DOOM DELUISE: Hello, and welcome to the latest installment of Doom & Doomer, where Jim Doom and I sit down for a back-and-forth conversation about the latest superhero movie releases of the day.
Today, we’re here to discuss Bumblebee and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but before we get to that, let’s check in with Jim and see how he’s doing. Hi, Jim!
JIM DOOM: Hey hey hey. Let’s do this!
You know what today is the anniversary of?
DOOM DELUISE: Nope, what?
JIM DOOM: When we went to see The Spirit together.
Not to spoil the ending of this, but I liked these movies better.
DOOM DELUISE: Damn. Superhero movies have come a long way since then.
What year was that?
JIM DOOM: 2009. On the 10th anniversary of seeing that movie, we’re back!
DOOM DELUISE: Whoa! That’s crazy. Ten years ago, I was unemployed and going to see terrible movies with every bit of free time that I had.
Whoa! Nothing has changed! I’m unemployed again, and still seeing terrible movies all the time!
JIM DOOM: Is that a segue into what we’re here to talk about?
DOOM DELUISE: Yes, except for the fact that the movies we’re here to talk about were actually pretty fun (unless you want to talk about Aquaman, too).
JIM DOOM: I haven’t seen Aquaman yet, so let’s keep it to Spider-Man and Bumblebee.
We can give Aquaman its own review another day.
Although today at the comics shop, the lady at the register pointed to Aquaman on the cover of one of the comics I bought, and was like “Have you seen Aquaman yet?” I said no, I haven’t. She said “It’s really fun!” I asked “Is it good?” And she paused for a long time, and then replied “I think I’ll just stick with saying it’s really fun.”
So between Bumblebee and Spider-Man, where would you like to start? I saw Spider-Man first, so I guess maybe I’d like to vote for starting there, but I could be easily talked out of that. I saw them both the same day so it’s not like Bumblebee is all that fresher in my mind.
DOOM DELUISE: I saw Spider-Man a couple of days before Bumblebee, so I’m happy to start there.
JIM DOOM: I’ll start. I thought this was one of the best superhero movies ever. When we left the theater, I said “I can’t think of a single nit to pick!” Since that time, I’ve thought of one, but I thought it was fantastic. That’s my headline review. What about you?
DOOM DELUISE: This might be our shortest review ever. I only had one nit to pick after seeing it, but I think it’s more on me than it is the movie, so it might not even be worth mentioning. I also thought it was fantastic!
My nit was that the animation had a bit of a blue/red outline to some of the characters, so I thought the theatre had maybe put on the 3D copy for a 2D showing, but I think in the end, it was just that I was sitting too close to the screen.
JIM DOOM: No I think that was deliberate — I thought they were trying to use the offset effect of misaligned comics printing as a way of putting things out of focus, so to speak.
So when things had the offset blue or red, they were usually not the focal point of the scene.
I think that was a stylistic choice.
DOOM DELUISE: That makes sense. So yeah, I was just sitting too close, then. I have no nits! What was yours?
JIM DOOM: My nit was that it was a big surprise when Spider-Man was revealed to be Peter Parker, yet Miles had that True Adventures of Spider-Man comic, or whatever it was called, that told Peter’s origin.
That was the only problem I had with the whole thing, and even that could be easily explained away.
In addition to just being an all-around fun and amazing movie, to me the thing that made it extra awesome was that I think it excelled in two areas that are nearly impossible to pull off.
The first is that it managed to deliver incredible absurd and nearly fourth-wall breaking humor while also being able to flawlessly execute the drama. So often one comes at the expense of the other, and frequently people use the former because they’re afraid to shoot and miss at the latter, but these guys just absolutely nailed it.
The second — and this is more of a prediction, but I think they managed to establish a second-generation hero in a way that I don’t think anyone has ever done since the 60s.
For millions of people, Miles Morales is now just as much Spider-Man as Peter Parker ever was.
Peter Parker and the Spider-Man mythology did a lot of the heavy lifting, but this was truly a story about Miles Morales as Spider-Man, and he was absolutely the star.
And it seemed almost effortless.
DOOM DELUISE: I agree completely.
I think that most of the time, when trying to establish a second-generation superhero, they do one of two things: They either kill off the previous version (who eventually comes back to life, thus making his/her replacement seem second-rate, no matter how much they got over in the original’s absence); or, they make the original train their replacement to try to make them appear as their equal, but that never really works because of how the original is still hanging around.
