Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, 2018.
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman.
Featuring the voice talents of Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Nicolas Cage, John Mulaney, Mahershala Ali, Liev Schreiber, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Kimiko Glenn, Luna Lauren Vélez, Chris Pine, Kathryn Hahn, Zoë Kravitz, Oscar Isaac, and Lake Bell.
Spider-Man crosses parallel dimensions and teams up with the Spider-Men of those dimensions to stop a threat to all reality.
With having six films under his belt as well as two other appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you might be forgiven in thinking Spider-Man on film had explored all it could, especially when those films have already seen two fresh reboots of the wall-crawler’s origin. Spidey’s first foray into animated features, however, gives both mainstream audiences and Spidey fans something incredibly fresh with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The film embraces everything great about Spider-Man, acting as a love-letter to the character and what he represents with the inclusion of fan-favourite Miles Morales and several other Spider-men and women. Its a vastly entertaining and heartfelt film with an outstanding visual quality that looks like a comic book brought to life.
Rather than focus entirely on Peter Parker, Into the Spider-Verse wisely chooses to place the spotlight on Miles, a relatively new character to the franchise who became a new Spider-Man in an alternate universe. Miles helps give the film that refreshing feeling as the story focuses on him, his family and origin into Spider-Man. He’s a very relatable and easy character to root for as the story follows his search for identity and what makes him so special in the Spider-Man mythos. This success is due in part to Shameik Moore’s portrayal of Miles. Moore does a great job of giving Miles a youthful vulnerability and shares great chemistry with Jake Johnson’s alternate Parker and Hailee Steinfeld’s Spider-Gwen. For any fans who have only known the Parker version of Spidey, the film makes it very easy for audiences to invest in Miles as a character and his development throughout the story.
When it comes to Spider-Man proper, the film takes some very risky choices with Peter Parker. Unlike the Spider-Man of Miles’ world, the alternate Spider-Man that gets zapped across dimensions is an older, disheveled and disillusioned man who has lost nearly everything, including his will to fight. It’s a very new take on Spidey, but one that ultimately pays off as it puts the character in an entirely new state of mind. Johnson conveys the weariness and regret of this Spidey well, yet still retains his wit and charm even if it is mostly for show. It also allows for a bit of a deconstruction on Spider-Man and why he has remained such a popular superhero for nearly 60 years, examining his tendency to bounce back and refuse surrender despite the curves life throws at him.
The rest of the cast do very well in their roles. Steinfeld is great as Spider-Gwen and relishes every moment of the hero’s big screen debut while Nicolas Cage and John Mulaney deliver some of the film’s funniest moments as Spider-Noir and Spider-Ham respectively. Kimiko Glenn’s anime-inspired Peni Parker wasn’t quite as memorable as the other alternate Spideys and could have been a bit more fleshed out, but she still delivered some funny moments and cool sequences in the fights. On the villainous front, Kathryn Hahn made for a very fun new take on Doctor Octopus while Liev Schreiber gave a worthy performance as Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin. As the main antagonist of the story, Into the Spider-Verse gives Kingpin a motivation that doesn’t revolve around ruling the world or dimensions and instead goes for something much more human and emotional. However, the emotion for Kingpin’s motivation does lack some depth as its presented on a very superficial level. A little more exploration into Kingpin would have been welcome.
The story moves along at a nice pace, taking the time to let the audience sit with Miles’ emotions during some of the quiet scenes as he’s thrown for loop after loop. Events in the film feel pretty organic and aren’t rushed, giving a nice balance of the film’s emotional and serious tones with its comedy. Into the Spider-Verse is absolutely hilarious with so many of the jokes or slapstick moments sticking the landing. None of it feels like its too much, but comes naturally and at the right places where the film calls for the characters and audiences to breathe a little. It also boasts some of the best action in a Spider-Man film that is very easy to follow and incredibly fluid. With so many Spidey characters, it could have been difficult to portray all their abilities, but they all move so well in some very well-choreographed and animated action sequences. The combination of the film’s fun atmosphere and tension is mixed well-together, especially during its memorable climax.
Into the Spider-Verse is also unique among the animated genre for how it presents its animation. The film’s visuals are gorgeous, from the how the action is depicted to the mix of colours, the visual palette is full of vivid imagery. It even goes the extra mile to include thought boxes, words splashed across the screen or written sound effects to separate itself from other animated fare by embracing its comic heritage. The details of the characters themselves draw a lot of individual attention, such as the way Spider-Nior appears grainy or Peni’s cell-shaded look to emphasize her anime roots. The film really does look like a comic book brought to life.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a celebration of all things Spidey throughout his publication history. Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman know exactly what to focus on by making Miles the star, yet still examining why Spidey has remained so prevalent in pop culture. Its visuals are stunning and action quite entertaining and memorable, but the full emphasis is placed on the story and characters instead of just simply moving the plot from A to B to keep it going. Whether you’re a casual fan or really into Spidey, Into the Spider-Verse is highly entertaining and enjoyable.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★