The announcement of an animated Spider-Man film was the last thing I wanted. Being a devotee to all things Spider-Man, in the midst of the ‘Amazing’ series, it brought little confidence. Parent company Sony imbued an unabashed attitude to offering the worse elements of corporate mandated filmmaking, and struck doom initially for the promise of any animated offerings. I was tired of them ruining this character and this mythology I loved, and was not excited about the prospect of another exploitative avenue of doing so.
Yet, even after stumbling into those recurrent issues with ‘Venom’ only months prior, ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ proves an exhilarating, ingenious and remarkable love letter to the lore of Marvel’s seminal hero. Blistering with conceptually daring animation that is hands-down the most accurate filmic translation of the comic book form, the film is a perfect encapsulation of what makes the idea of Spider-Man such an everlasting one. The script is witty, the voice casting is masterful, its diversity offers greater resonance and is one of the most fitting representations of Spider-Man to hit the big screen.
Unlike previous iterations, ‘Into The Spider-Verse’ centres on the Spider-Man, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore, ‘Dope’). A regular teenager from Brooklyn, his life is spun upside-down when bitten by a radioactive spider in the subway and as his gains new, special abilities it introduces him to one Peter Parker (Jake Johnson, TV’s ‘New Girl’). The pair unite to take down the schemes of the nefarious Kingpin (Liev Schreiber, TV’s ‘Ray Donovan’), whose scientific meddling has created a portal to other universes and brought Spider-people from other dimensions into his own. Joined by Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld, ‘The Edge of Seventeen’), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage, ‘Leaving Las Vegas'), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn, TV’s ‘Orange is the New Black’) and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney, TV’s ‘Big Mouth’), the group unite to get back to their worlds and restore order to Miles’ dimension.
Unequivocally, ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ surpasses all expectations. Everything about the film is pervaded in such distinctive flair and creativity, it’s alarming how remarkable it is. With the amount of acclaim that it has already generated, this will more than likely feel like pull-quotes, but it has to be reaffirmed — the endeavours taken in this film are done with sublime execution.
Most notably, the unique animation used to portray this story is nothing like we’ve ever seen before. It is a heavily comic-style animation; offering thought panels, written sound effects and the whirlwind vibrancy of shifting panels occupying one screen. The result is a delightful visceral experience that not only feels true to form but one that never makes for a less than stellar frame. Adapting alternate animation even for certain characters, it is a feast for the eyes.
Moreover, it is endlessly entertaining with a sharply comical script that is also able to convey heartfelt emotion. While operating fundamentally as an origin story for Miles Morales, the script is able to effortlessly understand the plights of these characters while offering some of the best laughs often pointed at the odd avenues of the Spider-Man mythology. It balances a plethora of characters cooly, and more impressively is able to give all characters present their fair share of shining moments. It offers diversity through the Spider-people they chose to include, and all at once is able to be both hilarious and at times genuinely emotional. While certainly busy, this film, for all its intentions, is scripted to near perfection.
The unique animation used to portray this story is nothing like we’ve ever seen before. It is a heavily comic-style animation; offering thought panels, written sound effects and the whirlwind vibrancy of shifting panels occupying one screen.
But perhaps its crowning achievement is just how beautifully it is a testament to the strange and enchanting lore of the Spider-Man lore. With deep-dive to the character’s canon, the film imbues a great degree of callbacks to the various forms the character has taken, and does so with great comedic timing. For many, this character has been an ever-present presence in our consumption of media for as long as we can remember, and what ‘Spider-Verse’ is able to master is what it is about this canon that made us fall in love with the idea of Spider-Man. It uses it to all advantages, whether through conveying comedy, emotion, world-building, animation and all is done with justification and great reward. It’s the film Spidey fans will fall in love with.
If any criticism can be levelled against the film, is that the aforementioned level of ardour could work against casual moviegoers. As while most are acquainted with Spider-Man in the filmic form, the immersion to the colourful history will not leave the same sense of resonance that the film’s given demographic will have. In the major scheme of things, it is a minor complaint, but it could bring about confusion for people who haven’t divulged in comics and other forms of media that is recalled and or interpreted into the film.
However, ‘Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse’ really is something special. It achieved something I haven’t felt since 2004: it made me excited about the prospects of where this interpretation of Spider-Man could go, and for many of us that is no easy feat. Almost all creative choices provide stellar results, and forms an animated feature that is perfect for the entire family, for lovers of Spider-Man both young and old. In an era of superhero films consistently fighting off fatigue from the public, the originality of ‘Spider-Verse’ is almost emblematic of how longevity can be cited, and it is an undeniable pleasure to see it in motion.