Everybody's got a verse these days...
We’ve all watched as the DCEU has tried and failed to keep up with the MCU. To me, the biggest mistake DC has made in this war of superhero movies, is that they’re rushing.
The first Marvel Cinematic Universe film came out in 2008, Iron Man. Four years and five movies later, they had their first team up in Avengers. Ant-Man and the Wasp is counted at the twentieth instalment in the MCU.
On the flip side, the DC Extended Universe started in 2013 with Man of Steel, had its first team up in their next movie, Batman vs. Superman in 2016, and newest released, their sixth DCEU film, Aquaman.
But there is a new universe that has recently hit the silver screen, and this may be my favourite verse of all. The Spider-verse.
This past week I watched Sony’s animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, and fell in love. I also watch Aquaman, and I fell-- into an awkward disjointed fever dream… wait no… that was just the movie.
I think Sony’s got the right idea with animation. By taking the route, they are setting their Spider-man, and their universe totally apart from the MCU and the DCEU. They have also stepped away from the typical displays of comic book movies on the big screen, by finding a new way to tell an origin story, not talking down to the audience, having female characters who aren’t idiots, and showing lots and LOTS of positive masculinity. Take a look Gillette haters, there’s positive and negative masculinity here and it’s not targeting you personally…unless you’re. Get over yourself.
If you’ve spent more than 35-seconds with me, you’ll know that I’m an enormous nerd. The way I seamlessly work Harry Potter and/or Superheroes into everyday conversation may clue you in. This means that the current age of superhero fanfare is my dream come true. I have happily thrown my money at any superhero movie I can. But there is rarely a movie I see, even ones I love, that I can’t find problems with. Every movie has flaws, even Wonder Woman and Black Panther… yeah I said it! Both of those movies are riddled with issues. And what!
That said, I am really working hard to find issues with Into the Spider-verse, and I’m coming up empty handed. Maybe I should go watch it again… and again… and again. Aquaman on the other hand sucked so let’s start there.
Okay, it didn’t suck. It just wasn’t very good.
Aquaman takes place after the events of the Justice League. It attempts to weave together Arthur Curry’s backstory, while he simultaneously fights his arch-nemesis of the comic books, and tries to stop a war between Atlantis and the surface world by taking the throne as the rightful king.
It’s basically the Lion King.
Well… It’s the Lion King meets Indiana Jones featuring An Inconvenient Truth, and The Fifth Element, with underwater Asgard, starring Jason Momoa, Scarlette Nohasson and Micheal Wannabe Jordan.
Into the Spider-verse, is a coming of age story that follows Miles Morales while he navigates his relationship with parents, a new school, being bitten by a radio-active spider, learning how to use his new abilities, and saving the world.
There were some interesting parallels in these two films. I’m going to talk about them one by one.
1) THE ORIGIN STORY
I don’t know about you but Spider-man or Batman origin stories is what I would see before stabbing myself in the neck with a pair of scissors #birdbox. I am so, SO sick of being spoon fed this story.
Guys! I know okay. You don’t need to spell it out for me. And please, give the new fans a little credit. You don’t need to spoon feed them either.
Into the Spider-verse gave us the origin story of Miles Morales, not Peter Parker. Sure, there was a little blurb about the road so far #supernatural (season 14?! Omg I need to catch up), but it’s a great trope they use throughout the movie as they introduce new Spider-people. This film trusted that we had seen the previous Spider-man movies, new the character, or were smart enough to figure it out.
Interestingly, there was only a smattering of origin story in Aquaman, a character few of us know a ton about. Unfortunately, the film started with something I absolutely hate. Voice over narration describing what I’m looking at. If you want to give me complementary information, sure! Voice me right over! But if I could turn off the sound and still understand the opening of a movie, shut up and let me watch it.
The opening of Aquaman showing how his parents met and why his mother left, with the exception of Nicole Kidman’s horrible wig and some poor de-aging makeup/CGI, was pretty good. It was succinct and gave new information about a character I’m just getting to know. The flashbacks throughout the movie, on the other hand, showing Arthur’s upbringing seemed disjointed and poorly placed.
Boo DCEU. Point to Sony.
