Mr. Movie

One Spider-Man is not enough

Sony Pictures Animation

‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

This is such a clever concept that I almost don’t know where to begin. The film has a multi-universe premise. All of the universes have a version of a Spider-Man.

Unless he’s stopped, a super villain has a machine that will destroy all of the universes. His partner in crime is a female version of Spider-Man villain, the multi-armed Doc Ock.

There are regular Spider-Mans, a kid Spider-Man, a Spider-Woman, a 1940s version called Spider-Man Noir and even a pig named Spider-Ham. They all show up in one universe and decide it’s up to them to stop the villains.

The concept’s main character is Miles Morales. In his universe, he’s bitten by a radioactive spider and connects with the original Spider-Man who is killed by the villain’s henchmen. That leads him to Peter B. Parker, an alternate universe Spider-Man.

Taking the plot explanation of who is doing what in what universe much further will ruin the fun. I’ll leave that for the Internet.

The film is also character-laden. A huge cast includes Shameik Moore who gives voice to Morales, Jake Johnson who does Peter B. Parker and Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Nicolas Cage, Kathryn Hahn, Liev Schreiber, Chris Pine, Oscar Isaac, Lake Bell and a bunch of others. They all have a blast with their characters.

As always, no Marvel-based movie is complete without a Stan Lee cameo.

I can’t quite find the right adjectives to describe the creativity of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Part of the movie’s genius is how it came about.

It’s based on a bunch of concepts from different writers and is blended into a whole by three very good directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman and about 150 animators. A former Tri-Citian John Butiu also is a visual development artist on the film.

The animation looks much like a comic book. There are split screens, panels like you see in the Marvel Comic’s originals and characters that look like they come from the comics.

Even better, the story is told much like one you would have found in the 1960s when Spider-Man was invented by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko — and depending on your source — Jack Kirby and a few others.

Any film is a total concept with each aspect of the production feeding and interacting with the others. Animation usually has lots of layers ranging from artists to animators to background artistry and so on. The animation also tends to be the focus. However, any film — animated or not — doesn’t work without great writing.

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is brilliantly written and is a very deep, rich, character-filled, laugh-out-loud funny movie that works on every level. In fact, it is so good on all levels that you can — rightfully — argue this may be the best super hero movie of them all.

Let the debate begin.

Oh. One more thing. I saw the 2D version and was blown away. If you feel like spending the extra money, this will be absolutely mind-boggling in a 3D viewing.

▪ Rated PG for mature themes. It’s playing at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12, Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

▪ Rating: 5 out of 5

‘Mortal Engines’

“Mortal Engines” is a post-apocalyptic film loosely based on the first of Phillip Reeve’s eight books.

The film starts by explaining how a super weapon of some kind destroyed the world in what is called the 60-minute war. Survivors — on cities mounted on huge vehicles called traction cities — now mine the planet for resources. Those resources are dwindling.

Things begin when London devours a smaller city. On it is Hester Shaw whose sole purpose in life is to kill “Mortal Engine’s” villain and the city’s No. 2 in command,Thaddeus Valentine.

Her attempt fails when a gadgets of antiquity expert, Tom Natsworthy saves Valentine. She escapes on her own but Tom is tossed off of London by Valentine. The young man knows too much.

As Tom learns more about Valentine from Hester, they end up with a tenuous bond and work toward stopping Valentine from building a new super weapon. With the Earth’s resources dwindling, Valentine wants to use it to destroy the Shield Wall that protects a resource rich land called Batmunkh Gompa.

Reeve’s book is much more complex than the film. Producer and writer Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” series of films), his writing and producing partners Fran Walsh and Philippe Boyens and first time director Christopher Rivers, who did art department work and storyboarding for Jackson’s films, make lots of changes and simplify the story. Maybe a better description is over-simplify.

Or — for some of us — over-complicate.

Whatever. Neither Shaw, Natsworthy, Valentine or other characters are even semi-interesting. They’re all jumbled together and inserted into the hodgepodge story along with gobs of high-tech special effects. Those effects fuel a story about a machine-driven city that — itself — runs out of fuel.

A last thought and a note to Jackson. Please, please, please don’t make all eight of Reeve’s books into movies, or even blend a few more of them into other movies.

One is enough.

▪ Rated PG-13 for mature themes and violence. It’s playing at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Kennewick 12s, the AMC Classic Kennewick 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

▪ Rating: 2 out of 5

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