After success in his first solo outing for Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man has returned to theaters, but it’s not the same person under the mask. Before Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home are released worldwide, audiences can watch the adventures of Miles Morales, the newest hero to inhabit the role of Spider-Man on the big screen in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a about a young Miles Morales learning how to be his world’s Spider-Man in an effort to defeat the interdimensional machinations of Wilson Fisk which threaten to tear apart New York City. Along for the ride is the Spider heroes of other realities who guide Miles on his path to being New York’s newest hero. All that and maintaining the balance between family, school and world saving.
The film is a surprisingly effective origin story for Miles Morales as the new Spider-Man, considering the large cast of characters that populate the film. In fact, there’s so much going on in Spider-Verse that this film is a testament to the directors’ and writers’ storytelling skills that the execution is flawless. Shamiek Moore gives an excellent performance as the burgeoning young hero thrust into a conflict beyond his skill set. His world is changing in more ways than one, but like any hero, no matter how many punches the world throws, you just keep getting up. It’s a powerful coming of age story that is shown alongside Peter B. Parker’s return to the role of confident hero after being hit by life too many times. Jake Johnson’s comedic delivery is great, but his performance really shines in the smaller, more dramatic moments. The master/student dynamic between the two characters shows how Spider-Man is not a set of powers, but ideals. Both Miles and Peter grow because of their partnership because discovering, or rather rediscovering, what it means to be Spider-man helps them make sense of their changed lives.
Joining them is a slew of other spider heroes, with the most significant among them being Gwen Stacy’s Spider-Woman. She’s a damaged and bad-ass character voiced by Hailee Stienfeld whose bond with Miles is one of the most endearing parts of Spider-Verse. The three other spider characters don’t have the same amount of development as the core trio, but they exist to further emphasise what Spider-Man represents and the importance of family. That being said, Nicholas Cage’s delivery of intentionally hammy noir influenced dialogue is a scene stealer. Visually, different animation styles to depict some of the Spider-people from across the multiverse. It really makes the concept come alive in ways I never would have imagined. Peni Parker is rendered as an anime character, Spider-Ham is something out of Chuck Jones’ imagination and Spider-Man Noir is rendered with simpler textures than any character from Miles’ home universe.
Miles family dynamic is the other central part of the film, with his parents and uncle getting roped into the other half of their son’s life without realizing it. As part of this coming of age story, Miles’ world changes considerably, but in spite of everything that happens his family is always there to support and anchor the fledging Spider-Man on his new journey. The father-son moments in this film are heartwarming and central to Miles’ journey.
The writers brought in a wealth of Spidey villains who all largely serve as henchmen, but the criminal pushing all the actions forward is Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. Despite being part of a large ensemble of villains, the character is given a surprising amount of depth with only a handful of scenes. The other notable antagonist is The Prowler, who, through the perspective of Miles and a great theme, is easily the most intimidating villain in the entire film. The use of music in Spider-Verse really elevates the film, and much like Prowler, I don’t think Spider-Verse would have been as impactful without the excellent soundtrack and score. It’s further evidence of how every element of this film works together perfectly.
The film is also very funny, with humorous character interactions and excellent meta-fictional jokes littered throughout the film. Most of the meta-humour comes from Jake Johnson’s Peter B. Parker, who frequently breaks the fourth-wall with references to the real world in which the film was made. Two other stand-out elements are Spider-Man Noir’s fascination with a Rubik’s cube and the Looney Toons cartoon physics that apply to Spider-Ham.
Along with a funny script and fully realized characters, the films also has the most innovative animation I’ve ever seen. Using technology specifically developed for this movie, Sony’s animation team has created a look that blends CGI and 2-D animation while incorporating the conventions of comic book storytelling. Comic panels, sound effects and actions lines are used exactly as they would be in a comic book, working very well in a medium based on movement. One ‘hero jumps off a building dramatically scene’ is broken up into a series of panels that adds an intensity that can’t be achieved by any manner of cuts or even one long take. It’s a new approach to animation that is not only amazing, but really helps Spider-Verse stand out amongst the other animated films released this year.
“Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse was the best animated film of year”, are words I never imagined saying considering Incredibles 2 was also released in 2018. This film has a lot of heart, gorgeous animation, an excellent soundtrack and well executed comedic content. Perfectly balancing the large cast of characters alone makes this film worth watching. It’s amazing, spectacular, superior and just about every other adjective that one could use to describe Spider-Man.