2) I LOVE YOU DAD
I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to see male platonic love on screen. Both Aquaman and into the Spider-verse had great depictions of a healthy, imperfect, as realistic as comic book movies can get, relationships between father and son. Not only that, but both of these father/son duos were visible minorities. Rare stuff. Gold star to both films. A thousand points each.
We do see a second example of a father son dynamic in Aquaman, and that is of Manta and his father. Though we only meet Manta’s father Jesse for a few scenes, we can clearly see that they are a team who hold each other in very high regard. I got the feels when Jesse died.
3) DEPICTION OF WOMEN
Smdh DCEU… why are all the women from other worlds idiots? Okay… that’s a little harsh. But I’m super frustrated. Aquaman had three, maybe four female characters with names, and two of them were non-humanoid. Mera and Atlanna are pretty much all we got. Now, I am not one to go HAM on the Bechdel Test (definition below and blog to come), but it is a barometer worth thinking about.
Also, why is Mera eating a flower? Come on people, she’s a warrior princess. I think she is smart enough to look at a man eating a piece of fruit, look down at the flower in her hand and not think ‘Close enough,’ om nom nom… This was very reminiscent of Wonder Woman not knowing what the word marriage means even though she speaks 85,000 (slight exaggeration) languages perfectly.
Into the Spider-verse had six female characters with names, two of them were Spider-people. MJ, Spider-Gwen, Peni Parker, Aunt May, Rio (Miles’ mother), and Doc Oc, all had multiple lines of dialogue and a real impact on the story line. Gold star Sony… a point for every language Wonder Woman speaks.
4) THE BAD GUYS
Both films had two bad guys working together. In Aquaman it was Manta and King Orm, in Spider-man, Doc Oc and King Pin. Where Spiderman used these two villains well (I believe they both survive the movie), Aquaman fell into the superhero trend of wasting villains. Just like Joker and Two Face should not have been jammed into The Dark Night, and Klaue and Killmonger should not have both died in Black Panther, Aquaman’s use of Black Mantas was just wasteful. I mean let him survive the film at least.
NOTE: I’m adding this note a day after posting… I just watched a video that said Manta didn’t die… Cool… good… but it really looked like he died didn’t it? Didn’t he get a huge thing wrapped around his neck and then his helmet exploded??? Maybe I missed something…
5) FIGHT SCENES
Both awesome. Both fun. Both movies get points.
Aquaman did kill a lot of people, but property damage, and average people just trying to make a dollar getting killed in a superhero movie, is kind of common place now.
6) BUT HOW DID IT MAKE YOU FEEL
Aquaman didn’t make me feel my feelings in the same way Spider-man did. Yes, we see growth in both protagonists but with the over use of bathos (definition below) and the rushed pacing, Aquaman fell a little flat for me.
I fell in love with the entire cast of Into the Spider-verse. I’m weirdly a bit of a sucker for Nick Cage, but if you didn’t love Spider-Man Noir, you’re broken inside. Into the Spider-verse had me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. I felt exactly how they wanted me to feel when they wanted me to feel it. There was more than one occasion that I laughed at a moment in Aquaman that wasn’t intended to be funny. Though I will admit I said “Okaaaaaaay” when he came back with the trident in the suit, and LOVED the moment in his fight with Orm when the crowd goes silent for a moment then absolutely loses it’s shit.
In the end, I enjoyed both of these movies. The main difference is, I don’t think I’ll ever watch Aquaman again, and I could watch Spiderman every day for the rest of the week and not have had enough.
For me Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse is a fresh new take on a genre reaching its saturation point. A whole new universe… I hope you stayed until the end of the credits. Of all the verses, this is my favourite one.
Thanks for reading if you made it this far! This is my first attempt at a real-ish review. Agree or disagree with anything I said? Think I missed something? Let me know in the comments!
Bechdel Test: noun a way of evaluating whether or not a film or other work of fiction portrays women in a way that is sexist or characterized by gender stereotyping. To pass the Bechdel test a work must feature at least two women, these women must talk to each other, and their conversation must concern something other than a man.
Bathos: noun (especially in a literary work) an effect of anticlimax created by an unintentional lapse in mood from the sublime to the trivial or ridiculous.