So having a premise that allowed them to do both of those things simultaneously is the perfect solution, really.
You have the original Spider-Man of Miles’ world die and stay dead, but you also have a different version of Peter Parker – who isn’t that heroic and kind of a know-nothing – serve as mentor to Miles as he becomes Spider-Man.
JIM DOOM: To that point, one of the things I thought after that movie was “Marvel could kill Peter Parker and let him stay dead.”
I suppose they did that in the Ultimate Universe already, but I don’t consider that real.
Not like the real Marvel universe, which is real.
DOOM DELUISE: Hahaha
JIM DOOM: How great must it be to be Nicolas Cage, just Nicolas Caging all over the place and having it work so flawlessly?
DOOM DELUISE: I didn’t know he was in this movie until he showed up! That was a very pleasant surprise. He was easily my favorite of the Spider-Men that weren’t Miles.
JIM DOOM: I want to watch spin-off movies of basically everyone in this movie.
DOOM DELUISE: I didn’t know until I read about it later, but did you know Oscar Isaac voiced Spider-Man 2099 in the post-credits thing?
JIM DOOM: Only by reading about it — I didn’t recognize it in the moment.
Did you read the original Spider-Verse comics?
DOOM DELUISE: I actually stopped reading Spider-Man comics just as the Spider-Verse crossover started up.
I was a big fan of Superior Spider-Man, but when that whole biscuit started, I was broke and couldn’t afford to jump into it.
Did you read them?
JIM DOOM: I did, and it was one of my favorite comics stories in a long time, if not ever.
I was a little disappointed when I learned that this was going to deviate from the comics, but after seeing the movie, I didn’t care at all.
What made me think of it was that the comics also basically launched a bunch of instant stars as well.
DOOM DELUISE: What was the basic premise of the comic version? I actually haven’t read anything about it, though I think I might check out the trades after seeing this movie.
JIM DOOM: So basically there’s a spider-person in each layer of the multiverse, similar to what we saw here. But the big difference is that in that series, there are these vampire creatures who live at the center of the web of reality who feed on spider-people.
That probably sounds dumber than it is when I describe it.
They actually revisited that storyline recently and the last issue came out a couple weeks ago. I just picked up the new Superior Spider-Man #1 today.
DOOM DELUISE: Superior Spider-Man is back?!? Is it still Doc Ock?
JIM DOOM: I’m not going to tell you!
DOOM DELUISE: Man, I am so far out of the loop.
JIM DOOM: But it brought in a lot of the previous alternate-reality Spider-Men, like Spider-Man 2099 and Spider-Man Noir, and sp//der and Spider-Gwen were part of that series.
DOOM DELUISE: Well shoot. Okay, well, speaking of Spider-Gwen, let’s talk about another movie that the voice of Spider-Gwen was in recently (unless you have more to say about Spider-Verse).
JIM DOOM: No, I would just advise our readers to go see it as soon as possible, as many times as possible.
DOOM DELUISE: That’s great advice.
So Bumblebee! Did you know this movie is set in the 80s?
JIM DOOM: Haha yeah, at first I found that super endearing but then after a while, it felt very insincere, like an episode of VH1 “We Love the 80s.”
At the beginning when it was like scenes on Cybertron intercut with scenes at a 1980s California boardwalk, I was just like “Please continue this forever, back and forth, back and forth.”
DOOM DELUISE: Totally. The first fifteen minutes of this movie felt more like Transformers than any single moment of any of the Michael Bay movies have previously.
It nailed the look and the tone so well. I knew it would eventually have to settle into its own thing, but that set the bar extremely high right from the start.
JIM DOOM: I think we probably had the same conversation 12 years ago, but I just don’t understand why you make a Transformers movie and eliminate the iconic visuals that are so innately associated with the franchise.
This movie showed how something so simple can tap into something so powerful.
OPTIMUS PRIME LOOKED LIKE OPTIMUS PRIME!
Soundwave sounded like Soundwave!
Shockwave sounded like Shockwave!
And they looked like they look!
Obviously there was some deference to the terrible insect-like Michael Bay aesthetic, but I’ll take it if I get the iconic designs of the cartoon.
