Looking Back at the Impact of 9/11 on Movies and TV

The devastating impacts of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, reached far and wide, beginning with the nearly 3,000 lives lost that day. The aftermath of the devastation would leave people, governments and businesses reeling to take stock of the priorities of a post 9/11 world.

In Hollywood, studios scrambled to assess productions that featured storylines and settings that could be seen as striking a raw nerve in the wake of the attacks.

With the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers collapsing after being struck by two of the four hijacked planes, a number of films planning to feature the buildings were re-edited.

Among them was Ben Stiller’s Zoolander, slated for theatrical release Sept. 28, 2001, just two-and-a-half weeks after the attacks. Stiller, who directed and starred in the film, made the decision to digitally remove the Towers from any shots of the city in the background.

Shots of the Towers were similarly removed from movies such as Don’t Say a Word and Serendipity, both of which were released within weeks of the attacks, as well as 2002 films Mr. Deeds, Stuart Little 2, Kissing Jessica Stein, People I Know and Igby Goes Down.

The shots of the Towers were eventually restored to Zoolander for its 2016 Blu-ray Disc release, while the People I Know DVD included that movie’s original Towers shots as deleted scenes.

It’s certainly not unusual for a horrific real-life event to lead to an alteration of creative content, beyond the typical preemptions or delays of episode airings.

In 1981, the TV series “The Greatest American Hero” had debuted March 18 with a main character named Ralph Hinkley. After President Ronald Reagan and members of his staff were shot March 30 by John Hinkley Jr., the character’s last name was changed to Hanley for the rest of the first season.

But the attacks of 9/11 took such changes to the next level.

The ending of Men in Black II, filmed in 2001 for release in summer 2002, was originally supposed to feature the World Trade Center, but was reshot with the Statue of Liberty instead.

Sony Pictures in July 2001 had released the teaser trailer for 2002’s Spider-Man, which featured the title superhero capturing a group of bank robbers by trapping them in a giant web spun between the Twin Towers. The film’s planned promotional campaign heavily featured the Towers as a symbol of New York City, Spider-Man’s hometown, including a poster with the buildings reflected in the Webslinger’s eyes. Sony recalled the posters and discontinued the teaser.

“When the movie trailer for Spider-Man was released and sent to us, we received a phone call from the studio that all of the product was being recalled and had to be returned ASAP, with a modified trailer being cut, to remove the World Trade Center images from it,” said Frank Rampino, VP of Flash Distributors. “It seems like just yesterday and realizing that 20 years have actually passed by is both incredible and humbling.”

For the final film, shots of the Towers were removed (though they can still be spotted in the distance in a few shots), while adding scenes of Spider-Man with the American flag, and New Yorkers fighting back against the Green Goblin with the line, “you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.”

Disney’s Lilo & Stitch, released in 2002, altered a climactic sequence that involved Stitch flying a hijacked 747 through a city to save Lilo. It was changed in the final film to a spaceship flying through mountains, though the original animation was eventually released in 2009 as a bonus feature on the two-DVD Lilo & Stitch: Big Wave Edition.

A scene in the 2002 sci-fi remake The Time Machine was changed so that a scene set in the future of debris from the moon crashing into New York wouldn’t resemble the attacks.

The first episode of “24,” which aired about two months after 9/11, was quickly re-edited to remove a shot of an exploding passenger plane.

The attacks even impacted screenings of older movies. The 20th anniversary re-release of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. — The Extra-Terrestrial (the version that famously replaced guns with walkie-talkies) in 2002 changed a line of dialogue about a Halloween costume from “You’re not going as a terrorist” to “You’re not going as a hippie.” The release of E.T. on Blu-ray for its 30th anniversary in 2012, and on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray for its 35th in 2017, restored the original theatrical cut.

References to terrorists were also removed from TV airings of 1985’s Back to the Future.

And the 1998 film The Siege, about the U.S. government putting Muslims in concentration camps following a terror attack, also had the Towers removed from shots of New York in some versions.

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Revisiting the Twin Towers

Once the immediacy of the tragedy of 9/11 subsided a bit, one of the constant reminders of the lives lost that day became the way the attacks forever altered the iconic New York skyline — especially before the empty void where the Twin Towers once stood was replaced with the Freedom Tower.

