james debate
james debate

Saturday 4 May 2019

Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Written by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Produced by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Amy Pascal
Starring Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Mahershala Ali, Hailee Steinfeld
Studio Lord Miller Production
Running time 117 minutes

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Spider-Man is one of geekdom's most iconic superheroes, and yet it was not until the early 2000s that it received a full cinematic effort, with the Saim Raimi trilogy. Since that time, the franchise has become something of an IP football to be fought over by both Sony and Marvel film studios, which has prevented the sort of long-term continuity that has become the norm for these big superhero franchises and result in a number of disjointed reboots and interpretations.

Needless to say, when Marvel finally managed to wrest the live-action rights from Sony once and for all, it was a big deal, and Spider-Man has now joined the multi-billion dollar pantheon of Marvel's Avengers franchise. Meanwhile, Sony have been quietly working away on Spider-Man products in other forms of media for which they retain the rights. Yet for all the hype of Tom Holland and Homecoming, it is Sony that might just have come up with the best Spider-Man film yet made.

I recognise that I am a bit late to the party with this one. After all, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse did just win an Oscar for Best Animated Feature and receive near unanimous critical acclaim. But despite all the high praise, I came into this one skeptical. This film was coming so soon after the critically and commercially successful new live-action adaptations. In addition, there is also a certain stigma attached to animated films that means they are usually taken less seriously than their live-action counterparts. So when I began to see all the claims of greatness: yes, I was skeptical. When it fend off both Disney and Disney Pixar to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, an award that has historically been so utterly dominated by Disney and Disney Pixar that it might as well be the Oscar for Best Disney Feature, I was intrigued.

There are a lot of qualities that make this such a special film. Most obviously, the production quality is extremely high. This is a visually striking film, with masterful use of sound and music. The all-star cast contains some great talent, from Shameik Moore and New Girl's Jake Johnson to Oscar winner Mahershala Ali. The supporting roles, too, are full of big names including Chris Pine, Oscar Isaac, Liev Schreiber and Nicolas Cage. So while this may be an animated spin-off of the larger franchise, it is clear that no effort has been spared in making this something of an event picture.

But the real key to this film's success is Lord and Miller's script. It is clever, surprising, and genuinely funny. It is full of loving references to past Spider-Man films, online memes, and the wider Spider-Verse of the comics. This is not just some light entertainment for the family either. The script knows when to take itself seriously; there are several moments of real pathos and a plot that proves surprisingly poignant.

Animated or not, this is just a good film. An engrossing and original story well told and presented through a highly accomplished production. This is a film that can be enjoyed by both newcomers and die-hard fans. This really is the best Spider-Man film yet made, and arguably one of the best films of 2018 in general. Easy to recommend.

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