and focus on Miles Morales and the other Spider-People? Which of the alternative Spider-Man was your favourite? Would you have liked to see one, or more, get a bigger role and if so, which one? What other alterative version of Spider-Man would you like to see show up in the sequel? Are you a fan of Spider-Man always having adventures with alternate versions of himself or would you prefer to see him tackling more street-level threats? Are you a fan of Miles, and what did you think to Peter’s death both in Ultimate Spider-Man and in Into the Spider-Verse? Whatever your opinion on Into the Spider-Verse, go ahead and drop a reply down in the comments and be sure to check back in next Wednesday as Spider-Man Month continues!

Screen Time [Spidey Month]: Spider-Man (1977 Pilot)


Easily Marvel Comics’ most recognisable and popular superhero, unsuspecting teenage nerd Peter Parker was first bitten by a radioactive spider and learned the true meaning of power and responsibility in Amazing Fantasy #15, which was first published in August 1962. Since then, the Amazing Spider-Man has featured in numerous cartoons, live-action movies, videogames, action figures, and countless comic book titles and, in celebration of his debut and his very own day of celebration, I’ve been dedicating every Wednesday to talk about everyone’s favourite web-head!


Air Date: 14 September 1977
Network: CBS
Stars: Nicholas Hammond, Lisa Eilbacher, Thayer David, David White, and Michael Pataki

The Background:
Following his debut in the pages of Amazing Fantasy #5, Spider-Man soon graduated to his own solo comic series and, by the mid-1970s, had become an icon of mainstream pop culture thanks to numerous merchandise and adaptations in other media such as the 1960s cartoon. It was during this time that CBS bought the rights to produce a live-action show for prime-time television; however, rather than debuting as an episodic series, The Amazing Spider-Man first aired as a feature-length episode that served as a back-door pilot. The pilot actually received a theatrical release outside of the United States, though I only remember seeing it on TV here in the United Kingdom once as a kid; regardless, the pilot was a success and led to the commission of a thirteen episode series that aired between 1977 and 1979.

Spider-Man’s feature-length pilot led to a thirteen episode TV series.

Despite drawing favourable ratings during its airing, CBS were reluctant to continue the show as it was expensive to produce and underperformed with older audiences. As a result, the show was eventually cancelled and has never seen a re-release outside of a few VHS tapes back in the day. Although the series was lacking in any of Spider-Man’s recognisable rogues gallery, it’s rumoured that there were tentative plans to produce a crossover with the long-running Incredible Hulk series (1977 to 1982) but these, obviously, never came through. Today, the series is largely forgotten, having been long overshadowed by Spider-Man’s big budget live-action ventures but Peter’s likeness in the 1994 cartoon always reminded me of Hammond’s.

The Plot:
When freelance photographer Peter Parker (Hammond) is bitten by a radioactive spider and gains the proportionate strength, speed, and agility of a spider, he adopts a crime-fighting persona dubbed Spider-Man to oppose the aspirations of the malicious Edward Byron (David), who plans to hold the city to ransom with his mind control technology.

The Review:
After the introductory titles (which features both a glimpse of the spectacular stunt work that the pilot and series was known for and the show’s super funky seventies theme music), Spider-Man immediately introduces the central antagonistic force of the plot as a doctor and a lawyer are inexplicably compelled to walk out in the middle of their jobs and perform a bank robbery, with the only thing relating the two being mysterious pins attached to their suits.

Peter struggles to sell photos to, or get assignments from, the grouchy Jameson.

Next, we’re introduced to Peter Parker, a freelance photographer who suffers from allergies and is attempting to work his way through college by selling photographs to J. Jonah Jameson (White), to little avail. While Jameson is far less as explosive and grouchy than his usual iterations, he’s still volatile and a natural cynic at heart, especially when faced with the seeming randomness of the opening crime and the subsequent threat for further crimes to follow.

A lone spider is bathed in radiation during one of Peter’s experiments…

While Peter can’t catch a break with Jameson and is thus constantly low on cash, he’s intrigued by the threat of mass mind control that has been levied against the city and has far more luck in the field of science. Peter works in a laboratory alongside his friend and fellow student Dave (Larry Anderson) and the two of them are conducting experiments on radiation. However, while dealing with some radioactive waste, a lone spider is bathed in over 400 rads’ worth of radiation and, in its last desperate act, bites Peter’s hand.

Peter is exhilarated to find he can cling to walls and surfaces just like a spider!

I’m not entirely certain but I think this is the first time the spider bite was indirectly caused through Peter’s own actions and it’s an interesting change. Rather than going through any kind of adjustment period or troublesome transformation, Peter experiences the effects of the spider bite almost instantaneously, being aware of incoming danger thanks to his spider-sense and racing up a wall with ease and on pure instinct. It’s not until later, after a particularly gruelling night’s sleep, that Peter pieces together the fantastic event and realises that he has been genetically altered; this leads to a montage in which he explores the lengths of his new abilities on the outside of his Aunt May’s (Jeff Donnell) through the use of camera trickery.

After being dubbed “Spider-Man”, Peter throws together a costume to sell pictures to Jameson.

It’s not a great effect, and certainly nothing on the practical wire work seen later in the pilot, but it’s certainly ambitious for the time. Peter first puts his powers to good use while clambering up a wall in the city, which is startling enough to stop a purse snatcher (Barry Cutler) in his tracks. This leads to eyewitnesses dubbing him “Spider-Man”, which piques Jameson’s interest and, in that moment, gives Peter the inspiration to construct a colourful outfit and persona befitting of such a name and to explain Spider-Man’s logistics and capabilities to the pessimistic Jameson (and, in the process, the audience). While Peter acts on instinct to stop a criminal, his primary motivation for becoming Spider-Man is to sell Jameson pictures; there’s no Uncle Ben or lessons about power and responsibility here (which, I’m sure, today’s Spider-Man “fans” would throw a fit over!), just a regular kid trying to do the right thing and make some money out of little more than an ingrained sense of right or wrong.