I grabbed Ms. Doom’s leg with joy when I heard Soundwave’s voice.
DOOM DELUISE: I always feel like a knob-job when I complain about things like when movie adaptations change the look of a character, or they cast a different voice actor, or whatever the case, but seeing the characters the way they appear on Cybertron, right at the start of the movie made me want to take back all of the times I’ve felt guilty for nitpicking.
Optimus Prime *shouldn’t* have lips, and he *shouldn’t* have flames on the side of him.
The fans were right all along!
JIM DOOM: I think adaptations should have license to change things, but you should always be able to answer the question “Why?” with confidence.
DOOM DELUISE: “Because we think Optimus Prime should look like weightless, liquid-metal shit when he transforms” probably isn’t the best answer to that question.
JIM DOOM: I’m guessing Michael Bay’s actual answer to that question was probably something like “Oh lighten up, nerds! He’s a robot that turns into a truck, what else do you want? Go get a girlfriend, nerd!”
And then he probably went surfing in his money pit that looks like the Pacific Ocean while shouting “Nerds!” a lot.
DOOM DELUISE: Hahaha
JIM DOOM: So other than the incessant reminders that they were in the 80s, what did you think of the movie?
DOOM DELUISE: I liked it, for the most part. There were a few things I found cheesy or clumsy, like when Bumblebee absolutely WRECKS Charlie’s house on accident – that seemed more like they just needed that to happen to force the conflict and move the plot along, when in actuality it just made Bumblebee seem a lot stupider and more careless than he seemed through the rest of the movie.
JIM DOOM: Yeah, I hated that scene. That felt like something that Producer Michael Bay demanded.
DOOM DELUISE: And John Cena seemed like he was on the verge of a heel turn throughout the movie, but he also seemed like the only good guy in the military throughout the movie, so I was confused by his character.
But that’s not a big deal, and luckily he’s not the focus of anything, really.
JIM DOOM: Two things in response to those two points:
I hated that wreck-the-house scene, but part of what made me hate it so much was because of what an outlier it was in what I felt was an otherwise perfect balance of human and robot characters.
If it were up to me, I’d make the whole movie about a fight on Cybertron. But I understand they want to root these stories in the human impact. The Michael Bay movies made the humans dominate in a way that often made me wonder why the Transformers were even there.
Charlie didn’t dominate Bumblebee — they were partners in a way that Shia LeBouf and Marky Mark never were. She didn’t do stupid things that propelled the action. I thought the best example of this was in the big antenna scene, when she got involved to actually help, and she helped!
I also got a kick out of the rest of the family. They weren’t like Shia LeBouf’s parents, who were just the worst kind of invasive comic relief. Her parents were presented similarly, but they were far less obtrusive, and there was still a realness to their comical absurdity.
The second thing was John Cena’s character. The Michael Bay movies were military porn, plain and simple. John Cena straddled a line, but he had a character and a constitution and his character adhered to that.
Also I am so glad someone finally acknowledged that they call themselves Decepticons. I was so happy when he delivered that line.
DOOM DELUISE: Hahaha! Yeah, totally. I laughed really hard at that.
JIM DOOM: So I felt like this just found a fantastic balance when it comes to how you use humans in a Transformers movie.
Also — this was a small thing — but showing us that Bumblebee was an articulate adult robot, so to speak, before he lost his voice and his memory, gave some good foundational context to his personality that we were able to apply to subsequent developments. Michael Bay never thought to give him any kind of backstory, so in those movies, he’s basically a murderous infant soldier, bouncing seamlessly between radio squawks and military action.
DOOM DELUISE: As you were talking, I was looking at Bumblebee trivia on the Internet Movie Database, and I found a nugget for why I was probably confused by John Cena a little bit. He was originally supposed to play a villain named “Scarface,” but – according to rumors – they didn’t want him to play a badguy because he’s better as a face, and this would also leave his role open for a sequel.
JIM DOOM: His character didn’t bother me, because I just felt like his good and bad turns made sense given the situation. So if they called an audible on that, I think they did a good job with it.
So were you listening to what I was saying or just reading IMDB?
DOOM DELUISE: Both! And, aside from my initial confusion, I agree with you about Cena – except for his salute at the very end, but that’s just because I hate John Cena when he salutes.
