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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (PG)
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Wow. What to say about this movie? It is, of course, wildly inventive, in terms of both animation and story. It has great music, and drama, and humor, and action, and a great mix of characters, and some great plot... surprises (not all of which I'd necessarily call "twists"), none of which I want to spoil. In fact, I'm not sure how much I want to actually reveal of the plot, at all. But, here goes....

First, I'll say there's a running gag about how we all already know Spider-Man's origin story, so not much time is wasted on that... for most of the Spider-People, anyway. The first one we see is Peter Parker (Chris Pine), who's been Spider-Man for about ten years at the start of the movie. But the story soon switches to focus on a teenager named Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who is the actual main character in the movie. He's recently started attending a prep school, but he'd rather still be in his old school, with his old friends, and living at home with his mother, Rio Morales. (I mean, I was never entirely clear on whether his mom and his dad, Jefferson Davis, are actually married, since they have different last names, or whether they live together, or are currently a couple or not. Because so little time is spent in Miles's home; he's supposed to spend weeknights living in a dorm. Anyway, none of this is important; it could just be that his mom kept her maiden name and passed it on to Miles, which is fine, and beside the point. I'm just curious, is all. I'm also curious about how Jefferson's own parents- who aren't in this movie- could have given him the same name as the president of the Confederacy, that's just bizarre, to my way of thinking. But I digress, rather a lot.) Where was I? Um... Miles sneaks out of his dorm one night and visits his uncle, Aaron Davis, who he thinks is cooler than his father. And Aaron takes Miles to paint some graffiti art in a subway tunnel. It's there that Miles gets bitten by a radioactive spider, though at the time he doesn't think there was anything unusual about the spider. It's only later that he starts noticing some changes in himself that lead him to wonder if he could be turning into a second Spider-Man.

Well, he soon meets the original Spider-Man, who's in the middle of a battle with a couple of villains who work for a crime boss called Kingpin. And... suffice to say, Spider-Man will never get a chance to teach Miles to use his new powers, as he promised he would. However, it's not long before Miles meets an older, down-on-his-luck Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), who came here from an alternate dimension, during a test of a super-collider that Kingpin had had a scientific team build for him, for personal reasons that I won't go into. (Nor will I tell you the name of the head scientist, because that would spoil one of my favorite surprises in the film.) Anyway, this older Peter Parker eventually reluctantly agrees to teach Miles to be Spider-Man, though he's not exactly an ideal mentor. A bit later, the two of them meet Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), who comes from yet another alternate dimension. And she turns out to be Gwen Stacy, a girl Miles had previously met at his new school. The three of them go to visit Peter's Aunt May (Lily Tomlin); that is, the aunt of this universe's Peter Parker, not the one currently "training" Miles. She shows them to her nephew's secret lair, where there are already some other Spider-People who had also been pulled into this dimension by the super-collider, and had already come to find Aunt May. And they all have very different character designs than anyone we've seen so far. One is in black & white, wearing a trenchcoat and talking in hardboiled slang; he's basically from a film noir dimension, in the 1930s. (He's voiced by Nicolas Cage, though the whole time I was watching the movie I thought he sounded like Nick Offerman.) One is an anime-like girl named Peni Parker, who is from a dimension in the distant future, and has a telepathic link with a spider that is inside a mecha. Or whatever. And one is a very cartoonish pig named Peter Porker (John Mulaney), aka Spider-Ham, who comes from a dimension of anthropomorphic animals. (He was originally a spider who got bitten by a radioactive pig.) So now, all the various Spider-People will have to work together to take control of the super-collider, to send each of them back to their own dimension, before destroying the machine so that it can't destroy the city. Or whatever.

And... I am leaving out a ton of details. But the movie is a lot of fun, and can also get very dark at times. And of course it has a mostly happy ending. Also there's a really funny post-credits scene. And the DVD and Blu-ray releases include a prequel short film called Spider-Ham: Caught in a Ham. And I think I've said all I wanted to say, but as always, I hope I'm not forgetting anything.

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