Written by Rick Warren / gfn21
It is no secret that Marvel animation has been lacking for years, falling far below the bar set by DC’s consistently great animated films. Since the success they found in the 90s with X-Men and the original Spider-Man series, the only legitimately great piece of Marvel animation has been the short-lived Spectacular Spider-Man series. Into the Spider-Verse has changed that.
The film offers a brilliant take on the origin story of Miles Morales, as well as a memorable version of Peter Parker that feels new, something that is hard to pull off after decades of storytelling. Every other spider gets time to shine, and there could not be a better place for them to do so than in this film thanks to the mind-blowing animation. Backed by a fitting soundtrack and featuring some stellar voice acting, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a must-see. The film is clearly aimed at hardcore fans since every scene has fan service, but Into the Spider-Verse is so well-made that even those who know nothing about the web-slinger can enjoy it. This is exactly what Spider-Man movies, and superhero movies in general, should strive to be.
For a deeper review (with a few spoilers), keep reading!
SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT!
Though he has been active as Spider-Man for nearly ten years, the story of Miles Morales is something that the general public is mostly unaware of. Some may know that Miles exists, but they see him only as “the black Spider-Man” and have no knowledge of who he is as a character. He has truly earned the title of Spider-Man over the past few years, and while his appearance in this year’s hit video game was a great first step, Miles needs his moment on the big screen to become recognizable for those who aren’t comic book readers. With Into the Spider-Verse he finally has it, and it couldn't be any better.
Aside from his best friend Ganke, whom he doesn’t properly meet until the film’s final scenes, Into the Spider-Verse does a great job of showcasing all of Miles relationships. Unlike Peter he has both his parents, and the film successfully shows the ups and downs in their relationship. Every bit of dialogue between the two feels believable, something that both the filmmakers (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller) and the cast deserve credit for. The “soft spot” Miles has for his Uncle Aaron, who takes a much different path in life than Miles’ father, leads to a terrific story arc that is essential to shaping Miles into the hero he becomes. While Mahershala Ali is as great in these scenes as one would expect from an actor of his caliber, Shameik Moore’s incredible performance as Miles is what makes these scenes so believable. Moore sells every bit of dialogue he’s given, and his voice truly fits the character of Miles.
Having such a strong voice actor behind the lead hero is key to making the scenes where the character learns about their powers work, and Into the Spider-Verse has some of the best. As Miles nervously runs through his school blaming his new abilities on puberty (one of the many, many hilarious moments in the film), Into the Spider-Verse’s biggest strength begins to come into play: the gorgeous animation.
The term “jaw-dropping” is thrown around often in film and video game analysis, but it truly does apply to Into the Spider-Verse. Using a brand-new art style designed to make the audience feel like they are watching a comic book come to life before their eyes, every single scene from Into the Spider-Verse is a beautiful sight. From loud and busy action sequences to heartfelt quiet moments, the movie will always keep your eyes glued to the screen. All the little touches only serve to make the experience better, from text saying “thwip” when a web is shot to thought bubbles appearing whenever we hear Miles’ inner dialogue.
It truly is hard to say whether a live action film could tell Miles’ story as well as this movie does. Everything is handled perfectly here, from his relationships to his own personality. He’s lovable and relatable, and when he finally masters his powers, you feel proud of him. As he swings through a gorgeous version of nighttime NYC with a fitting song from the excellent soundtrack, you’ll likely think the same thing I did at that moment: “this movie is something special”.
The Villains and The Spiders
The film features plenty of villains to balance out the numerous heroes, and each gets the job done. With a surprising Doc Ock reveal, an excellent portrayal of Prowler and some neat designs for Scorpion and Green Goblin, the side enemies fit with the film’s sense of style perfectly. As far as the main villain goes, Kingpin works well. His motivation for doing what he does is completely understandable, and by killing the Peter Parker of Miles’ universe early in the film, he quickly becomes an intimidating adversary.
The city’s reaction to the death of Spider-Man is supposed to be sad, but the inclusion of Stan Lee’s cameo during this moment is chilling. While those behind the movie certainly didn’t expect his death, Stan discussing how much he loved Spider-Man and how he is going to miss him is a bit too real. It’s a cameo that almost brought me to tears because of Stan’s recent passing, and it is probably my favorite cameo he’s ever done.
Following a speech from MJ about the loss of her husband, a great touch that makes the loss feel weighty, the film begins to introduce the other Spiders. First and foremost, another universe’s Peter Parker. Now in his 40s, this Peter is barely super and no longer a hero. Having recently buried Aunt May and having gone through a divorce with Mary Jane, Peter is no longer in fighting shape and doesn’t care about being heroic. The scene where he explains his backstory (a great running joke for each new Spider) is both funny and sad, and introducing such a different take on Peter Parker helps to make even the most iconic character feel new. With all the nods to the original Spider-Man trilogy and Peter being as old as he is, this could easily be interpreted as more of Tobey Maguire’s Spidey, a possibility that makes Into the Spider-Verse even cooler. For anyone worried about Jake Johnson’s voice not fitting Peter, stop worrying; his performance is as spectacular as the relationship that forms between Peter and Miles. Seeing the classic Spidey mentor the modern Spidey is plenty of fun, and watching both characters become better heroes because of it is one of the many highlights of the movie.
As for the other four Spiders, there is nothing but positive things to say. Spider-Gwen has the largest role of that group and given how well she fits a movie focused on looking awesome, that’s no surprise. Her flirting with Miles is a great nod to their relationship in the books and getting some of her story in the movie is terrific. She’s likable enough to lead her own movie, and hopefully Sony capitalizes on that potential. Spider-Man Noir is voiced by Nicolas Cage, and that could not be a better casting choice. He looks great, and the movie does a great job of poking fun at his edginess. Peni Parker is adorable and gives Spider-Ham competition for cutest character in the film. Speaking of, John Mulaney crushes it as the super-powered pig, delivering both a super creative action sequence and the funniest line in the movie. The scene where all these extra Spider-People come together to comfort Miles and share their experiences with losing loved ones is another very well-designed moment.
Seeing all these heroes swing and fight together multiple times is an absolute joy, and there are still so many Spiders left to explore. One of the biggest is shown in the post credits scene, and if a sequel does happen, he will absolutely play a huge role. When this scene comes to an end, you’ll be left completely satisfied but wanting so much more. If the same creative team is willing to return for some sequels, Marvel will finally become known for quality animated content. If Sony truly wants to do a Spider-Man universe, this is the right way to go about it.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse works because it knows exactly what it wants to be. With a brilliant art style that makes the movie feel like a comic book brought to life, a wonderfully told origin story not yet seen on the big screen and dozens of great jokes that land successfully, Spidey’s awesome 2018 comes to an end. Into the Spider-Verse shows exactly why he’s back on top and why so many people are proud to be Spider-Man fans. With so many different Spiders being thrust into the spotlight, there is plenty of room for more original stories to be told. The friendly neighborhood hero has never been in a better place.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is my favorite Spider-Man film, and it’s everything a superhero movie should be: smart, exciting, funny and gorgeous.
Gorgeous, Unique Animation +2
Great Acting +1
Tons of Humor and a Strong Soundtrack +1
A Stellar Origin Story +1
FINAL SCORE: 5/5