Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 2018.
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman.
Featuring the voice talents of Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Jake Johnson, Liev Schreiber, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Velez, Lily Tomlin, Nicolas Cage, Kimiko Glenn, and John Mulaney.
Spider-Man crosses parallel dimensions and teams up with the Spider-Men of those dimensions to stop a threat to all reality.
There is a lot of movie in Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse; a lot of movie – almost manically so. It’s a delirious, often deeply psychedelic culmination of every possible Spider-Type against a backdrop of neon-tinged animation with the disorientating aesthetic of being rotoscoped mid trip. It’s the sort of film that leaves you breathless with a slight headache whilst hoping for more.
And really it’s all “more.” No stone if left unturned. From the offset, directors Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman place emphasis on the film’s absolute peculiarities: the Marvel logo pops and spasms as the “camera” dives into a New York part Roy Lichtenstein, part comic book.
We are first introduced to Miles Morales (Shameik Moore). He is smart, if quietly so and with great harrumph attends a school for the gifted. His cop father Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry), with deep compassion sees something more in Miles, whilst mother Rio (Luna Lauren Velez) acts as the midpoint between the pair.
Whilst sneaking out with his far more relaxed uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali), Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider. This as Peter Parker (a delightful cameo evident only as the credits come to a crawl) and still gleefully Spider-Man finds himself in the midst of a battle between a grotesque Green Goblin and Kingpin, in order to stop a reactor opening up a portal to countless other dimensions.
These dimensions open the world up to countless other Spider-types, including Jake Johnson’s Peter B. Parker – now overweight and an all round schlub, Hailee Steinfeld’s Spider-Gwen, Nicolas Cage’s Spider-Man Noir (think Bogart in a onesie), Kimiko Glenn’s Peni Parker and in a moment of frank genius, John Mulaney as Spider-Ham.
Truly, it’s about as excessive as cinema can possibly get. The medium is stretched far beyond its limits. Scenes of the Spider-types, swinging through New York are incredible, and each has their own style. Yet even when all five are on-screen, it never feels “too much.” There is clearly a deep love of cinema history, with Cage’s black and white Spider-Man Noir all shadows with wind running through his trench coat whilst Kimiko and Spider-Ham seem hand-drawn, both deeply indebted to anime and Looney Tunes alike.
The script, written by Lord and Miller, is irreverent and deeply heart-felt, and somehow manages to find the time to tell an engaging origin story for Miles, without skimping out on the absurdities that surround him.
And it’s the absurdities that make the film so impressive. A final half an hour has the same world-ending carnage the pepper all superhero films nowadays, but is played with a psychedelic glee, the sort Doctor Strange could only wish to achieve, whilst the script manages that rare thing of appeasing both kids and adults alike without isolating either. It’s a film that demands countless viewings, not only for the spritely animation, but for the almost breathless joke-per-minute rate.
This is the third Spider-Man big screen outing in a little over a year, rather excessive, but if Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse opens us up to countless dimensions of films in this ilk, all the better.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★