Captain Barbara’s cantankerous, gruff demeanour was a real highlight for me.

In the course of the pilot, Peter runs afoul of the temperamental Captain Barbara (Pataki), a grouchy, cantankerous, and suspicious police captain who is kind of like the Jack McGee (Jack Colvin) of the show; perhaps because of his jaded nature, he is almost immediately suspicious of Peter and becomes even more so when Peter continues to show up at the scenes of the inexplicable crimes. Barbara is equally unimpressed with Spider-Man’s debut, believing (with little reason) that the wall-crawler is somehow involved in the mysterious events and voicing many of the more aggressive objections to the vigilante that are usually attributed to Jameson, who is skeptical of Spider-Man but never exhibits the hatred normally associated with the character.

Peter and Judy attend one of Byron’s aggressive seminars on the futility of life.

When covering the aftermath of another of the incidents in which Professor Noah Tyler (Ivor Francis) randomly committed a robbery and then crashed head-first into a wall, Peter meets his daughter, Judy (Lisa Eilbacher). Judy confides in Peter that her father has been attending a special group to teach people the “true meaning of themselves” through unusually aggressive lectures. This group, which is more like a cult or twisted church, is led by the pilot’s big bad, Edward Byron; Byron uses specialised radio signals to compel his victims to commit their crimes and is basically able to force anyone wearing one of his pins and subjected to his mind control device to follow his explicit instructions. Specifically, Byron has them commit robberies and then kill themselves and his end goal is extortion, as he threatens to kill several citizens unless he’s paid a ransom of $50 million. Byron exhibits a disdain for those in his group, and humanity in general, and believes himself to be above them both in terms of intelligence and stature; for all his grandiose speeches, though, he’s little more than a madman who wishes to exert and abuse his power and technology purely to satiate his greed.

Peter’s far from the hapless nerd from the comics and his ingenuity is heavily emphasised.

While Peter has some bad luck in the pilot, it’s generally more around trying to make money off the pugnacious Jameson and he’s far from the hapless, down on his luck nerd he is often pigeon-holed as. Instead, he’s a relatively well-adjusted young man who bonds with Judy extremely quickly and a central theme of the pilot is Peter’s intelligence and scientific acumen. Not only does he put together an impressive costume for himself but he quickly cobbles together his patented web-shooters and not only stumbles upon Byron’s hypnotic signal with his microwave emitter but also puts together a gadget to led him to the source of the signal.

Stuntman Fred Waugh took over once Peter donned the suit to perform the pilot’s dangerous stunts.

When in the costume, Spider-Man duties mostly fall to stuntman Fred Waugh, who adopts an agile grace and insectile posture that, possibly, was a conscious decision on Waugh’s part to emphasise the physicality of the character. The pilot features a number of complex and incredibly dangerous stunts achieved through the use of wire work, cables, rigging, and rotating sets; though you can make out some of the wires here and there, that doesn’t take away from the ambition of those involved and it’s because of this practical approach that, for the first time, we get to see a live-action Spider-Man literally climbing up the sides of buildings, leaping to ceilings and walls, and swinging across rooftops (something, even now, which is more likely to be achieved through CGI than traditional filmmaking techniques).

Spidey’s intelligence wins the day as much as his incredible strength and agility.

While these instances showcase Spider-Man’s agility, a protracted fight scene between the web-head and Byron’s three mind-controlled goons does a decent job of showing how formidable Spider-Man is (and, in a follow-up confrontation, his amazing recuperative powers); it’s not an especially thrilling fight scene as it’s a very slow and co-ordinated affair but, nevertheless, he’s easily able to outmanoeuvre and overpower the three. This also gets paid off at the conclusion of the pilot in one of my favourite scenes where Spidey, in the quest to bring Bryon to justice, makes friends with the three. Indeed, in the end, it’s not strength or agility that wins the day but a combination of luck (Peter’s control pin gets dislodged from his jacket) and intelligence as he not only discovers but also decodes Byron’s hypnotic microwave technology. This allows Spider-Man to tear down Byron’s control antenna and turn his technology against him, rendering him little more than a mindless puppet to face Barbara’s not-inconsiderable-wrath.

The Summary:
I’m well aware that I’ve used the word “ambitious” a lot in this write-up but it’s the best word I can think of to describe Spider-Man; it’s impressive how much the filmmakers were able to pull off given the limitations of the seventies and I would argue that, despite a lack of recognisable characters and villains, Spider-Man is actually a far more accurate adaptation of the source material, in many ways, than The Incredible Hulk. They’re both relatively grounded and far more realistic takes on Marvel’s colourful heroes but Spider-Man features far more innovative special effects to bring the character to life.

Despite the lack of Uncle Ben and May’s reduced role, Peter still uses his abilities responsibly.

I have to say, even now, that the Spider-Man costume is pretty impressive; it’s kind of like an all-in-one body suit but the colours are suitably bright and vibrant and I love the simplicity of the design, which includes reflective lenses and, in time, mechanical web-shooters of Peter’s own design that allows him to swing between buildings and stop crooks with a variety of webbing. It’s rarely, if ever, Hammond in the suit but the plus side to that is that Spider-Man is pretty much always wearing his mask and fully capable of performing the pilot’s complex and ambitious stunts and fight scenes. Thanks to the alterations to the character’s origin, Uncle Ben is no longer a factor (he’s not even mentioned or even hinted at) and Aunt May has a much smaller, inconsequential role where she’s a doting matriarch rather than a decrepit, fragile figure (something subsequent live-action movies would emulate). Regardless, Peter is still compelled to use his powers for good (…and to make a little money at the same time) simply because he’s a good kid; he may lack the tragedy and pure motivation often associated with the character but he’s nonetheless as determined to help others.

