SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE Review
There has been an overabundance of Spider-Men in the last 15 years (6 including this one), with 3 different actors donning the red-and-blue tights. Some weren’t as successful as others (looking at you Garfield), while others nailed the character created by the great Steve Dittko and late but just as great, Stan Lee. So why do we need to see Spider-Man swinging into animation? Cause this time, he’s black. Also, a pig. And from the 1930s. And a female, punk rock drummer. And an anime character. Welcome to the Spider-Verse.
To get you up to speed, Spider-Verse is the title for a comic event that explored the different incarnations of Spider-Man/Woman/Pig across the multiverse. In Into the Spider-Verse, a taste of this weird and wonderful universe is explored. The film focuses on Miles Morales, making his big screen debut, who is a kid from Brooklyn, bitten by a radioactive spider and yada, yada, yada, you know the rest. He stumbles across a machine built by Kingpin that opens a portal to alternate dimensions, that malfunctions and pulls forth a team of Spider-People to Miles dimension. They are Peter Parker (you know him), but he is older and exhausted by crime fighting. Spider-Gwen, Gwen Stacey, who is the Spider-Woman of her dimension. Spider-Noir, who is from a world that is stuck in the Depression. Sp//dr, Penni Parker from an anime-style world who fights through a robot suit. And Spider-Ham, aka, Peter Porker. He’s a cartoon pig with spider powers. Together, they must fight Kingpin and return to their own dimensions to save all reality. You know, the usual.
This is by far, one of the most gorgeous and impressive animated films of the past decade. The film embraces the comic book medium like no other comic book movie and runs with it in creative ways that offer jaw-dropping moments and hilarious, self-aware moments. Each Spider character is represented by their own art and animation styles that lend to some impressive sequences when they all interact. All credit goes to the animation team for some intricate action sequences that have been painstakingly created for our viewing pleasure and shots that are already wallpapers.
Miles Morales has become a fan favourite amongst comic readers, and having him be the central character pays off as he is the emotional core of the entire movie. Audiences should instantly attract to him, and his story should be fresher than the same old Peter Parker formula. Through Miles, the mantle and idea of Spider-Man and being a superhero is explored as he comes into his own, via some botched training by the Spider-Verse team. However, while Miles is a compelling protagonist, the same cannot be said for the rest of the supporting cast.
Peter B. Parker, as a mature, parental Spider-Man should be a more nuanced character, even for an animated film aimed at a younger audience. However, the potential is wasted with him heel-turning from self-obsessed immature slob, to reluctant immature leader with one guilt trip from Miles. It is an interesting take on the character, one not explored often even in comics, but the relationship between Peter and Miles could have had more emotional weight behind it.
The rest of the team have some of their own standout moments, minus one. Spider-Gwen is awesome, as the most capable member that bounces well with Miles, and isn’t bogged down by inexperience or lack of faith, but is by the emotional drive of all Spider-Heroes; lose of a loved one. Hailee Steinfeld’s performance and the brief glimpse of the character’s own animation style has me pumped for the recently announced sequel and all-female led spin-off. Spider-Noir is funny riff on a Batman-esque Spider-Man, assisted by Nic Cage’s deadpan delivery, who is baffled by the colourful Rubik Cube but offers nothing else. Peni Parker is there and Spider-Ham has some of the more wacky comedic moments, with some basic but gorgeous Looney Tunes’ style humour and antics that are sure to be crowd pleasers.
Something producer Chris Miller and writer Phil Lord nailed, as they did so on The LEGO Batman Movie, is examine the depths of their characters longevity and toying with all of it. And just like The LEGO Batman Movie, Into the Spider-Verse is an homage to the character with references throwing at you a mile a minute, ranging from the Jazzy, Emo, Spider-Man from Spider-Man 3 or the 1960s animated cartoon and its subsequent memes (hint: stay for the post-credits).
Overall, the film is far more emotional than anticipated, and the better for it. Kingpin’s story is a nice tie-in to the Netflix Daredevil show, but instantly falls apart upon a moments thought and is too contrived to hit the emotional beat it wants. Centring on Miles Morales is an inspired choice, as his story is emotional rich that allows for a revisionist approach to the superhero formula.
Into the Spider-Verse is side-splitting, breath taking family fun. Something that most live action superhero movies fail to achieve. Spider-Verse embraces it source medium and its characters wacky history but also delivers on some resonate and mature themes that elevate it beyond an animated superhero film.