For the past 16 years, we have seen many variations of Spider-Man grace the big screen. Some of the resulting films have been good, some of them have been okay, and some of them fans wish had never been made. The story of Peter Parker has been retold, remade and rebooted so many times that some point to the character as a prime example of Superhero Cinema Fatigue. Given that, it is understandable why the franchise was rebooted twice in one decade.
However, there is a fun fact that not many people outside the comic book reading fandom know – there is more than one Spider-Man. In fact, there’s several spider-themed superheroes in the Marvel Universe, not counting alternate realities. Yet, Hollywood has been afraid to examine any of these characters apart from Peter Parker. Until now.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse introduces us to Miles Morales – a highly-intelligent teen who acquires spider-themed super powers after being bitten by a genetically modified spider. On the night he discovers he has the same powers as Spider-Man, he witnesses a cataclysmic event in New York City that rips open the space-time continuum. Shortly after that, Miles discovers there are many spider-powered superheroes out in the multiverse and they aren’t all Spider-Men. Or human. Or, in one case, organic material. Knowing what they know and seeing the inherent danger of the immediate future this event has caused, the Spiders join forces to stop the criminals responsible for the disaster and send the alternate Spideys back to their universes before they break down into nothing – a side-effect of staying outside your home dimension for too long.
To say this movie is a game changer is an extreme understatement. It’s amazing how a film from a cinematic franchise that is almost 20 years old can breathe fresh air into not only its own world, but the concept of comic book movies in general. In deciding to go the animated route instead of live action, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse takes the comic book world in directions that no amount of CGI trickery could and I doubt ever will. It gives us the illusion that so many other comic book movie makers have tried and failed to establish: a comic book come to life!
With little winks and nods and a touch of fourth-wall-breaking without the characters knowing they are breaking the fourth wall, the viewer feels as though they were zapped into the comic book world (just like in the music video for A-Ha’s Take On Me). The artwork is on point throughout and the animators who worked on this film deserve an Oscar for what they achieved here. It is one thing to create computer animation that looks exactly like a comic book, but each Multiverse character is rendered in a unique style specific to their reality. Spider-Gwen has the bright glossy look of a modern Marvel Comic, Spider Ham looks like a Looney Tune come to life, Spider-Man: Noir looks like a Sin City character, and Peni Parker is animated in the same style as a Japanese anime. It’s a visual feast for the eyes that keeps the film bold and daring.
Miles Morales is the stand-out character here. A fan-favorite for a long time in the comics, this film puts him in the spotlight and shows that his story is just as fascinating as Peter Parker’s. In fact, I would say Miles’ backstory is even more fascinating given that he comes from an interracial family and must deal with being a brainiac who just wants to be a normal teen, but his police officer father is pushing him too hard to excel in the hopes his son can earn a better life outside of Brooklyn. His character is deep and I am sure many viewers will be able to relate to him easily. I hope to see more of Miles on the big screen in the future, because this film will make even the non-inducted into a fan of his Spider-Man.
Of course, none of this would be as wonderful as it is if it were not for the story. Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman – who also gave us the 21 Jump Street movies and The Lego Movie – present a love letter to all things Spider-Man (particularly one of the most creatively hilarious post-credits sequences in Marvel history) but have also created the ultimate primer for those who do not know anything about Spider-Man outside of the life of Peter Parker. On top of all this, they have given us one of the best comic book movies in recent history, both as an adaptation of its source material and a story in its own right.
In a nutshell, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is a great movie with fantastic animation and voice acting that sets a new standard for Spider-Man movies, superhero movies and yes, even animated movies in general. It is also one of the best films of 2018 and a serious Oscar contender. Excelsior!