I’ve got a lot of nostalgia for the pilot and I’ve love to see the show made more accessible.

Neither the Amazing Spider-Man or Incredible Hulk TV shows were on when I was a kid so the only exposure I had to either was in their feature-length spin-offs and, for the longest time, Spider-Man was about as good as you could get for a live-action adaptation of the character. I remember preferring the subsequent features that were produced some time after this and were comprised of combined episodes of the show but, revisiting this pilot episode after a good twenty years was an entertaining experience, to say the least. Sure, many of the effects haven’t aged too well and it’s disappointing that it doesn’t adhere more closely to the source material but I am very forgiving of this pilot and have a real fondness for it, and Hammond’s portrayal of the character, so I can only hope that, one day, the entire series gets a much-needed release on DVD so more people can experience this early and ambitious take on the character.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Have you ever seen Spider-Man or the Amazing Spider-Man TV show? What did you think of them at the time and how do you think they hold up today? What did you think to the show’s costume, stunt effects, and Hammond’s performance as Parker? Were you a fan of original characters like Captain Barbara and Edward Byron or would you have preferred to see more comic-accurate characters and villains in the show? Would you like to see a release of the series on home media or Disney+ or do you think it’s best to leave the show to obscurity? Whatever your thoughts on the seventies Spider-Man adaptation, go ahead and leave a comment below and be sure to check in again next Wednesday for more Spider-Man content!

Back Issues: The Amazing Spider-Man #300

Story Title: Venom
Published: May 1984
Writer: David Michelinie
Artist: Todd McFarlane

The Background:
In 1982, Marvel Comics’ editor-in-chief Jim Shooter took a liking to an illustration from reader Randy Schueller that depicted Spider-Man in a smooth, black outfit with a large red spider motif across the chest; after purchasing the concept for a mere $200, writer Tom DeFalco and artist Ron Frenz conceived of the costume being a living organism and Spidey’s new black suit debuted without explanation in The Amazing Spider-Man #252 before Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8 revealed that Spidey acquired the suit during the “Secret Wars” event. Over the next year or so, Spidey revelled in the costume’s unique and helpful ability to form both clothing and organic webbing until Reed Richards/Mister Fantastic revealed its true nature as a symbiotic lifeform. Out of fear, Spidey rejected the symbiote, using the cacophony of church bells to drive it from his body and began wearing a cloth version of his black suit.

From fan concept, to stalker, lethal protector, and cosmic Avenger, Venom has certainly evolved.

At the conclusion of Web of Spider-Man #24, though, a mysterious assailant attempted to push Peter in front of an oncoming train and a shadowy figure was clearly stalking him throughout 1988 before the symbiote, now known as Venom, made its full and dramatic reappearance. Since then, Venom has evolved from a gruesome, twisted killer into a violent anti-hero and a more morally righteous hero, with the symbiote jumping from numerous hosts and spawning a number of similarly-powered offspring. Acting as Spider-Man’s dark doppelgänger, Venom was an immediate favourite for me and many readers thanks to their knowledge of Spidey’s true identity, resistance to his spider-sense, and having all of Spidey’s powers (and more) but being far for vindictive, sadistic, and lacking Peter’s strong moral compass.

The Review:
“Venom” opens with the startling image of Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Peter’s former fling turned wife, huddled in the corner of their apartment nearly out of her mind with fear. When Peter returns home, still garbed in his cloth black costume, initially Mary Jane recoils in horror before gratefully embracing Peter.

The usually strong-willed and brazen Mary Jane is left a trembling wreck by Venom.

It’s an extremely effective way to introduce Venom without even seeing them on-panel; although Venom doesn’t physically hurt or molest Mary Jane, their mere presence and alien nature are enough to reduce her to a shivering wreck. Her condition greatly disturbs Peter, who points out through his internal monologue what a strong, impendent, and capable woman Mary Jane usually is; she’s always been very brazen and outspoken so to see her reduced to little more than a frightened child is a chilling moment for him (and us, the reader).

Peter is extremely disturbed at the implications of Mary Jane’s attack….

Peter, though disturbed by Mary Jane’s condition and the fact that she was attacked in their apartment, is even more troubled by her description of her attacker and worries that the alien costume might have survived their dramatic break-up. Mary Jane, ever the feisty and capable woman, is largely back to her old self after a good night’s rest in a hotel and immediately makes arrangements for them to move so she can put the whole thing behind her. However, overcome with his characteristic worrisome nature, Peter retrieves a Sonic Blaster from the Fantastic Four (a formidable weapon against the symbiote, which is highly vulnerable to sonic waves and intense heat), but is too highly strung to notice a mysterious stranger stalking him or to properly socialise with his friends and family, despite Mary Jane’s best efforts to perk him up.

Brock has specifically trained his body to enhance his strength and fuel his mania.

At their house-warming party, Peter suddenly leaves after spotting his alien costume swinging around town and is immediately blind-sided by a muscular doppelgänger of himself baring a horrific grin. Although the reader was introduced to Eddie Brock, a large, stone-faced, muscle-bound man who is in possession of the alien costume, earlier, we don’t actually learn who he is or any of his backstory until this moment. Previously, we saw that he lives in a rundown apartment full of weightlifting equipment and newspaper clippings of Spider-Man, openly converses to the symbiote (though it doesn’t answer him back), and that he religiously pumps iron to increase both his physical strength and the strength of the symbiote.

Brock was driven to the edge before bonding with the symbiote and becoming Venom.

Peter, however, recognises not only the symbiote but also Brock, who is revealed to have been a respected reporter whose reputation was tarnished when he was duped by a compulsive confessor. Because Spider-Man captured Stan Carter/The Sin-Eater, Brock’s big story was discredited and he blamed Spider-Man for the sudden downturn in his fortunes. Brock’s mania was so complete and had blinded him so completely that he was driven first to strenuous exercise and, finally, to suicide; however, right as Eddie was contemplating the worst sin imaginable to his Catholic upbringing, the symbiote found him and, joined in their hatred of Spider-Man, they formed a bond so complete that Venom was born.