A staple of films since the early days of the industry, the New York skyline was redefined by the construction of the Twin Towers, which were completed in 1973. In the ensuing years, the Towers would appear in nearly 500 movies.

One of the first to feature them prominently was the 1976 King Kong remake, where they served as the setting for the climactic showdown, just as the Empire State Building had been in the original 1933 Kong. In the remake, the giant Kong famously jumps from one tower to the other as he is attacked by military helicopters. As noted by film historian Ray Morton on his commentary for Shout! Factory’s recent Blu-ray of the 1976 film, some of the upper levels of the tower were still being finished and painted, which can be seen as Jeff Bridges watches the attack on Kong from the top of one of the towers.

Paramount’s DVD of the film, released in 1999, used the original poster as cover art, featuring Kong standing atop the Twin Towers while being attacked by the military. When the DVD was reissued in 2005, the box art was changed to Kong holding Jessica Lange. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray offers the original Twin Towers art as one of the options on its reversible slipcover.

Paramount’s DVD box art for the 1976 ‘King Kong’ remake — the 1999 release (at left) using the World Trade Center poster art, and the 2005 reissue without it.

John Carpenter’s 1981 sci-fi dystopia Escape From New York depicted a future (stated as 1997) in which Manhattan had been turned into a walled-off prison. The World Trade Center towers are used as an entry point for Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken to infiltrate the island using a glider.

In 1998’s Armageddon, the Towers were among several New York City landmarks struck by a meteor shower in the opening of the film. The sequence ends with a prominent shot of the World Trade Center with significant damage and smoke flowing from one of the towers — an image similar enough to what happened on 9/11 that many TV airings of the film edited out the scene.

A shot of the Twin Towers damaged by a meteor shower in 1998’s ‘Armageddon.’

The other “asteroid hitting Earth” film of 1998, Deep Impact, showed the Towers surviving a tidal wave that destroys New York City because they are so tall. Some TV broadcasts removed shots of them following 9/11.

Nearly 20 years earlier, the 1979 film Meteor depicted the Towers exploding after being hit by a fireball from space.

One of the final movies to significantly feature the Twin Towers prior to the attacks was Steven Spielberg’s A.I. — Artificial Intelligence, released in June 2001. Set in the 22nd century, the film features a robot whose attempts to become a real boy take him to a flooded New York City, where the Towers are shown surrounded by water. The film soon jumps ahead thousands of years to depict the tops of the Towers as monuments to humanity among a frozen landscape — an eerie image rendered impossible by the events of 9/11 just a few months after the film’s release. Still, the film was released unaltered on DVD in March 2002.

The Twin Towers amid a frozen landscape in a hypothetical future depicted in the 2001 sci-fi film ‘A.I. — Artificial Intelligence,’ released just a few months before 9/11.

In the 20 years since the 9/11 attacks, films and TV shows have made an effort to re-create the Towers when appropriate.

One notable example again involves Spielberg, whose 2005 film Munich, about Israeli operatives seeking revenge for the 1972 slaying of the country’s Olympic athletes by Palestinian terrorists, ends with a shot of the Towers in 1977, which some have interpreted as the film connecting protracted violence in the Middle East to 9/11 as a warning against military policies that can lead to unintended blowback.

Other movies that used visual effects to digitally insert the Towers into the New York skyline for historical accuracy include the 2003 HBO miniseries Angels in America, which is set in 1985; the 2004 hockey movie Miracle, set in 1979 and 1980; the 2005 musical adaptation Rent, set in 1989 and 1990; 2014’s A Most Violent Year, set in 1981; and 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, set in 1983(its predecessor, 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, showed the Towers in bonus scenes set in 1973 on the Blu-ray “Rogue Cut” version).

Using visual effects to depict the Twin Towers became vital to director Robert Zemeckis’ 2015 film The Walk, a docudrama that depicts French high-wire artist Philippe Petit’s famous stunt in August 1974 of surreptitiously setting up a cable between the top floors of the towers and walking back and forth between them eight times in 45 minutes a quarter-mile above the ground.

Of course, re-creating the Towers also became central to films that actually depicted the events of 9/11, such as the 2006 films United 93 from director Paul Greengrass, and World Trade Center from director Oliver Stone. The 2010 film Remember Me, while not about 9/11 per se, uses the attacks on the Towers as a plot twist for a character drama (which many critics considered distasteful).

