Being a Spider-Man fan in 2018 can be quite the exercise. We’ve seen three different Peter Parkers in the last decade, watched a solo film universe rise and crash in the span of a year, and we now have tangential spin-off films that may or may not connect to our wall-crawling hero depending on who you ask on which day of the week.
Refusing to succumb to convoluted business dealings, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse disregards the real-world drama and embraces the pages of Marvel’s past, present, and future to weave the most exhilarating comic book films to date.
Into the Spider-Verse introduces viewers to Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a teen struggling with everyday life in New York City. Miles feels the pressure to succeed in his parents’ eyes, but he only wants to explore his passion for graffiti. While out tagging the subways he is bitten by a radioactive spider, granting him spider-like abilities, and stumbles across a plot to access parallel universes. With the help of other realities’ Spider-People, Miles must choose to take on the hero’s mantle or risk watching his dimension collapse in on itself.
From the jump, you are propelled into a new experience with Into the Spider-Verse. The team at Sony Animation has brought something that feels simultaneously familiar and unique. The pages of a comic book are drawn before your eyes with all the pizzazz and elegance of a Steve Ditko or John Romita, and sprinkled throughout numerous scenes are details that elaborate upon the character work setup by the film’s screenwriters.
The animated world pulsates with life – there’s nothing more energizing than watching small ripples curl out from around Miles’ feet as he pushes off a train and into the skyline – and culture, as scenes are littered with everything from visual references of previous Spider-Man adventures to reimaginings of popular hip-hop albums of today.
The visual style pairs well with the film’s screenplay which is equally as kinetic. Into the Spider-Verse is expertly paced, leaving little room for rest. As soon as you feel settled into the flow of the film it introduces a new Spider-Hero, adding a new dose of energy and complexity.
Thanks to its PG rating, a rarity in this age, it steers clear of the somber tone of many comic book movies and instead leans into the fun and playful side of the medium. The gags abound, and the writing team reaches deep into the Spider-Man toolbox to find new ways to bring a smile to your face. It’s cinematic flexing when the film retells Spider-Man’s origin story more than a handful of times and has you feeling more elated after each one.
But what you really came here for was the various Spider-People. While Miles is the star, he is joined by Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney); each one given their time to shine, but also playing their role to a tea. The latter three heroes have the least amount of screen time, but shake up the movie with the characters’ different animation styles and their comedic chops, particularly Mulaney.
Moore, Johnson, and Steinfeld are given weightier parts, and compliment each other well. Moore and Johnson bounce between a brotherly and mentor/mentee dynamic with comedic effect. Steinfeld’s Stacy exerts herself as the dominant hero, but is all grace when focused on Moore’s Miles. There’s a sense of understanding amongst the trio, and within the film’s writing team, that Miles’ and his story are the focus and must be a priority if they and the film are to succeed.
And succeed they do. Into the Spider-Verse is a holiday gift to the world and shows the importance of teamwork in making a movie like this. Every aspect of the film is working in tandem to tell a universal and familiar story in an intoxicating way. One that will have you looking up the next showtime as the credits are still rolling. This is a Spider-Man film for every neighborhood.