Spidey’s mercy proves to be his downfall as Venom are easily able to overpower and defeat him.

Though Spidey tries to use Brock’s monologue to edge his way towards his Sonic Blaster, Venom easily overpowers him with their superior strength. Spidey is, however, able to knock Venom down with a massive girder and blast him with the Sonic Blaster; Spidey hesitates, though, when he realises that the two have formed an unbreakable symbiotic bond and that further exposure to the high-intensity sound waves could kill Brock and decides to regroup and think of a new plan. This is all the hesitation Venom needs to recover, though, and with one massive blow, they knock Spidey out.

Brock foolishly leaves Spidey to his fate, giving him ample time to wrench himself free.

When he awakens some hours later, Spidey finds that he has been webbed up to a church bell by Venom’s far stronger and much thicker webbing. Brock, now garbed in a priest’s robe, revels in the delicious irony and fitting nature of Spidey’s impending death since Peter tried to use the same massive bells to destroy his “Other”. Like any good, overconfidant villain, Venom leaves Spider-Man to his fate and, as such, misses their chance to keep Peter from using his sheer force of will and brute strength to keep himself from being pounded into mush and breaking free of Venom’s webbing.

Spidey outsmarts Venom by forcing them to expend their webbing and tire out.

Unable to match Venom’s strength and at a serious disadvantage since Venom doesn’t set off his spider-sense and appears to have all of his strengths and abilities, Spidey decides to outsmart Venom by forcing them to expend their webbing and tire themselves out, draining the symbiote’s energy and sending Brock crashing to the street below.

Venom is subdued and Spidey finally returns to his classic red and blue costume!

The story ends with Brock, and the symbiote, being held captive at Four Freedoms Plaza, the high-tech home of the Fantastic Four; there, encased within a cylinder and rendered inert by a constant barrage of sonic waves, Venom’s threat is effectively neutralised. Upon safely returning to Mary Jane, Peter and his wife agree that it is no longer appropriate for him to wear the black costume given Venom’s sadistic nature and he finally returns to the classic red and blue for the first time in about four years.

The Summary:
“Venom” is a really great introduction for one of Spider-Man’s most complex and vicious foes; this story took place during the much lauded Micheline/McFarlane pairing, which results in some absolutely fantastic and detailed artwork. McFarlane always drew a brilliant Spider-Man, emphasising the complexity of his webs, the inhuman positions and poses he would strike while web-slinging, and giving every character an edgy, nineties make-over to help them stand out a little more. Venom, in comparison, is far more subdued, visually, than he would later be, appearing as simply a jet-black, muscular version of Spider-Man with a demonic grin; it wouldn’t be until Mark Bagley came onto the title that Venom would take on some of their more recognisable characteristics, such as the writing tentacles, mass of teeth, and long, drooling tongue.

Brock is a hypocrticial, deluded, sadistic individual in his debut.

Still, Eddie Brock makes for a unique and interesting new addition to Spidey’s rogues gallery; Brock is one of a handful of Spidey’s villains who actually knows his secret identity and the only one (at the time) able to use that information to his full advantage thanks to his ability to circumvent Peter’s spider-sense and the many attributes of his alien costume. Brock is, of course, a complete madman here and in his early appearances; slighted by Spider-Man’s involvement, he blames all of his failings on Spidey rather than admit to being duped by a compulsive confessor. Eddie believes that Spider-Man is an evil and malevolent individual and that it is his sacred duty to put an end to his (Spidey’s) menace; his obsessive mania is so complete that he kills an innocent police officer and then justifies it as being necessary to his “righteous revenge”. He openly admits to being disgusted by innocent death but is all-too-happy to torment Mary Jane, stalk Peter, and attack Spider-Man with a maniacal glee.

Despite all their power, Venom are defeated quite easily through Spidey’s guile and cunning.

If there’s a downside to the story, it’s simply that Venom is defeated rather anti-climatically; the Sonic Blaster proves effective but Peter is too concerned with Brock’s well-being to press his advantage and, unable to match Venom’s brute strength (which is on par with Spidey’s and further augmented thanks to Brock’s intense physical training), Spidey simply has the symbiote exhaust itself and that’s it. However, Venom’s threat wouldn’t end here by a long shot and this is a simple way to leave the door open for their subsequent, far more impressive return and defeats. Furthermore, this tactic shows how blinded by his rage and spite Venom are and how adaptable and intelligent Peter can be; he doesn’t win through sheer mindless brute strength, as Venom are attempting to do, and must instead rely on his wiles and intelligence to overcome Venom’s very real and lethal threat.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Have you read “Venom”? Did you purchase a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man’s landmark 300th issue back in the day? What did you think to Venom’s introductory story; were you a fan of the concept and character or do you feel they are a product of a darker time in comics? What did you think to Spider-Man’s black costume and the revelation that it was an alien symbiote? What is your favourite Venom story? How are you celebrating Venom’s dramatic debut today? Whatever your thoughts on Venom, do please leave a comment below.

10 FTW: Things I Hate About Movies

10FTW

So, when it comes to movies, I am surprisingly optimistic. This may be because I would never pay to see a movie if I wasn’t reasonably sure that I was going to enjoy it and because I stick to genres and franchises that I know I like, but I usually go into a film with certain expectations and, as long as those are met, I am generally satisfied. With that said, there are some things about movies that drive me mad…or, at least, annoy me. Tropes that I would like to see less or, if not phased out entirely, and I’m come up with ten of them to rant about right now.

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10 Lack of Opening Credits

I’m fairly certain I’m the only person who cares about these days, where everyone is all about cutting right to the action, and I do understand that but there’s something I find innately lazy and annoying about not even seeing the movie’s title appear onscreen at the start of a film.

