But now? Here's the spoiler-free review: it may be the best Spidey movie yet. Yeah, I liked the original 2 movies by Sam Raimi with Tobey Maguire, and I loved Tom Holland's Homecoming, but, well, damn.
This movie combined heart, humor, and style in ways that just dazzled. Just so much good in this movie. Of course, just as I always say that more ultimate is more ultimate, more Spidey's proved to be more fun. The Chris Pine/Jack Johnson Peter Parkers would have been enough as a contrast--one confident, one a mess. But we got Milo Morales, with Shameik Moore doing a great job of voicing the heart of the movie. Milo as a teen who moves from boastful exterior to doubt to caring so much to being so scared. Just terrific. And, yes, more Spidey as Spider-Gwen was fantastic--I love the way she swings and fights, and she showed enough difference from the Parkers and Milo to make Spidey all her own. We got less of the others, but they were delightful too. Noir Spider? Would have been great even without Nicolas Cage doing the voice. Penny Parker? Fun. Spider-Ham worked out far better than I could have expected. In sum, the multi-verse is multi-fun.
Milo's dad and uncle eclipsed Milo's mom. But the dad was great and so was the uncle. And, yes, more Spideys means more deaths in the origin story. The parents/school stuff was well done, giving Milo context.
The villians? Amazing. It was fun seeing Wilson Fisk after finishing season 3 of Daredevil--faithful to the character and to his concerns/obsessions but a different take. Doc Ock? Damn, I loved the version in the second Spidey movie but this one, voiced by Kathryn Hahn, was terrific. I don't know who my favorite Doc Ock is now. The other minor ones--Tombstone, Green Goblin, and Scorpion--were all nicely realized.
And, yes, it might be recency bias, but Lily Tomlin might be my favorite Aunt May. To have her strong and inside the Spidey circle of trust was far more fun than having Aunt May in the dark and mostly a potential victim. Of course, Marisa Tomei's WTF will always endear her to me.
What did we learn? We always knew that with great power comes great responsibility, but this one had three other lessons:
- Spider-man/woman/pig always gets up. That is what Spider-folks do. It is about tenacity and heart in the face of overwhelming odds. My brother asked me after seeing Homecoming recently why Spidey is indestructible, and my answer is: he isn't. He gets up, she gets up, they get up. Nice message.
- When will you know you are ready? You don't--it's a leap of faith. Sort of related to "do or do not." It was nice that Milo could play that back at Peter (brunette) at the end. Just another moving moment.
- Animated Stan Lee: anyone can wear the mask. This idea, that anyone has the potential, the heart, the goodness to be a Spider-mammal! That was the genius of the original Peter Parker/Spider-man--that a teen with many flaws and many doubts can still be a hero.
Oh, and the movie ends with perhaps the best post-credit scene of any super-hero movie. So, stick around for that as well as the awesome song. Excelsior, indeed!