Depicting the Towers also became a way for creators to demonstrate a drastic alteration of reality in fiction. The 2009 film Watchmen, set in an alternate reality version of 1985, depicts the Towers in several scenes as one of the few buildings still standing after an attack levels most of New York.

Also in 2009, the Fox TV series “Fringe” used a shot of the intact Twin Towers to reveal the characters were in a parallel universe in which they weren’t attacked.

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Landmark Mentality

Prior to 9/11, Hollywood didn’t balk at the chance to depict the destruction of famous landmarks as a selling point for big visual effects-laden blockbusters. After Independence Day became the biggest movie of 1996 by famously showing the destruction of such iconic buildings as the White House and Empire State Building, among others, many blockbuster films quickly followed suit, including the aforementioned Deep Impact and Armageddon.

Such depictions of destruction fell out of vogue for a while following 9/11. Then in 2009 the film G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra featured an action scene in which terrorists in Paris destroy the Eiffel Tower, indicating Hollywood was more or less back to business as usual.

‘Spider-Man,’ ‘Only Murders’ Top JustWatch Most-Streamed Movies, TV Shows Through Sept. 5

The pending theatrical release of Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: No Way Home  continues to resonate among streamers. New data from JustWatch found consumers streamed four previous Spider-Man movies, including 2002 release, Spider-Man, starring Toby Maguire as the webslinger, the most through the week ended Sept. 5.

Spider-Man: Far From Home, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 finished No. 4, No. 7 and No. 10, respectively, for the week.

The Green Knight and the 1992 original Candyman rounded out the podium.

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Among TV shows, Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building,” starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez,  and”What We Do in the Shadows” ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop” rounded out the podium.

 

Data: Cowboys and ‘Spider-Man’ Dominate Weekly Streamed Movies, TV Shows

Social media buzz surrounding the next “Spider-Man” movie contributed to the franchise generating myriad views across connected televisions. New data from JustWatch found that Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Spider-Man: Homec0ming, Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse dominated the Top 10 household movie streams through Aug. 29 in the United States.

JustWatch, an international streaming guide, tracks SVOD streaming habits of 20 million monthly users across 47 countries, including the United States.

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Last week, the trailer for pending Sony Pictures webslinger movie Spider-Man: No Way Home “mysteriously” found its way onto social media platforms, generating millions of views and buzz. The attention apparently generated a crush of catalog title streaming.

Among the most-streamed TV shows in the United States was “Cowboy Bepop,” about a ragtag crew of bounty hunters chasing down the galaxy’s most dangerous criminals. It ranked No. 1 among serialized shows, streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. The 2021 series bested AMC+ flagbearer “The Walking Dead” and Apple TV+ breakout hit “Ted Lasso.”

 

 

Spider-Man: Far From Home

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 10/1/19;
Sony Pictures/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $389.86 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated’PG-13’ for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments.
Stars Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, Martin Starr, JB Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Angourie Rice, Tony Revolori, Peter Billingsley, Marisa Tomei.

Well, that could have been awkward.

Amid reports that Sony Pictures and Disney would not renew their landmark deal to share Spider-Man, the home video release of the latest film featuring the character looked to be in the unenviable position of reminding audiences just how valuable the partnership had been, both from a financial and a creative standpoint.

And since Spider-Man: Far From Home ends with a cliffhanger that recasts the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Spidey’s place within it, a fresh viewing of the film under the shadow of its sequel potentially not being connected to the MCU only puts a more glaring spotlight on the impasse, much to the disappointment of fans. The bonus materials accompanying the release don’t sidestep the issues, either, with direct discussions of Spidey’s impact on the MCU (particularly the four-minute “Stepping Up” featurette).

Fortunately, such prospects were avoided with the news of a new agreement to allow Marvel to make a proper sequel, completing a trilogy with Tom Holland as the title character at the very least, and paving the way for whatever Sony has planned for the character down the road.

And that’s very good news indeed, as Far From Home offers a spectacular adventure, from the perspective of both a Spider-Man story and the 23rd chapter of the MCU (serving as the epilogue of Phase 3).

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With the world adjusting to the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker (Holland) and his high school class take a summer trip to Europe, where Peter hopes to relax, take some time away from being Spider-Man, and explore a relationship with MJ (Zendaya). Unfortunately, he is recruited by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to help Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) battle a threat from another dimension. As Peter struggles to balance his personal and superhero lives, he is confronted by the legacy of Tony Stark.

