Friday, December 28, 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

When I first saw a trailer for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, in spite of several recent blunders from Sony’s live-action and animation departments (some of which I only know through negative word-of-mouth), I was a little surprised that I actually wanted to see it, as it looked like a genuinely fun Spider-Man movie with some interesting art direction. With the reveal that the film would also feature a crossover between no less than six versions of the Spider-Man character, I was curious how this would be balanced, though the trailers kept my hopes up. While I could not see this film opening weekend, my recent viewing of it did not disappoint in the least.

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) has been going through some issues, such as having trouble adjusting to a new school (to the point of trying to get expelled), and he silently rebels against his father (a police officer) by placing custom stickers around New York and spraying graffiti in secret locations. While placing one of his pieces up with his uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali), Miles gets bitten by a radioactive spider, soon having to deal with newfound abilities. Following a battle between Spider-Man and Kingpin, that he ends up getting involved in, Miles ends up running into Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), a Peter Parker from another universe, whose help he needs to control his powers and stop Kingpin’s device that creates wormholes to alternate dimensions. It isn’t long, however, before the two discover they aren’t the only Spider-Men running around.

In spite of the number of Spider-Men and the general amount of characters present, the movie is actually pretty easy to follow and balances its cast surprisingly well. When a new Spider-Man is introduced, it goes through a quick recap of their backstory such that it’s very casual and playfully assumes you already know, which allows the movie to more quickly get back into the action and inform you of the multiverse at the same time. The movie also features a sizeable number of villains from Spider-Man lore (most of which are spoilers), however, unlike films such as Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, it somehow never feels like there’s too many; Kingpin, the most prominent villain, actually has an interesting backstory that gives a good motivation for wanting to risk tearing up the multiverse, while at the same time making it clear he needs to be stopped because of said risk.

The six Spider-Men trying (and failing) to avoid detection in Miles' dorm room.
From left: Gwen Stacy/Spider-Gwen (Hailee Syeinfeld), Peni Parker/SP//dr
(Kimiko Glenn), Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), Peter B. Parker/Spider-Man
(Jake Johnson), Peter Parker/Spider-Man Noir (Nicholas Cage),
Peter Porker/Spider-Ham (John Mulaney)

The animation and art direction are both phenomenal. Similarly to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Into the Spider-Verse feels like a living comic book, while taking full adventage of the animation medium to explore this concept to its fullest potential. Three of the six Spider-Men, Peni Parker aka SP//dr (Kimiko Glenn), Peter Parker aka Spider-Man Noir (Nicholas Cage) and Peter Porker aka Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), each also feature their own animation styles, which the movie manages to blend really well with its own “comic book” style nature while taking opportunities to embellish the characters’ own styles when necessary. Spider-Ham in particular has a style more akin to a Looney Tunes cartoon, which is taken advantage of for very well-timed comedy.

Though brief, the late Stan Lee also makes an animated cameo in this film, as his lines were recorded sometime prior to his passing. Similarly to Once Upon a Deadpool, the movie also features a tribute to Stan Lee in a mid-credits scene, during which it properly credits him alongside the late Steve Ditko as co-creators of Spider-Man.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is one of the best cinematic interpretations of Spider-Man. The animation is amazing (pun intended) and takes full of advantage of the comic book aesthetic, backed by great writing and characterization. It’s clear a lot of passion was put into this film, as it’s essentially a love letter to the character that fans can appreciate while allowing itself to be more open for newer fans as well. It should be noted that some of the different Spider-Men (all of which aside from Peter B. Parker are pre-existing characters) are more obscure than others, so some research may be required for anyone that doesn’t know them. It is also worth staying after the credits for a very special scene.

For a list of links to additional Spider-Man reviews, visit our Spider-Man Review Hub.

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