Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Review
The blueprint for a successful, mainstream superhero movie has shifted somewhat recently. A revered caped crusade can no longer take on the form of a noir like DC's The Dark Knight, for example. The dominance of Marvel Studios has seen to that. Films that are unashamedly meta or straight-up good versus evil, with mutants, epic battles and powers - the origins thereof and the repercussions of its use and abuse - are hardly recognisable because of what we’ve come to expect from the format.
Take the Spider-Man movies for example. Revisited and reinvented countless times: Raimi's trilogy, Webb's duo and Watts' Homecoming - to celebrate the return of Spidey (Marvel, Sony and Disney sharing the rights between them). Why? To keep up with the demand du jour - each release has grossed over $700 million worldwide so it’s unlikely the remakes will stop anytime soon.
If you are to release a Spider-Man in 2018, it needs to keep the essence of Spider-Man but not bore us with origins - we had Homecoming only last year - keep up to date with pop-culture, be socially conscious but not overly preachy, have engaging relationships and present believable stakes that keep us gripped from start to finish (planned sequel or not). If you keep all that in mind, you should end up with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.The animated adventure, in my opinion, is the best take out there.
Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is our Spider-Man this time around and inspired by the etchings of Sara Pichelli’s take on the hero. Sony Picture Images and a team of 140 animators teamed up with Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street writers, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, directors Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey, as well as writer/director Rodney Rothman who join the fray to introduce us to Miles’ world of limitless possibilities. A lot of cooks in the kitchen, but when you’re taking on the concept of a multiverse you need all the help you can get.
Miles is a kid from Brooklyn, a subtle but stark contrast to the Peter Parker of Queens. The pathos, joy, fury and moral responsibility of Spider-Man is subverted somewhat with Miles’ assimilation to the universe. Before your spidey senses can say “it’s just spider-man with a black kid,” we are shown a myriad of narratives from the multiverse Miles opens. Each new Spider-Person comes with their own take on what it means to put on the mask, adding delightful tones to the image of Spider-Man the everyday person holds.
The film’s theme of limitless possibility effectively distorts the predictability of the origin story. The dire stakes and immediate threat for Miles’ Spider-Man are clearly established and the fact that beating the baddie isn’t the only hurdle reverting things back to normal makes for an enthralling second and third act.
An animated multiverse - where stunts and theatrics are not bound to stunt doubles - allow for a visually stunning flick. Narrated in true comic book style, as opposed to a self-reflective, meta style - pandering to the tone of commercial superhero films of the late tweens - the film is truly unique. If you ever feel overwhelmed by the new take, you are grounded by the spidey tropes of the baseline story of Miles becoming the Spider-Man we know and love, taught by a jaded and post-prime, future Peter Parker. Being a comic book film (of 2018) there are times when the writing can be a little cringeworthy but this is a minor problem as you are blown away by the pace of the film.
Comic book visuals effortlessly jump between what looks 2D and 3D and punctuate the film in a manner no other animated film has done before. They construct the world and facilitate wicked action sequences but also help emote a characters’ state of mind. The voice cast supplement the narrative into a juggernaut of a film.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is gripping, fresh and oh so rewatchable. It had to be. Spider-Man holds an interesting place in superhero movie franchises and given a very similar story every time he gets a new release. The only noticeable differences are the lead actor and the enemy Miles faces. It breathes new life into the hero and the genre, it also allows studios to contemplate playing with the HUGE roster of ideas comic books can offer in the animated format. It wont be a coincidence to see more films like this in the near future if Spider-Verse is as successful as I predict. Studios must remember however, “With great power comes great responsibility.”