But as Peter questions what his place within that legacy is, he learns that things are not what they seem, forcing him to step up to become the hero he was destined to be.

The film looks great, blending scenic European locales with dazzling visual effects to create an eye-popping piece of entertainment.

Holland remains one of the most likeable stars of the MCU, handling with ease whatever challenges the movie throws at him. Gyllenhaal makes for an engaging Mysterio, an effective counterbalance to Peter’s crisis of confidence. Far From Home features a lot of surprises, both in terms of how the story unfolds and in references to earlier Marvel movies.

As with the previous film in this particular franchise, 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, the villains are remnants of Stark’s actions in prior films, which has left some fans a bit miffed that the MCU Spider-Man seems more like an Iron Man Jr. cleaning up Stark’s messes. There is some truth to that, but within the context of the story of the films, it works really well.

The Blu-ray also includes what is billed as a new original short, but it’s essentially a three-and-a-half minute deleted scene of Peter preparing for his vacation, clips of which were used in some of the earliest Far From Home trailers.

Separately, the disc includes another six minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, plus a three-and-a-half-minute gag reel.

The four-and-a-half-minute “Stealthy Easter Eggs” featurette shows off some of the film’s hidden references, while the five-minute “Teachers’ Travel Tips” offers a comedic look at the chaperones played by Martin Starr and JB Smoove trying to ensure a smooth trip.

For behind-the-scenes footage, the disc offers nine featurettes that run about 40 minutes in total. These cover everything from the new suits, new locations and new cast members seen in the film, to the extensive stunts, a look at MCU guest stars, and how director Jon Watts put his spin on the material.

Another section of the extras offers eight minutes of comparisons between pre-vis storyboards and the final version of select scenes.

Finally, there’s a 12-minute video called “The Brother’s Trust,” an inspiring look at the charity work of Holland and his brothers.

 

Marvel Animation Producing ‘Spidey and His Amazing Friends’ Preschool Series

Marvel Animation & Family Entertainment announced during an Aug. 23 panel at Disney’s D23 Expo in Anaheim, Calif., that it was producing a new original animated series for Disney Junior, “Marvel’s Spidey and His Amazing Friends.”

Geared toward preschoolers and their families, the series is set to debut in 2021 and will be the first full-length Marvel series for the Disney Junior audience.

Used to working solo, Peter Parker must discover what it takes to become a spider friend who works well with others when he teams with Miles Morales and Gwen, also known as Ghost-Spider.  They will join forces with heroes such as Hulk, Black Panther and Ms. Marvel to defeat evil foes and learn that teamwork is the best way to save the day.

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“Preschool kids already love Spidey, so they’ll be delighted to have Peter Parker thwipping across their screens in this new series” said Cort Lane, SVP of Marvel Animation & Family Entertainment. “Everyone at Marvel is thrilled to launch our first preschool series on Disney Junior, the gold standard platform for the audience. We believe parents and kids will be excited about these stories filled with themes of friendship, cooperation, solving problems and using your abilities to help others.”

The announcement of the new Spidey series comes as Disney and Sony Pictures have reportedly reached an impasse regarding Marvel Studios producing future movies featuring the “Spider-Man” characters for Sony, which controls the film rights.

Cinemark Partners with Sony Pictures for $5 Summer Movie Series

Cinemark May 22 has partnered with Sony Pictures for the exhibitor’s annual $5 “summer movie clubhouse” film series.

The $5 series card enables users to 10 Sony catalog family movies and is available exclusively at participating Cinemark theatres. Consumers can also purchase individual $1 tickets at participating box offices the morning of the show.

Cinemark operates 547 theatres with 6,051 screens in the U.S., Brazil, Argentina and 13 other Latin American countries.

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“We take great pride in giving our communities the perfect entertainment destination for an affordable price all summer long,” James Meredith, SVP, marketing and communications, at Cinemark.

Sony is using the promotion to plug upcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home, opening July 2 and “The Angry Birds Movie 2,” opening Aug. 16.