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Just slap the credits over the opening scene and I’m happy…

We have to sit through grandiose logo sequences for movie studios, some that last about three minutes and sometimes watching up to five in quick succession, but we can’t just plaster the movie’s title on the screen? I believe the earliest I was exposed to this was in RoboCop 2 (Kershner, 1990) but it’s become especially noticeably in the works of Marvel Studios. I’m not expecting entire cast credits, as these can be admittedly annoying to sit through (though you can just place them over the opening scene, as in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Snyder, 2016) or the Guardians of the Galaxy (Gunn, 2014; 2017) films), but just throw the movie’s title up there and help me out a bit!

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9 Pointless Post-Credit Scenes

I am a sucker for post-credit scenes; Marvel Studios have popularised this to the point where it’s now expected that every movie has some kind of pre-, mid-, or post-credits scene. Unfortunately, a lot of them aren’t really worth sitting through ten minutes of credits for. Marvel have become especially lazy with this in recent years; no longer to their post-credit scenes set up further events or hints of things to come and, instead, they’re usually just throwaway gags or scenes purposely made to troll us (I’m looking at you, Spider-Man: Homecoming (Watts, 2017)!)

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Remember when Bruce Wayne got that e-mail? Neither does he!

These days, it seems like the pivotal, must-see scenes for Marvel movies now come before the credits rather than after them and the worst thing about a lot of these is that they are often used to hint at sequels that either never come or are fundamentally altered between movies; this is especially true of the DC Extended Universe but it also applies to the Dark Universe, which is seemingly dead in the water.

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8 Mismatching Title Fonts

Another thing that really bugs me is when movies use a specific title font for the posters, merchandise, and DVD covers but never actually use this font or logo in the film. Take Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981), which has that awesome orange font for its logo but instead uses a simpler, less grandiose font in the film. What’s worse is that Spielberg used the Indiana Jones logo for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (ibid, 1984) but reverted back to the much less exciting font for the subsequent Indy films.

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Trust Green Lantern to do it the other way round!

While Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight (2005 to 2012) trilogy may not have had the most exciting title font ever, at least this was uniform across the film and merchandise. It seemed like Warner Brothers were employing this as the standard font for their DC movies…until Green Lantern (Campbell, 2011) ruined it by using the basic font on the posters and a far more exciting, comic-inspired font in the movie!

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7 Prequel Sequels

You know what really gets my arse up? Numbers in movies are sequential; you have the first movie, then the second, then the third and so forth so, when movies use a number in their title, a 2 should mean it’s the second movie and, therefore, a continuation of the first. But, instead, movies like to slap a 2, 3, or even a 4 on there when, in actual fact, it’s a prequel!

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Tell me this isn’t madness!

Tarzan 2 (Smith, 2005) and Insidious: Chapter 3 (Whannell, 2015) are perfect examples of this but, for a better example, take a look at the Scorpion King (2002 to 2018) franchises! The Scorpion King (Russell, 2002) is a spin-off of the Mummy (1999 to 2008) franchise, taking place before The Mummy (Sommers, 1999). Its sequel, The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, despite having a 2 in its title, is actually a prequel with the subsequent three sequels all being sequels to The Scorpion King, resulting in the following viewing order:

The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior
The Scorpion King
The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption (Reine, 2012)
The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power (Elliot, 2015)
The Scorpion King: Book of Souls (Paul, 2018)
The Mummy
The Mummy Returns (Sommers, 2001)
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Cohen, 2008)

6 Senseless CGI

I grew up in an age where special effects were constantly evolving, where complex camera techniques and detailed prosthetics were the order of the day. Consider the laborious effort that went into composting all of the matte paintings, models, and sets in Aliens (Cameron, 1986), a film that also employed fantastic suits, miniatures, and puppets that really made it seem as though there were hundreds of Xenomorphs out for Sigourney Weaver’s blood.

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Lucas doesn’t enjoy location shooting…

Nowadays, filmmakers just CGI the hell out of it and be done with it and, while this can result in some breathtaking movies and action scenes, often its an egregious use of a tool that should be used to enhance films rather than overwhelm them. Let’s talk, again, about George Lucas, one of the pioneers of practical effects, who used puppets, models, and complex filming techniques to craft his original Star Wars (1977 to 1983) trilogy. However, when it came time for him to produce the prequel trilogy (1999 to 2005), he used nothing but green screens, digitally adding almost every element of the films in after this actors stumbled through scenes with no frame of reference. Honestly, just because you can use CGI to create all the Clone Troopers doesn’t mean you should and, to me, it just seems unnecessarily lazy and an arrogant use of your time, budget, and resources.

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5 Panic Stations

I’m probably the only person who will admit to liking the Marc Webb/Andrew Garfield Amazing Spider-Man films (2012; 2014); I loved the suit in The Amazing Spider-Man, the slightly different take on Peter Parker’s origin, and that it looked like Sony were finally going to be setting up the Sinister Six…and then The Amazing Spider-Man 2 happened. Despite making $700 million worldwide against a nearly $300 million budget, reception of the film was mixed and, rather than finish the series off with a finale, Sony finally decided to cooperate with Marvel Studios and opted to bring Spider-Man into the MCU. However, rather than integrate the MCU with the Amazing films (as had been previously suggested), Marvel Studios opted to complete recast the character, bringing in Tom Holland.

Andrew who? There’s a new-new Spidey in town!

Now, I like Holland as Peter/Spidey, but his introduction in Captain America: Civil War (Russo Brothers, 2016) came just two years after Garfield’s last appearance. Considering The Amazing Spider-Man rebooted the franchise only five years after Spider-Man 3 (Raimi, 2007), that is a lot of reboots and changes to Spider-Man in a very short amount of time. Halloween (Green, 2018), Hellboy (Marshall, 2019), and Terminator: Dark Fate (Miller, 2019) are also guilty of this, falling back on rebooting, retconning, or straight-up ignoring previous movies and returning “to their roots”. The DCEU has also suffered from Warner Brothers panicking to the reactions to their darker, gritty comic book movies, which caused Justice League (Snyder/Whedon, 2017) to suffer from rewrites and drastic changes.

