I’ve never been the biggest Spider-Man fan growing up, even to the point I find Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy quite overrated minus Spider-Man 2. Yet watching Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse I never found myself watching Spider-Man in the same way that I’ve always done so for way too long. As a matter of fact, this is also the first time in which I’d actually felt I was watching a take on Spider-Man that I’ve been waiting on for way too long, one that feels like the sort of superhero film I’d wanted to see all my life. It’s a superhero film that embraces everything that made the subgenre resonate so perfectly in our minds, because of how much it embraces its comic book roots. And for being the perfect throwback in that sense, not only does Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse make for an incredibly satisfying viewing experience, but it also feels like a film that reaches out to best carry the spirit of what makes its comic book roots so distinctive – and one that even utilizes its own medium to become something far more in the end. It’s only fitting enough to admit that this is the most excited I’ve been for a sequel to a superhero film in a while, if they were ever going to make one at that.
Everyone’s already familiarized themselves with Peter Parker’s story and how he became Spider-Man, so this new film shifts that focus over to Miles Morales. Like Peter Parker, he became Spider-Man after having been bitten by a radioactive spider that also may not have originated from his own world, promptly turning him into Spider-Man, yet he still has to realize his own potential for his own future and how to fully grasp the scope of his powers. Coming by his side are the other Spider-heroes of other worlds, including another Peter Parker, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man Noir, Peni Parker, and Peter Porker – all of them now coming together to save their own worlds from even greater danger at the hands of Kingpin. This is the sort of story that I can’t imagine would be done to the same effect in live action – but with embracing its own medium to tell this story, Spider-Verse doesn’t merely take the look of a comic book in order give this new rendition of Spider-Man the life that he needs. It’s a film that looks every bit as beautiful as the superhero genre at its best would look, taking the very best aspects of its medium in order to lovingly capture the very nature of its source.
The animation resembles a comic book coming to life on the screen, and to say the least there’s no better way for a superhero film to captivate its own audience. But among the many reasons Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse happens to be every bit as wonderful as it is, comes from the very heart it embraces in order to tell a superhero story onto the screen. Of course, we all know the story of how Spider-Man came to be, but the downright psychedelic aesthetic brought to the table in Spider-Verse doesn’t simply create an all-around beautiful film for the eyes but also a whole new story altogether. For every live action feature film’s rendition of Spider-Man we have brought to the screen, there’s so much to love about the craft that was put into the making of even a single frame of Spider-Verse look as visually stunning as it is from start to finish. It feels like the pictures are coming to life directly from comic books, just as you would also imagine it would feel like as you’re invested in the story of one – and constantly turning the pages waiting for what’s happening next. But there’s no better story to tell in this manner than a superhero’s own origin story, because of the joy and exuberance that these stories would also bring out from their own audiences – thus creating the very best sort of crowdpleaser in that sense. With every action sequence to the small details of every character interacting with one another, it all looks so dazzling and there’s not much more to be asked for.
Bringing together the many other renditions of Spider-Man into the same story would already have posed another challenge but when each one still plays off their distinctive charm it also captures the very essence of what allowed a superhero’s legacy to last so long from generation to generation and even from one sort of audience to another. Everyone still feels like a fully realized character, and the sense of humour that each side brings along, while not unfamiliar to films that tell stories coming right out from comic books, feels so natural to their own setting. They feel like many different stories coming together, especially as they are all set inside of this “Spider-Verse,” but how they all come together in helping Miles Morales realize his own potential adds to what builds up the everlasting legacy of Spider-Man. Everyone’s so clearly from a different universe and yet what comes forth is a story that allows everything to remain possible, but in how much potential the writing calls for you’re also finding yourself witnessing a greater lore. The voice acting is every bit as energetic as it is perfectly suited, from Jake Johnson’s take on a more reluctant version of Spider-Man, Hailee Steinfeld’s Spider-Gwen, Nicolas Cage’s Spider-Man Noir, John Mulaney’s Spider-Ham, Kimiko Glenn’s Peni Parker, and obviously Shameik Moore as Miles Morales – but also impressive are the turns from Brian Tyree Henry and Mahershala Ali. Liev Schreiber is great as expected in another villainous role as Kingpin, but Kathryn Hahn’s own take on Doc Ock is one that took me out of nowhere, already leaving me hopeful for more roles of these sort out of her.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse already sets up its own cinematic universe with such ease and opens gateways to far more possibilities with a character much like Spider-Man – there are many ways to describe how much of a joy a film of this sort is to watch. It’s an animated film unlike any other, and it’s one that cannot be replicated in any other way – and to say the very least, it’s one of its very own kind. It’s the sort of superhero film that doesn’t feel like it could easily be shrugged off as just any other that you’ll get every few months, it’s one that feels so special from first frame to last. Directors Bob Persichetti, Rodney Rothman, and Peter Ramsey – together with producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller took one huge leap of faith with bringing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to the big screen, and to say the very least, the results were no less than breathtaking. I’m wondering what more can be done with sequels that focus about Miles Morales, or even every separate interpretation of Spider-Man as it all came to life here. This isn’t simply a superhero film, it’s a film that captures a beloved legacy.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Sony.
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Screenplay by Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman, from the Spider-Man comics created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and the character Miles Morales creates by Brian Michael Bendis, Sara Pichelli
Produced by Avi Arad, Amy Pascal, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Christina Steinberg
Starring Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber
Release Date: December 14, 2018
Running Time: 117 minutes