For participating theatres, movie selections and to print $2-off concession coupons, click here.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 3/19/19;
Sony Pictures;
Animated;
Box Office $189.87 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for frenetic sequences of animated action violence, thematic elements, and mild language.
Voices of Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, Zoë Kravitz, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Kathryn Hahn, Liev Schreiber, Chris Pine.

One of the Holy Grails of adapting a comic book to film is the idea of evoking the feeling of reading a comic while watching the story play out. Filmmakers have tried different techniques over the years to achieve this, such as brighter colors or hyper-stylized action, to varying effect, with the best results often focusing on just telling the story in a way that brings the spirit of the work into a different medium.

Animation would seem to be closer to the artistic foundations of comic books, but often present challenges of their own.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is probably the closest a movie has come to finding that sweet spot between telling a comic book story while immersing the viewer in the fantastic art that is often unique to the panel-to-panel format.

Its innovative animation style, layering hand-drawn animation over CGI, combined with a thrilling story of self-discovery are just a few of the reasons Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 91st Academy Awards.

The film is a deft blending of self-parody with an ambitious attempt by Sony Pictures to explore new aspects of the Spider-Man concept while the live-action version of the character is on loan to Marvel Studios.

In particular, the film is an adaptation of the Miles Morales version of the character, a mixed-race teenager who gains the powers of Spider-Man in an alternate reality in which Peter Parker is killed.

In the film, Miles (voiced by Shameik Moore), stumbles upon a plot by the villainous gangster Kingpin (Live Schreiber) to open a portal into alternate dimensions in search of replacement versions of his recently deceased wife and son. The plan goes awry when versions of Spider-Man from a variety of realities began to appear, and they team up to help Miles learn how to control his new powers and figure out how to return home before Kingpin’s machine damages the multiverse.

The alternate versions of Spider-Man really let the creative team shine with the parody aspects of the film by introducing characters in a variety of styles. There’s a late-30s Spider-Man (Jake Johnson) who has become depressed after years of being a hero has left his personal life in shambles; there’s Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), a teenage girl version of Spidey; there’s Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), a black-and-white private detective from the 1930s; there’s an anime version involving a little girl and her pet robot from the future; and there’s Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), essentially Porky Pig in a Spider-Man costume.

The combination of the various versions offers not only some of the best laughs ever to be had with a superhero movie, but make for a terrific tribute to what has made Spider-Man such an iconic character over the years. There’s also a post-credits sequence that really takes it up a notch in that regard.

It’s enough to thrill longtime fans of the character, particularly the Miles Morales version, while providing enough nods to the aspects of the mythology that most average viewers would already be familiar with so as not to need to be an avid comics reader to follow along.

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The Blu-ray is loaded with a ton of bonus material, including the new animated short “Spider-Ham: Caught in a Ham,” which serves as a prequel to the film in showing us a Spider-Ham adventure that was interrupted when he gets pulled into Miles’ reality.

In addition, there’s an “Alternate Universe Mode” for the movie in which some scenes are replaced with storyboards of earlier concepts, as a way for the filmmakers to ponder how the film could have turned out. It runs about 26 minutes longer than the theatrical cut (which comes in at 117 minutes) and even starts with the Spider-Ham short.

The regular version of the film includes a commentary with the filmmakers, which is a nice guide to how the various creative decisions evolved to get to the final movie, including casting decisions and the re-imagining of certain well-known characters.

Many of the topics are covered in specific featurettes as well.

The eight-minute “We Are Spider-Man” examines the key messages of the film, while the five-minute “Spider-Verse: A New Dimension” deals with the animation style and techniques for adapting the comics.

The 15-minute “The Ultimate Comics Cast” showcases the actors involved in the film and what makes them such a good fit for their characters. The two-part “Designing Cinematic Comics Characters” offers an eight-minute look at the design of the heroes, and five-minutes devoted to the creation of the villains.

“The Spider-Verse Super-Fan Easter Egg Challenge” is a five-minute video that points out some of the references hidden throughout the film, while inviting viewers to look for more.

There’s also the eight-and-a-half-minute “A Tribute to Stan Lee & Steve Ditko,” the co-creators of Spider-Man who both passed away in 2018. Stan Lee recorded one of his famous cameos for the film.

Finally, the disc includes music lyric videos for two songs, “Sunflower” and “Familia.”