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4 The Wilhelm Scream

The Wilhelm Scream used to be cute, a fun little recurring gag in movies. Like the creator cameos (popularised in recent years by Stan Lee showing up in Marvel movies), this used to be a fun Easter Egg for knowing audiences. Now, though, I have come to really despise this over used sound effect. It has been done to death in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films alone but seems to crop in every movie you see these days and I am just so sick of hearing it; it really takes me out of the experience and just makes me grimace every time it gets snuck in there.

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3 Daft Movie Titles

Movie titles should be simple and striking; they should relate what’s going to happen and give the general gist of the movie. They should not be a chore to read or be indistinguishable from other film titles and, yet, we live in a world with films like The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (Story, 2005), and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Wyatt, 2011). Here’s some alternative titles just for those movies: Tomb of the Mummy, Fantastic 4: Doomsday, Rise of the Apes. As for Batman v Superman, I don’t think it ever should have had a title at all; it literally should have just been the Batman and Superman logos on top of each other, with the film referred to as Batman/Superman.

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There was a lost of “Rising” back then…

Let’s not forget such lazy titles as Solo: A Star Wars Story (Howard, 2018), The Wolverine (Mangold, 2013), and The Dark Knight Rises, all of which could have easily been called Smuggler’s Run, Wolverine: Ronin, and Knightfall. Don’t even get me started on all the movies we got with Rise of, Age of, and Dawn of in their titles not that long ago!

2 Repeating Past Mistakes

I’m looking at Spider-Man 3 for this one; by the time that movie came out, it was pretty well known that a lot of comic book fans weren’t too happy with the revelation that Jack Napier/the Joker (Jack Nicholson) was the man who gunned down Bruce Wayne’s (Michael Keaton) parents in Batman (Burton, 1989). Yet, Sam Raimi seemingly didn’t hesitate at all to do exactly the same thing when he fingered Flint Marko/Sandman (Thomas Hayden Church) as the gun man in his movie. And why? Just so there would be a “connection” between Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) and Sandman…despite the fact we already had a personal connection between Spidey and Harry Osborn/”New Goblin” (James Franco). It wasn’t the only mistake he made in that movie but it was one of the most baffling, especially considering all the controversy surrounding the Joker revelation.

“Like this…but yellow!”

We saw a similar situation when Green Lantern decided that Parallax (Clancy Brown) would be much more effective as a big ol’, CGI mess of a space cloud, something that worked out just as well for Galactus in 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Similarly, Justice League didn’t earn itself any favours by repeated the same “big fight against a CGI monstrosity” from both Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad (Ayer, 2016), which were its direct predecessors and the subject of a lot of online backlash.

1 Ignoring Continuity

I touched on this earlier but there’s nothing I hate more than a film series or sequels completely ignoring their established continuity. The X-Men (Various, 2000 to present) series is the worst offender of this, throwing continuity out of the window with every entry and thinking it’s cute to poke fun at it in their Deadpool (Various, 2016; 2018) spin-offs.

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I would’ve liked to have seen more of this but, again, what do I know?

The Terminator (Various, 1984 to present) series is also just as bad with this, mainly because the film rights keep being passed between different studios and bodies, but it seems like every new Terminator movie disregards chunks of, if not the entirety of, their previous entries, making for a disjointed franchise that’s difficult to care about, with the upcoming Dark Fate looking like a mish-mash of its predecessors rather than something fresh and new. I get that, sometimes, aspects of films or entire movies/sequels aren’t received too well but I would much rather the screenwriters tried to address and move on from any problems rather than simply ignoring them or waving them away. If you’re just going to ignore what’s come before, make a remake or reboot and start completely fresh; otherwise, try something a little lazy than just ignoring entire movies.

How about you? What tropes of movies and cinema do you dislike? Let me know in the comments, or if you think I’m full of shit.

Talking Movies: Venom

Talking Movies
VenomLogo

Released: October 2018
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing
Budget: $100 million
Stars: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, and Riz Ahmed

The Plot:
Disgraced reporter Eddie Brock (Hardy) is bonded with a psychotic symbiotic alien lifeform and becomes a superhuman anti-hero forced to choose between protecting the innocent and enacting revenge.

The Background:
A Venom spin-off has been in the works since Spider-Man 3 (Raimi, 2007), if you can believe that. Sony, once a studio capable of making good decisions and responsible for kicking off the modern superhero crazy with Sami Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies (2002; 2004), have been determined to produce a Venom movie, even after the character was unceremoniously killed off in Spider-Man 3, and when the Amazing Spider-Man (Webb, 2012; 2014) series was ended prematurely, and now, when the rights to Spider-Man are shared with Marvel Studios. This means that, while Sony can produce spin-offs of Spider-Man characters like Venom, it doesn’t look like they can actually include Tom Holland’s version of the web-head. This has created some confusion, even amongst the two studios, with some at Sony stating that Venom exists adjacent to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and others proclaiming that it is a standalone story, and still others claiming that it’s both! Seemingly inspired by the success of R-rated, violent superheroes like Wade Wilson/Deadpool and Logan/Wolverine, Sony fast-tracked Venom and brought the production back to life, even managing to snag Tom Hardy in the process. Unfortunately, it seems that, at the last minute, someone at Sony lost their balls and, rather than a violent R-rated affair, Venom is more a watered down, studio-friendly version of the character in order to sell more tickets.

