Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)
Directed by: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Written by: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman
Starring: Chris Pine, Hailee Steinfeld, Jake Johnson, Kathryn Hahn, Lily Tomlin, Mahershala Ali, Nicolas Cage, Shameik Moore, Zoë Kravitz
It’s very easy to be cynical about Sony’s latest Spider-Man picture. Teaming up up with Marvel Studios brought about the greatest cinematic version of Spider-Man we’d seen with Civil War and Homecoming. Well, that was until this dark horse came along and pulled the rug from under the feet of the superhero genre. Sony Animation aren’t exactly associated with quality, and any trailers released for the film never really quite sold Into the Spider-Verse. Even the post credits scene at the end of Venom, didn’t quite convey just how good this is. This is one of the boldest animated films in years. With an art style that feels unique in this day and age, it feels like you’re watching an actual comic. Comic book and superhero movies are ten a penny these days, but Into the Spider-Verse gives you a feeling that you’re actually watching a comic book come to life. It’s a style that at first comes across a little jarring. Slightly jerky movements from the characters, as if there were frames missing, but once you see how it fits in as a part of the whole aesthetic, the film looks astonishing.
Opening with the a great intro from Peter Parker, giving us a quick recap on pretty much everything Spider-man, Including some call backs to the Raimi trilogy (so I guess this makes it a sequel?), we soon step into the shoes of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore). A young teen struggling to fit in at a new school, but is very bright and has a great academic opportunity, though he feels like an imposter. He often seeks refuge with his uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali), who embraces and encourages Miles’ artistic side, whereas his parents, or at the very least his policeman father, see Miles’ art as just graffiti and vandalism. It’s while Miles is out one evening, working on his latest inspiration, that he acquires his spider powers, and his world, or universe, is blown wide open. After an experiment is foiled by Spider-Man, a rift in the universe causes several different Spider heroes all converge in the same universe. As we are gradually introduced to different versions of Spider-man from across different realities, it transpires that if they don’t get back to their own versions of New York, then all these alternative realities will converge on each other, destroying everything as we know it.
So far, so standard superhero fare. However, the plot is just something that brings these Spider people together, as they each become mentor to Miles in their own way, as he’s getting to grips with his new powers. A lot of people seem to groan at the thought of another superhero origin story, especially when it’s a story that’s been told several times before, with Spider-Man being among the worst offenders in that regard. Yet this one seems to break the mould. For a start the characters, each and every one, even Spider-Ham (who thankfully does not out stay his welcome), has some depth to them, and don’t just serve as canon fodder to boost character motivation. Each of the different heroes have their own take on the origin story and it’s extremely refreshing to see them portrayed this way. This is a journey, and it’s one you don’t really want to end. It’s helped even further by the fact that the script is full of great dialogue and has a fantastic sense of humour. This is Spider-Man after all, and what’s the web slinger without an arsenal of quips and one liners? And it’s one heck of a voice cast that delivers these as well. Without a doubt this is one of the greatest cast animated films for a long time. Shameik Moore is absolutely incredible as Miles, giving as good a turn as anything else released this year.
Despite this being another origin story, it’s presented in such a bold and unique way (for the genre), that it stands out from the ever expanded superhero crowd. Not only is it the best animated film released in sometime, it is undoubtedly the greatest Spider-Man film to have graced the big screen. It can only be hoped that the fact this is an animated film doesn’t put off fans. It may be a case of case of once bitten, twice as shy when it comes to Sony’s last few outings with the character, but this film alone more than makes up for it. This could be the start of something special if they’re going to continue with Miles, but given how good this big screen debut was, the bar has already been set very high. In a word, amazing.