UK Release Date: 12th December 2018
Runtime: 117 minutes
Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Writer: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman
Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Mahershala Ali, Liev Schreiber, Kathryn Hahn, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Nicolas Cage, Hailee Steinfeld, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Zoë Kravitz
Synopsis: Kingpin’s experiments with a particle accelerator lead to splintering in the multi-verse, as multiple versions of Spider-Man collide.
I went into Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse thinking it was going to be a fun romp and nothing more, much like many of the straight-to-DVD animated superhero releases pumped out by DC every year. What I didn’t expect was a movie that is not only one of the best films of the year, but also one of the best superhero movies I’ve ever seen.
We follow Mile Morales (Shameik Moore), who we meet as a young man changing schools and unsure of his place in life. After being bitten by a radioactive spider much like his idol Spider-Man, he discovers that Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) has created a device that can create a gateway to parallel dimensions. After the first launch nearly destroys the city, it’s up to Miles to stop Kingpin, with the help of several Spider-people from other dimensions who were pulled into his universe during that first launch.
First and foremost, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a breathtakingly beautiful movie. I’ve never seen such a perfect representation of comic book art and style on screen. It’s a combination of 2D and 3D animation that feels like pages coming to life. With the directorial hands of animation pros including Peter Ramsey and a script partly penned by The Lego Movie co-creator Phil Lord, the talent is in place to produce this ambitious animation style.
Added to this is the brave decision to render the Spider-people from different universes in different animation styles. For example, Peni Parker is rendered in a Japanese anime style to match her mecha-suit Spiderman and the Amazing Spider-Ham – Spider-Man if he were an anthropomorphic pig called Peter Porker – is animated in the style of old school Looney Tunes cartoons with all the zaniness that brings. It’s a move that should be jarring and not blend well, but it works in context to sell the alternate universe storytelling. It produces an end product that’s visually stunning, wholly unique and produces some of the best action set pieces I’ve ever seen in a superhero movie. The medium of animation is a perfect fit for comic book adaptation and it’s shocking this hasn’t been more utilised.
On top of the visuals is an incredibly well realised character in Miles Morales and his arc throughout the movie. The thrust of the story is Miles and his attempts to define who he will become. This arc is beautifully realised, whether that be in Miles’s home life or, to a greater extent, with the multi-dimensional Spider-people representing different paths his life could follow and mentors pulling him in different directions. It’s refreshing to see how fully formed the character arc is here and it really is Miles’s movie, with Shameik Moore being a standout performer who brings life and likeability to the role in spades.
New Girl star Jake Johnson, meanwhile, is a delight as Miles’s schlubby Peter Parker mentor and is pitch perfect casting. I never thought I’d want to see a chubby, middle-aged Spider-Man, but Johnson sells the hell out of it. On top of this, the supporting cast is brilliant, with Nicolas Cage’s Humphrey Bogart-esque Spider-Man Noir being a particular delight.
Whilst being a good movie in it’s own right, Into the Spider-Verse is also a celebration of Spider-Man and its legacy. The movie is enamoured with the character and is full of delightful references and nods to the character’s history. However, these references never feel forced or get in the way of what really matters, which is Miles’s story. They just represent the cultural significance the character has had, with even Stan Lee’s inevitable cameo being one part comedy and two parts sincerity. It’s a moment that feels perfectly timed and has even more emotional resonance after the untimely death of the Spider-Man creator.
Pop or Poop?
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a masterpiece. It’s exciting, it’s fun, it respects the legacy of the character and may be one of the best superhero movies ever to hit the big screen. Whether you love Marvel’s comic book world or not, this is an inventive rollercoaster of an animation that has surprises tumbling from its sleeves.
Be sure to stay until the end of the credits, as well, because there’s a lot of love and a lot of heart here, all the way up to the final gag.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.