JIM DOOM: What I liked about that was that Bumblebee gave the Bender punch. It felt to me like mockery of Bay’s military fetish.
Had Bumblebee also saluted, I would have gagged. But Cena’s salute — and I agree with you on how nauseating that is — just felt like he was being used as a setup for a joke.
And if you tell me “Hey, what if John Cena saluting is just going to be setup to ultimately mock him?” I would say “sold!”
DOOM DELUISE: Hahaha
In response to what you were saying about the human/robot balance, I would also like to say that I’m glad this movie gave the humans something to do when the robots weren’t onscreen.
In the Michael Bay movies, it never feels like the human characters have any real interactions with one another, so you never get the sense that any of them like each other or are attached to one another.
In this, though, the story allows room for the characters to show us who they are and to develop bonds between each other, rather than just stuttering and delivering corny ad-libbed dialogue back-and-forth for a few minutes here and there.
JIM DOOM: Michael Bay is just the worst, isn’t he.
Can’t do robots well, can’t do humans well.
DOOM DELUISE: Also, I’m glad you mentioned the parents, because they could have easily been obnoxious stereotypes in this, but by the end, they were even pitching in to help out, because – shocker of all shockers – they actually care about their daughter.
Sam Whipplestick’s parents were more interested in doing pot brownies and making jokes about robots peeing on them or whatever.
JIM DOOM: This movie almost felt like a subtle point-by-point response to everything Michael Bay did terribly, under the guise of being a deferential prequel.
“Oh, oops, did I excel at everything you did terribly? Sorry about that. I thought I was just supposed to include cute teens, overbearing caricature parents, military tough guys and big robots. Aw shucks.”
DOOM DELUISE: I thought of it as less of a prequel and more as a re-telling of the first movie but better.
JIM DOOM: I hope they use it as a reset. Obviously the ending reboots Transformers movie continuity somewhat.
But seriously, how awesome was it to see the red semi driving across the bridge?
DOOM DELUISE: Yeah, that was pretty rad.
JIM DOOM: That was the feeling I wanted in 2007, when I thought I was going to see Transformers come to life.
So I think the second movie should be all about the war on Cybertron, ending with the flashback scenes of Bumblebee, and then the third movie can be the battle on earth once everyone arrives.
DOOM DELUISE: Sign me up, man. I would love an entire War on Cybertron movie.
JIM DOOM: Hopefully the world is ready for entirely computer-animated comics/sci-fi-/action feature films.
DOOM DELUISE: I remember when the first of the Michael Bay movies came out, I had a conversation about it afterwards – likely with you – where I said there was a perfectly good movie buried in there somewhere, if they would have just spent less time with the military and more time with Sam and his Robot Friend. I said it should’ve been like The Iron Giant.
Well, I am glad that somebody was listening to us and took my advice 11 years later.
JIM DOOM: If that was indeed me, I probably would have said the same thing I’ll say now — I still need to see The Iron Giant.
DOOM DELUISE: They borrow a lot of story beats in Bumblebee that were in Iron Giant. It clearly was something they were using as a reference point while making this.
JIM DOOM: I wanted to see it because I liked Brad Bird but Incredibles 2 was such a creepy Randian / Limbaughian fantasy that I’ve become less enthused about it.
DOOM DELUISE: I missed that one. I will leave it that way.
JIM DOOM: It somehow got great reviews, but it’s wretched.
DOOM DELUISE: I didn’t really like the first one. Seemed like a Watchmen/Fantastic Four rip-off
JIM DOOM: So I guess I’ll go see Aquaman and we can record next week’s review then?
DOOM DELUISE: Yeah, don’t do that to yourself!
JIM DOOM: Oh, when you put it that way, sounds like it might be a more entertaining episode than this one. How many ways can we say “This movie was great” ?
DOOM DELUISE: Nah, I’m kidding. You might like it, if you suffer a really terrible head injury between now and then.
JIM DOOM: I’ve finally watched the first season of Game of Thrones, so I’m glad that I’ll see Khal Drogo instead of Roman Reigns.
DOOM DELUISE: I still haven’t seen Game of Thrones, so I saw Roman Reigns the entire time. By the end of the movie, I’m not even kidding, I don’t see them as two different people anymore.
JIM DOOM: Maybe Roman will win in the end.
DOOM DELUISE: He usually always does.