The Review:
Venom takes inspiration from three prominent arcs of the character’s self-titled series: Lethal Protector (Michelinie, 1993), Separation Anxiety (Mackie, 1994-1995), and Planet of the Symbiotes (Michelinie, 1995), whilst also taking some inspiration from the character’s origins and portrayal in the Ultimate Spider-Man (Bendis, 2000). This means that Venom is quite a talkative, violent character who isn’t necessarily interested in saving lives but is also driven to punishing only those who do wrong by others, which should result in an interesting and layered character and, instead, produces a fun, if kind of dumb, action movies that could have been really violent but was hampered by studio interference.

VenomDuality
Hardy really captures the duality of Eddie and the symbiote.

Therefore, Venom is an interesting beast; the film lives and dies by the strength and versatility of its star and Tom Hardy is brilliant as a likeable, downtrodden underdog who is trying to do what’s right but is tempted by the power offered by the symbiote to strike back at those who have wronged him. Hardy pulls double duty in this film, playing both Eddie Brock and voicing the alien symbiote, and is portrayed as a loser who screws up his life and blames others for it.

VenomDrake
Here’s an eccentric in a suit. He’s a bad guy.

Unfortunately, the same praise can’t really be said for some of Hardy’s co-stars. Carlton Drake (Ahmed) is every wacky evil corporate villain you’ve seen on film before and, while I didn’t exactly hate him or dislike his performance, I am personally just tired of seeing guys in suits being evil for no real reason. Rounding things out are Anne Weying (Williams), Eddie’s former fiancée who is serviceable enough but sure drops Eddie’s ass pretty quickly after he screws up an important interview.

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I think I have a little crush on Jenny Slate now…

One person who did stand out for me was Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), who was super cute and spunky and had a nice little character arc going on. I almost wish that Eddie had started the film with nothing and developed a romance with her rather than trying to find ways to repair his relationship with Anne as Dora had a lot more potential in her.

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The symbiote offers Brock the power…but at a price.

Effects wise…well, Venom by its very nature requires substantial special effects and CGI to create the brain-eating anti-hero and it definitely seems like the studio put all of the money into making Venom look as good as possible and, honestly, Venom does look fantastic when he’s on screen. The problem is he’s just not on screen enough; a lot of the runtime is focused more on Eddie as a character and slowly developing his rapport with the symbiote and discovering what it can do, which is great as we really didn’t get to spend enough time with Brock (Topher Grace) in Spider-Man 3 but, as a massive fan of the character, I just wanted to see more Venom in my Venom movie. Other effects, though, are a bit hit and miss; in its non-bonded form, the symbiote is little more than writhing, liquid-like goo that honestly looked a bit dodgy. The effects used in Spider-Man 3 actually looked better and made the symbiote appear more vicious and dangerous; similarly, I wasn’t a fan of how the symbiote formed tentacles and appendages from seemingly nowhere with no ill effect on people’s clothes or skin. In the comics, the symbiote’s mimic clothing and cling and tug at skin like sticky webbing (an effect also nailed in Spider-Man 3) but none of that happens here; it’s seemingly just generated without any noticeable issues. Instead, Venom focuses on the duality between Brock and Venom, with the symbiote constantly talking and expressing itself to Eddie and threatening to devour his organs or takeover his body completely. This is a smart move, as it means we get a much more accurate version of Venom than anything seen before, but the symbiote’s motivations and behaviour is questionable at times, almost as much as those of Drake, and no amount of character work or amazing effects can change that some of those aspects are jarring and glaring flaws.

The Nitty-Gritty:
The Life Foundation obtains the symbiotes and hopes to use them to save humanity from extinction (which is kind of daft but okay, I guess); Eddie stumbles upon their plot and becomes bonded with the symbiote, which helpfully doesn’t kill him in the same way that others were killed from exposure. In an odd addition, the symbiote refers to itself as “Venom” right from the start, which is normally a name the two create to describe their union, and it is driven by hunger for living flesh and the desire to destroy humanity. However, it has a complete change of heart after being bonded to Eddie and decides to protect humankind instead because it randomly decides that it likes life on Earth. Drake, meanwhile, also bonds with another symbiote to become Riot, who wants to bring the rest of their kind to Earth to take the whole show over.

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When he’s actually on screen, Venom looks fantastic!

A lot of fans will probably be annoyed at the decision to include Riot, who is a forgettable footnote in Venom’s character history compared to someone like Carnage, and is simply a return to the tired old formula of a villain who is exactly like the hero but eeeeevil! Riot even looks almost exactly like Venom in the right (or wrong, I guess) lighting, though he is separated by a distinct colour scheme and the ability to form different weapons. Carnage would have been a better choice by far but the neutered rating means that Sony would never have done the character justice. Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson) appears in a mid-credits scene, promising to unleash “carnage” when he escapes from prison, which is great as it might mean that the studio finds their balls and does a really violent sequel but it’s weird because the scene is so random and out of nowhere and so obviously put in for fan service. I would have preferred to see Brock chasing Kasady for an interview throughout the movie as his big break and stumble upon the Life Foundation’s plot that way, maybe have Cletus be a captive of theirs. But, still, if they get a sequel and if they go full on with the violence, I look forward to seeing Carnage unleashed in full the next go around.

