Spider-Man: Far From Home (Jon Watts, 2019)

Many months have passed since the Battle of Earth. One of the conflict’s participants, Peter Parker, better known as Spider-Man, has attempted to move on with his life to the best of his ability. During this time, he begins harboring feelings for a classmate named Michelle Jones, though she prefers to go by MJ. His school has organized a two-week summer trip to Europe, which Peter sees as the perfect opportunity to confess his feelings. Unfortunately for him, he may find a relaxing getaway is not in his future when he receives a phone call from Nick Fury.

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Spider-Man: Homecoming (Jon Watts, 2017)

WARNING: The very premise of this film contains spoilers for the series thus far.

One year ago, a high school student named Peter Parker was approached by philanthropist Tony Stark with an interesting proposition. The Avengers were in the middle of a heated internal dispute in Berlin, Germany. Around this time, a new superhero calling himself Spider-Man had appeared in Queens, New York, becoming an internet sensation in the process. Through his resources, Stark deduced that Parker and Spider-Man are one in the same, and recruited the student to help resolve the conflict. In the end, the Avengers were torn asunder and Parker returned to his studies at the Midtown School of Science and Technology after Stark told him he was not ready to become a full-time Avenger. Returning to school, he faces a challenge that may give his fight with Steve Rogers a run for its money: asking his crush to the homecoming dance.

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Marvel’s Spider-Man

In the 2010s, Connie Smith, Sony’s Vice President of Product Development, approached Insomniac Games, wishing to speak with CEO Ted Price. Following the release of Insomniac’s Xbox One-exclusive Sunset Overdrive, Ms. Booth had an interesting proposal, suggesting the studio work on a game based on a Marvel property. As the company had built its reputation with original properties such as Spyro the Dragon and Ratchet & Clank, Mr. Price’s response was, by his own admission, “fairly neutral”. He had never considered working with an existing property. However, while the CEO had his reservations, his development team’s attitude was another story; they were ecstatic over the prospect of working with a Marvel property.

It’s plain to see why the team would be so enthusiastic; during the 2010s, Marvel was at the height of their mainstream popularity, having myriad success stories with the cinematic universe they created. No other company attempting to create such a long-running film franchise experienced the success Marvel had. It was to the point where the average filmgoer could expect a quality release bearing the Marvel brand on an annual basis. This success had profound ramifications both inside and outside of the industry. Many other companies, including their prominent rivals, DC, would attempt to creative their own shared cinematic universes, yet they didn’t quite meet the same levels of critical admiration. Perhaps the most profound impact the Marvel Cinematic Universe had on pop culture was giving their more obscure characters a new lease on life. Though certain heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, and Spider-Man were well-known before the universe’s inception in 2008, its success allowed comparatively obscure characters such as Black Panther and Ant-Man to become household names.

Once Insomniac accepted Ms. Smith’s proposal, Jay Ong, the head of games at Marvel decided it was time for a change. According to him, they had previously released games based on or directly tied to the release of films that adapted their properties. While this led to a significant output, it also meant developers didn’t have time to create anything impressive or memorable. It did result in Treyarch’s well-received adaptation of the film Spider-Man 2 in 2004, but fans dismissed most of these titles as shovelware, and they cemented the generally negative perception of licensed games as a result. Fortunately, Marvel was not interested in a game based on an existing film or comic book story, giving Insomniac carte blanche to choose any character they wished and develop an original plot for them. The team thought long and hard about which character to use, and they ultimately settled on Spider-Man, citing his relatability and charming everyman persona, Peter Parker. Activision had been responsible for publishing the games based off the 2000s Spider-Man trilogy, but the franchise was now truly in the hands of Insomniac and Sony.

Though the team started off excited about the project, they also found it to be a daunting experience. With the wealth of stories and versions across almost every conceivable medium, how could they possibly do such an enormously popular character justice? Art director Jacinda Chew, on the other hand, saw this as an opportunity, and subsequently interviewed the Marvel staff members who were the most familiar with the character. From there, it was up to a team of writers led by Jon Paquette to create an original take on Spider-Man that still remained true to the character. Insomniac had even gone as far as receiving ideas from two comic book writers, Christos Gage and Dan Slott, the former of whom co-wrote the script. Though they drew upon many iterations of the character in order to understand what made a compelling Spider-Man story, Mr. Paquette was insistent on not drawing too much from any one version.

Development of this game, which would simply be titled Marvel’s Spider-Man, began in 2014 and took roughly four years to complete, seeing its release in September of 2018. Fans and critics alike were expecting Marvel’s Spider-Man to be, at best, a modest success. The game instead went on to become the sleeper hit of 2018, outselling the unanimously praised God of War and becoming the PlayStation 4’s killer app in the process. The game was praised for its good writing, solid combat engine, and successfully incorporating Spider-Man’s signature web-slinging abilities. Many critics called it the greatest superhero game ever made, comparing it favorably to Batman: Arkham Asylum and its sequel, Arkham City. Such was the extent of its positive reception that Jamie Fristrom, the man who programmed the web-slinging mechanics in the game based off of Spider-Man 2, had nothing but praise for Insomniac’s own take on them. Was Marvel’s Spider-Man truly the prolific company’s answer to the Batman: Arkham series?

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December 2018 in Summary: And so 2018 Comes to a Close

Hope everyone enjoyed the holiday season! As the final month of the year, December proved to be quite a hectic month. In addition to the obligatory weekly game reviews, I ended up seeing a staggering 14 films (6 in theaters and 8 at home). The good news is that I’ve found a way to manage my time better and write the film reviews without disrupting my pattern. In fact, I used the spare time I had to write two editorials. For a majority of my readers, my piece on the highly unethical viral marketing campaign of Ex Machina was the first editorial of mine they read. Then, in the spirit of Christmas, I wrote an editorial about how gamers are ahead of the curve. They’ve gotten a bad rap over the decades, so I felt they needed something to boost their self-confidence.

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, & Rodney Rothman, 2018)

Miles Morales is a teenager from Brooklyn who is struggling to adjust to the elite boarding school in which his parents have enrolled him. His father, Jefferson Davis-Morales, is a police officer with all of the sense and duty such a responsibility entails. He also frequently expresses annoyance over the efforts of a masked vigilante the public knows as Spider-Man. Feeling he has no one to speak to, he frequently seeks out his uncle, Aaron Davis, for advice. Aaron encourages Miles’s passion for graffiti, leading him to an abandoned subway station where he his nephew is free to draw to his heart’s content. Things take an interesting turn when a radioactive spider bites his hand.

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