Movie Review: ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’
Directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Cast: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfled, Mahershala Ali, Jake Johnson, Liev Schreiber, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren, Lily Tomlin, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicholas Cage, Chris Pine
Plot: Miles Morales – intellectually gifted Brooklyn teen – gets bitten by a radioactive spider and develops powers similar to Spider-Man. When Kingpin opens a temporal rift Miles is met by a group of alternate Spider-Man characters from other dimensions.
Review: Look, if you want to know if it is good without ANY spoilers I’ll just say that I had a stronger emotional reaction to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse than any other Spider-Man film.
Now let’s get into the nitty gritty.
Miles Morales is a Spider-Man character created by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli in 2011 and was in part inspired by Barack Obama and Donald Glover. He was an instant success and one of the survivors of the Marvel Universe Character Cull of ’15. As a fan favourite it was inevitable that he’d swing into cinemas eventually. This is brought to us, in part, by the lunatic geniuses who brought us 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie. So strap in.
We begin with Peter Parker, giving us a delightfully meta introduction to Peter Parker, the Spider-Man, with cheeky references to the Spider-Man 3 finger guns and merchandising deals. We then start following Miles Morales, an teen with an ambition to street art who is unwillingly attending an out-of-district school for high achieving students. During the first act we get to know Miles and his relationships with his mother, his police officer father and his streetwise uncle Aaron. When he’s bitten by a radioactive spider he begins developing powers including strength, the ability to stick to walls, invisibility and electric shocks. Seeking answers he stumbles across Spider-Man himself in a pitched battle with Green Goblin and The Prowler. Spider-Man is trying to put a stop to Kingpin’s plan to open a portal to other dimensions.
Kingpin murders Spider-Man, leaving the city in mourning and Miles feeling lost. He’s then shocked to encounter Peter B. Parker, a similar version of Spider-Man from another dimension – still the same superhero but lost in a deep depression. Parker has arrived through Kingpin’s portal and he isn’t alone. While trying to find a way home they encounter Spider-Gwen from a dimension where Gwen Stacy was bitten by the spider rather than Parker, Spider-Man Noir from a black and white Noir universe, Peni Parker and her spider-mech from an anime dimension and Peter Porker aka Spider-Ham, who’s a Roger Rabbit-esque cartoon critter.
The whole thing sounds goofy but amid all the chaos the focus is entirely on the characters. Miles is written and performed downright fantastically. It’s unfortunate that some will dismiss this for the animation and they’re going to miss out on some wonderful genre bending work. Recasting the familiar Peter Parker as a down on his luck, tired superhero who is as lost as Miles is a good riff on a familiar character. In fact, they rely on our familiarity with the source material to play on it in the same way they did with The Lego Movie.
All of the voice actors do solid work here (I mean, this is a cast featuring multiple Oscar winners) but the one who steals the show is Nicholas Fucking Cage. He’s a madman at the best of times, but he delivers this performance with such deep relish that you can’t not love him. Spider-Man Noir is a gritty detective archetype who is entirely black and white (although working hard to learn colours) and speaks entirely in purple Noir prose. Cage is eating it up.
Also, take a tissue for when Stan The Man turns up. That dialogue will get you.
If you’ve seen any of the trailers to date you’ll have noted the distinct art style. After a full year of development the team managed to adapt old-school comic colouring styles from 70 years prior. It’s a mix of 2D and 3D animation techniques that took a massive team of 60 animators to produce and it is gorgeous. They don’t stop there though – they incorporate the styles of other universes into many scenes for the Noir, Anime and Saturday morning cartoon characters. Plus there’s the glitching and surrealistic mash-ups when world’s collide.
When it comes to visual style, Into the Spider-Verse is this years Baby Driver. It’s just as rich and vibrant with the same insane attention to detail.
It’s not a perfect movie – few are – but the flaws are minor. I think Liev Schreiber is a great actor but his performance felt far removed from the visual design of Kingpin. Final word, however, is damn good. More, please and thank you.
Rating: TEN out of TEN