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The Summary:
Venom is loud and fun and full of potential but doesn’t exactly do anything new or even that exciting. Tom Hardy is great and Venom looks amazing, but the rest of the film kind of crumbles around them and the inclusion of Spider-Man would not have helped to stop that from happening, I love Venom and I wanted this movie to be great but, in the end, it only turned out to be just okay. Here’s hoping for an extended, bloodier cut on DVD and a more violent sequel if it makes enough green.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Talking Movies: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Talking Movies
Spiderman

Following the unfortunate critical and commercial failure of the underrated Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Webb, 2014), Sony and Columbia Pictures decided to cancel their plans for a third film and numerous related spin-offs that would form their own shared cinematic universe. The plus side to this was that negotiations and talks opened up between Disney/Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures which saw Spider-Man be recast and incorporated into the massive, unstoppable media juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Captain America: Civil War (Russo and Russo, 2016). To capitalise on the success of Civil War and the popular reaction of Tom Holland’s youthful, wise-cracking portrayal of the character, Marvel Studios rearranged their scheduled list of films to allow for a solo movie to truly integrate the character into their shared universe.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Watts, 2017) opens moments after the conclusion of The Avengers/Avengers Assemble (Whedon, 2012) where salvage expert Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton…I’ll say that again, Michael Keaton!) and his crew are screwed out of their contract to salvage the remains of the battle between the Avengers and the Chitauri by Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Junior) newly-formed clean-up team, Damage Control. Out of pocket and against the wall, Toomes and his crew reverse-engineer Chitauri tech to construct an elaborate flying harness and wing rig and create weaponry they can sell on the black market. Eight years later, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is taken to Berlin by Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) after being recruited by Tony Stark; once there, he is given his spiffy new Spider-Man costume and participates in the new-iconic airport battle seen in Civil War. Being dropped off at home by Stark, Parker is promised that the team will be in touch with him soon with a new mission. However, eight months later, he has heard no word from Stark or Hogan, despite leaving them numerous messages, and is getting frustrated with being nothing more than a “friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man”.

A chance encounter with Toomes’ gang, who wield advanced, retrofitted Chitauri weaponry, brings Toomes’ activities to the attention of Spider-Man. Angered that his eight-year operation, which has remained under the radar of the Avengers and the police, Toomes kills Jackson Brice (Logan Marshall-Green) and passes his signature weapon, and self-appointed alias of “the Shocker”, on to Herman Schultz (Bokeem Woodbine) and vows to kill Spider-Man for interfering in his work. When Peter’s attempts to bring Toomes’ nefarious activities to Stark’s attention apparently fall on deaf ears, he and his incredibly enthusiastic friend friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon) unlock the full potential of Peter’s spider-suit and he takes matters into his own hands. However, when his over-eagerness causes catastrophe, Stark takes the suit back and reprimands his reckless actions. Humbled and disheartened, Peter attempts to focus on the school’s annual homecoming dance and his date, long-time love interest Liz Allen (Laura Harrier) only to once again forced into a deadly confrontation with Toomes in his Vulture persona.

Spider-Man: Homecoming, much like Ant-Man (Reed, 2015) is a welcome breath of fresh air in the Marvel Cinematic Universe primarily because of its dramatic shift in focus from worldwide, earth-shattering, universe-spanning events to simple, yet still dramatic, issues at a more grounded level. The film cleverly showcases that the actions of the Avengers have far-reaching consequences; every time they battle an advanced enemy, they leave behind chaos and remnants that, in this case, birth an entire gang of criminals in possession of advanced weapons. With the Avengers focused on bigger threats and fighting each other, it’s up to street-level superheroes like Spider-Man to stand up for the everyman in the street. Unlike other depictions of Spider-Man, Holland is young and fresh; he rarely takes the mask off, never shuts up once the suit is on, and embodies the youth and enthusiasm of the character’s Ultimate incarnation in spectacular fashion. Additionally, he is young enough to still be in high school and realistically dealing with the problems that come with this situation: constant berating from the loud-mouth Eugene “Flash” Thomson (Tony Revolori), trying to fit in with the more popular kids, and living up to his responsibilities to the academic decathlon team he is a part of. Add to this the fact that he is hiding his duel identity from his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and desperately trying to prove that he has what it takes to be an Avenger and you have a very nuanced performance full of heart and humour.

Spidey goes up against one of his traditionally lamer villains; the Vulture has always just been an old guy with wings who robs banks and does very little else. The same goes for the Shocker, who was turned into a walking recurring joke in the Ultimate Spider-Man comics. Here, though, teamed up, they present a formidable threat to the fledgling Spider-Man; within the first ten minutes of the film, Toomes is made relatable and his motivations are completely understandable. He may well be one of the most layered and ruthless villains not only that a live-action Spider-Man has faced but also in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The best part is that the film not only features Phineas “The Tinkerer” Mason (Michael Chernus) but, more interestingly, introduces an associate of Toomes, Mac “The Scorpion” Gargan (Michael Mando), who alludes to a team-up of the villains in the future. This promises that Spider-Man will, hopefully, face new onscreen enemies in future films rather than rehashing the same villains we’ve seen before. The film does have some negative points, though; I get that Marvel don’t want to go through Peter’s whole origin again as it’s been done to death by now but I would’ve liked to have seen a quick recap of it over the opening titles just so we can see how this version of Peter dealt with that time of his life. An unfortunate by-product of this is that there’s only subtle allusions of Uncle Ben and the great mentor figure in Peter’s life is Tony Stark (however, Stark and Iron Man feature sparingly throughout the film and in no way take the spotlight away from Spider-Man).

Also, I’m not sure why they chose to have Toomes figure out Spider-Man’s secret identity as it didn’t really factor into the film in a meaningful way. Finally, Spidey’s super high-tech suit stretches believability quite a bit as his suit is skin-tight and form-fitting, so it’s hard to believe that it’s packed full of Iron Man-esque tech (I would’ve liked to have seen the Iron Spider-Man suit used as an alternative to this). However, these are extremely small, minor nitpicks; the film is incredibly funny, packed full of action, and never falls into unnecessary drama. As a coming-of-age story that teaches Peter his place in the wider scope of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man: Homecoming succeeded spectacularly and I fully expect any minor issues to addressed in his future appearances.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

Recommended: Highly, it’s Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe!
Best moment: A fantastic recreation of a sequence from The Amazing Spider-Man issue thirty-three, in which Peter is trapped beneath some wreckage and must will his way out through sheer brute strength.
Worst moment: The lack of exposition into the origins and motivations of this new interpretation of Spider-Man.