There are also some digital-exclusive bonus featurettes. The three-minute “Another, Another Times Square” provides a primer on the concept of alternate realities, the minute-and-a-half “Meanwhile, in a Gassy Universe” is a juvenile montage of various clips from the film with dialogue replaced by fart sounds (no doubt the work of Spider-Ham).

Vudu has a minute-long “An All-Star Cast” promotional video, while Movies Anywhere provides videos for how to draw Miles and Gwen, about three minutes for each character.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Oscar-Nominated ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ Swinging to Digital Feb. 26, Disc March 19 From Sony

Academy Award Nominee for Best Animated Feature Film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse swings to digital Feb. 26 and 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD March 19 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film, which has grossed more $350 million in theaters worldwide, introduces Brooklyn teen Miles Morales, and the limitless possibilities of the Spider-Verse, where more than one can wear the iconic mask. The voice cast includes Shameik Moore as Morales alongside Jake Johnson (“New Girl”) as Peter B. Parker, Hailee Steinfeld (Bumblebee) as Gwen Stacy/Spider-Gwen, Mahershala Ali (Green Book) as Miles’ Uncle Aaron, Brian Tyree Henry (“Atlanta”) as Jefferson Davis, Lily Tomlin (“Grace and Frankie”) as Aunt May, Luna Lauren Velez (“How To Get Away with Murder”) as Rio Morales, Zoë Kravitz (“Big Little Lies”) as Mary Jane, John Mulaney (“Big Mouth”) as Spider-Ham, with Nicholas Cage (The Croods) as Spider-Man Noir, Kathryn Hahn (Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation) as Doc Ock and Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”) as the villain Kingpin.

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More than 90 minutes of bonus content includes the original short,  “Spider-Ham: Caught In a Ham,” in which Spider-Ham gets sucked into another dimension; “Alternate Universe Mode,” in which fans can view the film in a new way to discover alternate scenes, plotlines, characters and more with the filmmakers as their guide; “The Spider-Verse Super-Fan Easter Egg Challenge,” where viewers are challenged to find every single Easter Egg hidden within the Spider-Verse; “We Are Spider-Man,” which takes a deep dive into the diversity of the characters; “Spider-Verse: A New Dimension,” featuring the artists and filmmakers who pushed the boundaries of the comic artform; “The Ultimate Comics Cast,” about the characters and cast; “A Tribute to Stan Lee & Steve Ditko,” honoring the creators of Spider-Man; “Designing Cinematic Comics Characters,” a breakdown of the character design, including costume, movement in animation and distinct powers for each character; “Heroes & Hams,” about the Spider-people of the Spider-Verse; “Scorpions and Scoundrels,” about the villains; and two lyric videos, “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee and “Familia”  by Nicki Minaj & Anuel AA (feat. Bantu).

Venom

Tom Hardy brings the fan-favorite antihero Venom to life in this entertaining throwback to the wild sensibilities of the comic book movies of the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Blu-ray is loaded with bonus materials that should satisfy fans of both the character’s history and his film adaptation.

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Sony Pictures;
Action;
Box Office $213.03 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for language.
Stars Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate, Reid Scott, Melora Walters, Woody Harrelson.

The character of Venom’s journey to the big screen shares a lot of parallels with Deadpool, in that both were introduced as a villain in another character’s poorly received movie before getting a second chance after years of development hell to get a movie of their own.

Venom was originally introduced in the 1980s as an alien entity that served as an antagonist for Spider-Man before his increasing popularity led writers to shift him into the role of an anti-hero (often dubbed the “lethal protector”). He’s essentially a living black goo known as a symbiote, which merges with a human host to create a hulking beast with super abilities and a voracious appetite.

The character’s big-screen debut came in 2007 via a much-maligned appearance in the awful Spider-Man 3, when he was shoehorned into the story allegedly at the behest of studio executives looking to make a spinoff. (Likewise, Deadpool first appeared in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, in which all of his fan-favorite traits were removed — a blunder subsequently lampooned in the mega-successful “Deadpool” solo movies that were only made after the popularity of leaked test footage pressured a reluctant Fox into greenlighting the project.)

When the “Spider-Man” franchise was rebooted with The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012, plans emerged for Venom to be included in a Sony Spider-Man cinematic universe, only for the poor reception of 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to put a hold on that as well.

Then Sony made a deal with Marvel Studios to include Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and when that proved successful Sony felt confident in moving forward with Spider-Man-related side projects, including Venom and the animated Into the Spider-Verse.

