Mexican horror opens with a massacre in a hospital maternity ward where police detective Emmanuel Ritter (Joaquín Cosío) loses his infant son. Five years later, he is given a case of a similar massacre at a school…one right out of today’s headlines. Aside from the painful similarities, Ritter doesn’t see a connection till Vatican paranormal expert Ivan Franco (Tate Ellington) arrives. Franco warns Ritter these killing may be the work of rogue priest Vasilio Canetti (Tobin Bell) and an ancient demonic presence. At first Ritter is skeptical, but soon his eyes are opened to things he’s never imagined, especially when he finds out the reason all these innocent children are being slaughtered.
Film is effectively directed by Emilio Portes from a plot heavy script by he and Luis Carlos Fuentes. There is a lot going on, but the film has some spooky and intense moments, especially the shocking maternity ward scene which sets the tone. The flick has biblical implications, some interesting plot twists and some very familiar demonic possession tropes, but uses them effectively for the most part. It is a bit overlong, but the cast is good and Portes has a visual style that works well with the horror elements. There is some graphic violence which has impact and Portes uses his Mexican locations atmospherically. Even the traditional exorcism is effective enough, despite the familiarity. An entertaining horror, even if a bit cliché heavy. Also stars Liam Villa as Isa, a little boy who is the focus of the demon’s attention and Yunuen Pardo as his mother.
Fun animated film not only spotlights new Spider-Man, Miles Morales, who took over from Peter Parker in the comics in 2011, but it’s alternate universe plot cleverly gives us five other versions of the classic character, too.
The story finds the villainous Kingpin (voiced by Liev Schreiber) building a particle accelerator with Dr. Olivia Octavius, a female Doctor Octopus (Kathryn Hahn), to go to a parallel universe to retrieve his dead wife and son…deaths he blames Spider-Man for. This not only brings a radioactive spider into this universe to bite Brooklyn teen Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), but Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), an older Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) with her robot “SP//dr” and Spider-Man Noir (a perfectly cast Nicolas Cage), who only appears in black and white. The newly empowered Miles must now, somehow, learn to be a hero, stop the Kingpin before he destroys NYC and return the five spider-variations to their appropriate dimensions.
The plot synopsis above sounds complicated but flows very easily thanks to a clever script by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman. The film is also very well directed by the trio of Rothman, Peter Ramsey and Bob Persichetti, who bring an energetic and colorful style to the proceedings. They capture the old-fashioned heroics, but with a very contemporary and eye-catching visual presentation. It uses both traditional and innovative animation, mixing styles and techniques while providing an involving story. With Marvel now making Spider-Man movies with Tom Holland as Parker, it would be interesting to see a Sony led series with Miles as Spidey, animated or not. There is also a nice mix of music to go along with the almost non-stop action and the film doesn’t forget to slow down, here and there, to gives us some emotional resonance between characters. The stuff be tween Miles and his dad (Brian Tyree Henry) really works and we can see how Miles gets his sense of right and wrong from his policeman father. It gives the film a nice emotional core, which adds weight to the drama and action. With six films…and a seventh on the way…and two roles in other movies, that’s eight appearances of the Spider-Man character in the new millennium alone. Spider-Verse finds a way to make the character fresh, again…and that’s quite an accomplishment.
The vocal cast are all superb with Moore doing a wonderful job as Miles and Jake Johnson ditto as the older, grumpier Peter Parker. Hailee Steinfeld again proves a star in the making as the spunky Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman, while Cage is perfectly fitting here as the gloomy Spider-Man Noir, a cross between Philip Marlowe and Spidey. We also get an array of Spider-Man villains along with Kingpin and Doc Ock, such as Green Goblin (Jorma Taccone), Tombstone (Marvin Jones III), The Scorpion (Joaquín Cosio) and The Prowler (a surprise reveal). An eclectic, but very solid voice cast. Interesting how they made such a large cast of characters work when the big budget live-action films just seemed bloated and overcrowded.
Overall, this flick was a lot of fun and didn’t skimp on substance and emotional depth for its story. That story flows very well, thanks to skilled direction and a sharp script and the mix of animation styles is exceptionally well done. A solid effort all around that’s a real treat for Spider-Man fans and better than some of the recent live-action flicks. Watch till the end of the credits for a hilarious extra scene.