Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey
Writer: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman
Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld
Summary: Teen Miles Morales must become the new Spider-Man of his reality, while crossing paths with five counterparts from other dimensions, in order to save all of their worlds.
The Ultimate Spider-Man
“Really, another one?”
It seems the majority of the folks I have mentioned Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse towards are really, really, tired of Peter Parker and his spider antics. They question why anyone would bother seeing yet another web-swinging origin story. Folks also judge the film based on its animated stylings. “It’s a lame kids movie!” As if an animated film is any less a film because it lacks a live action connection. Others have mentioned that the animation isn’t up to the acceptable levels of Pixar. A lot of folks are questioning the necessity and quality of yet another Spider-Man film.
Last year I would have agreed with the response of “Really, another one?” As what more could possibly be done with Marvel’s most popular character in 2018? How much can making it animated really help? The answer to both of these questions is, in fact, a ton.
Sony’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the best film adaptation of the character yet. And incredibly, one of the best superhero films ever made. That’s right, doubt it all you want. But it’s true. In a world where Marvel is knocking it out of the park with films such as Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War every single year, and DC is doing…whatever DC does. Into the Spider-Verse manages to not only stand out, but stand tall. This is a new benchmark for how superhero films should be made.
The Peter fans deserve
On the big screen we have seen eight stories featuring Peter Parker. From Toby to Andrew and most recently Tom; we have seen the character as a nerdy loner in high school, rebooted as a nerdy outcast in high school and then…rebooted again…as a somewhat popular nerdy kid…in high school. The quality of the actors (and writing) change but the stories and the message keep staying the same.
Yes, I understand that the Spider-Man films are (obviously) pulling inspiration from the character and his origins, but how many times do we need to see uncle Ben die? How many times must we hear “With great power comes great responsibility?” and how many times must we come so painfully close to seeing a great Spider-Man film only to be let down by overly stuffed casts or paper thin nonsensical plots?
Obviously, as you can clearly read from this text, I am not a fan of the previous Spider-Man films. They each have a handful of great scenes to be sure, but as a whole I cannot say I have thought any of them were particularly great let alone amazing. In fact many of them were outright bad. But each came close to delivering to us a worthy Peter. It’s just Into the Spider-Verse does one better and gives us a perfect Peter. Actually, it gives us two.
Without giving too much away, Into the Spider-Verse doesn’t do away with those previous Raimi Spider-Man films you may or may not love. It acknowledges their history and builds upon it. The Peter Parker that Miles meets near the opening of the film is a much more capable and storied hero than we have previously seen. He has the experience, the quips, and the agile heroism, but more importantly, he has the confidence and swagger that we have wanted to see for years from the character. He is a responsible adult instead of a fledgling kid and he has his life together. And yeah, he is even a little cocky because of it all.
Then we get to see what becomes of a hero who loses it all. Peter, both versions of Peter, each have an arc that plays off of the other and shows two sides of the same coin. The film is constantly asking the question of what makes a great hero. What does it take to wear the mask? The answer is heart. The will and determination to do what is morally right, even in the face of insurmountable odds. To step beyond your own failings and loss and limits and do what must be done. This message has always been at the heart of Spider-Man, but much like Peter in this film, it is the way in which the message is conveyed in cinema that has finally changed.
The Miles & Gwen fans need
While audiences are intimately familiar with Peter Parker, Into the Spider-Verse does have two aces up its sleeve in the form of newcomers Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy. I may have just dedicated the first part of this piece to the likes of Peter and why he hasn’t yet been done justice in film, but make no mistake that this is Miles story.
Indeed the primary focus and the beating heart of this movie is that of Miles and his journey into adolescence and his first steps in the larger than life shoes that he must now fill. Miles character is a breath of fresh air and he is the perfect vessel for newcomers to latch onto. While his transformation into a superhero has parallels with Peters, it has enough alterations, and he has his own unique obstacles to overcome, that it is always interesting. Miles is more relatable, easier to root for and just overall more fun than the usual titular character at the center of this series, and when he finally becomes the hero that he is destined to be you will want to stand up and cheer.
Likewise Gwen Stacy, who we last saw in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 returns as her newest incarnation from Marvel Comics: Spider-Gwen AKA Ghost Spider. Spider-Gwen has been a runaway success for Marvel and it is great to finally not only see the character in a theatrical film, but also see our first female spider-hero in general at the cinemas.
Gwen has a style all her own that is juxtaposed nicely with the two male leads. Sporting a punk sass and the sure footed skillset of a ballerina, Gwen manages to stand out both during the fantastic action set pieces as well as the more intimate character moments. Her relationship with Miles is grounded and touching and her past with Peter is a nice mirror image of that characters own backstory.
Now you may have noticed, and may be questioning, why this “review” is spending so much time on the characters, and this isn’t even all of the Spider characters in the movie! But that is because this movie is all about its characters. This movie lives and dies on its characters. If they don’t work, the film doesn’t work. Luckily they absolutely work.
This film beats with the heart of its heroes. Their relationships are believable and enjoyable. Their conflicts earnest and surprising and their dependence on one another heartwarming and heartbreaking. When Miles feels like he has let down his partners you genuinely feel his heartache. When Peter is shown at his lowest – crying in his shower – the scene is played for both comedic and sobering effect and it works on both levels. These characters are multidimensional and have both great strengths and immense flaws, and each of them are provided scenes of introspection and growth. They all have a story to tell and enemies to face, and they must all rely on one another in order to keep standing.
“That’s all it is, Miles. A leap of faith”
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is one of the most visually striking animated films I have ever seen. It is entirely unique and deftly blends multiple styles and techniques to create a world all its own. Images differ depending on their placement within the frame. Shadows and word placement look exactly how they appear within comic panels. Characters animate at differing framerates and each bring with them their own textures and filters and movements.
This film has style all over it making every scene refreshing and full of life. What’s more impressive is that none of it feels disjointed or distracting. It all comes together seamlessly and works to bring one of the most enjoyable and electric visual worlds into existence. Each frame is worth pouring over and the amount of work from the animators to make it all gel must have been immense.
Complimenting the sensational visuals is a powerful original score and an absolute banger of an original soundtrack. Superhero films rarely focus on their music but with Into the Spider-Verse each and every track injects the scenes with more attitude and emotion. Not since Guardians of the Galaxy has their been such a fun and energizing, and tonally perfect, mix of songs to compliment its heroes.
– Conclusion –
Into the Spider-Verse weaves its story with a confidence that should be absolutely unearned. Sony had yet to hit a home-run with their Spider-Man films but the team behind this latest interpretation has something the previous initiatives have lacked: love. It is immediately apparent, from the films initial studio logos at the very beginning, that the people responsible for Into the Spider-Verse are absolute fans of the source material. These are passionate storytellers that have been given an opportunity to work on something they care about and it shows in every frame. This is a film about picking up the pieces and putting oneself back together, and I can’t think of a more fitting metaphor for what Sony Pictures has done with Into the Spider-Verse.