But, with the live-action Spider-Man on loan to Marvel’s creative team, Sony had to develop Venom without using Spider-Man in his origin story, as the two characters are intricately connected in the comic books. Originally, the symbiote bonded with Peter Parker before moving on to a better-suited host, Peter’s journalistic rival Eddie Brock, to finally become Venom. This paved the way for the expansion of the symbiote concept and the introduction of characters such as Carnage and Riot who could serve as villains for Venom.

So, in the Venom movie, the symbiotes are discovered on a comet and brought to Earth by a space mission funded by megalomaniacal rich guy Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). But the ship crashes and some of the symbiotes get loose before Drake’s cronies can round up the rest for experimentation.

Drake realizes they need human hosts to survive on Earth, so he kidnaps homeless people to test out his theories. This arouses the suspicions of Web reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), whose attempts to investigate Drake’s lab cause him to come into contact with the Venom symbiote, which takes over his body.

The symbiote is able to communicate telepathically with its host, and we learn that symbiotes need to have a good match with their hosts for the pairing to work, and apparently Eddie is well matched for Venom.

Of course, with Venom/Eddie on the loose, Drake sends out a private army to kill him, leading to several action sequences around the streets of San Francisco. Drake wants to send another rocket to the comet to bring back more symbiotes, a plan that Eddie/Venom vows to stop, even if it means fighting other symbiotes who support Drake’s mission. (This being a comic book movie, a finale featuring the main character battling the evil version of himself is almost a foregone conclusion.)

The best aspect of the movie is the interaction Hardy has with, well, himself — the interplay between Brock and the Venom voice in his head that wants him to find food and that he has to convince to stop eating people.

Part action, part horror, part buddy comedy, the film shifts tone at will in its efforts to stay faithful to the character while maintaining the commercial appeal of a ‘PG-13’ movie. It feels a lot like a throwback to a 1990s or early 2000s comic book movie that would try anything to entertain its audience. The visual effects are appropriately over the top, awash in CGI flair as gooey symbiotes launch tendrils and ooze across the room in attacking whomever is nearby.

The Blu-ray comes with a “Venom Mode” that offers pop-up trivia about the character and production while the movie plays. The information is low-key and unobtrusive, but often relates facts that might not be as interesting as answering questions that might pop into a viewer’s head during a given scene.

Three deleted scenes offer some more insights about the Venom character — one features Eddie talking to himself in a cab, another shows Venom’s hilarious response to an annoying car alarm, and the third is an extended version of a post-credits scene that teases a potential villain for the sequel.

Also included are about an hour of behind-the-scenes featurettes, highlighted by the 20-minute “From Symbiote to Screen,” a good primer on the history of the Venom character. The three-minute “Symbiote Secrets” unveils some of the hidden references in the film.

In addition, there’s a gallery of visual-effects progressions from storyboard to finished film.

The disc also offers a bonus scene from the recently released Spider-Man: Into the Universe, both tacked on to the end of the movie and included separately. This is in addition to the Spider-Verse trailer that plays when the disc loads.

Finally, the disc includes two music videos: one for Eminem’s Venom title track, and another for an Into the Spider-Verse song, “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee.

Venom

New ‘Spider-Man’ Video Game Sets Three-Day Sales Record

The new Spider-Man video game for the Sony PlayStation 4 is an even bigger hit than the latest Spider-Man movie.

The game, Sony Interactive Entertainment said Sept. 20, sold 3.3 million copies in the first three days since its Sept. 7 release, making it the fastest-selling first-party game the company has ever had.

At a retail price of $59.99, that equates into nearly $200 million in consumer spending.

The latest “Spider-Man” movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, made $117 million its opening weekend.

Sony said 1 million copies of the game were pre-ordered.

Spider-Man, developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, broke the previous three-day sales record set in May by the latest installment in the “God of War” franchise, which sold 3.1 million copies.

The new Spider-Man game, heavily promoted over the summer at Comic-Con International, is the first since 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Sony says that beginning in October, it will be releasing three downloadable stories as part of bundle called “The City That Never Sleeps.” each update will add new stories, characters and Spider-Man suits to the game. The first, “The Heist,” will be available Oct. 23.

The bundle costs $24.99; individual updates are $9.99 each.