Alright people. Let’s start at the beginning. (Little joke you’ll understand when you watch the movie).
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is the latest Spider-Man film to come out from Sony Pictures. This time, however, it’s an animated film focusing on Miles Morales instead of the usual Peter Parker. Don’t worry though – Peter is here too, along with a few other variations of Spider-Man from across the multiverse. But the question on everybody’s mind is, is it any good? Short answer: It’s absolutely amazing. For the long answer, let’s dive in to this.
First things first: This movie is beautiful. The art direction takes the comic book origins of the character and runs with it. Sound effects are visually represented on screen with impact wording (Thwip! Pow!), characters’ thoughts are shown in thought bubbles or text boxes, and the entire film’s texture makes it look exactly like a comic book. On top of that, the animators make sure the art styles for the various Spider-heroes are unique to their original realities. Spider-Ham, for instance, looks like a classic Looney Tunes-era cartoon character while Peni Parker looks like she was taken straight out of an anime. Spider-Man Noir, besides always being monochromatic, seems to have harsh lighting regardless of the situation, because the deep shadows of a Film Noir are infused into his very character. All of this is layered on top of a brilliantly-designed world filled with colorful neon signs and stylized graffiti.
Now, let’s talk about some of the characters. Miles Morales is a fantastic hero to base the movie around. After some defining events for him early in the movie (trying to keep this spoiler-free) he goes on a journey to figure out who he is. Along the way, he finds others to help guide him in the form of the myriad Spider-Heroes in the film. His character carries a lot of the emotional weight in the film and Shameik Moore does an amazing job bringing that emotion to the screen with his vocal performance. Also, I’m not sure if they did facial captures for the actors or not, but the animation of the expressions is spot-on for the entire film.
All of the casting is brilliant. John Mulaney as Spider-Ham is particularly inspired. His comedic style works wonders with a character who is basically Porky Pig in a Spider-Man costume. I am not going to lie, I was worried when Nicolas Cage was cast as Spider-Man Noir. I love this character and was worried that we might get one of the weirder Cage turns, but instead we got a charming, while still a little dark, performance that characterized the 1930s era crime-fighter perfectly. Kimiko Glenn brings a high-energy charm to Peni Parker which makes her anime-inspired Spider-Mech suit feel like a perfect fit for her. Each character’s visual style is accompanied by a matching soundtrack that is unique to them. It’s a cool thing for a movie with an already incredible soundtrack.
Mahershala Ali brings his gravitas to Aaron Davis, Miles’ uncle whose emotional conflict leads to one of the defining moments of Into The Spider-Verse. Hailee Steinfeld brings a bit of punk rock and a lot of heart to her Gwen Stacy performance. As one of the lead Spider-Heroes, she carries as much weight as Peter Parker in Spider-Verse, and does so with style and grace.
Now, let’s talk about Peter Parker. Jake Johnson plays the beloved wall-crawler in a surprising turn that places him in a different light. This isn’t the same happy-go-lucky webhead we’ve known across 8 movies and 58 years of comics. He is older, if not wiser, and has struggled to be heroic in the face of new challenges. His own self-doubt mirrors Miles’ and the character arcs they both go through lead them to be better people, and ultimately better heroes. Peter might not be the lead in this movie, but this still might be the best version of Peter Parker to ever hit the screen.
At it’s heart, that’s what this movie focuses on: The relationships between its characters. There might not be a better example of this than The Kingpin. As the villain in a Marvel superhero movie, Kingpin wasn’t guaranteed to be memorable, or have a motivation that makes sense. It would have been easy to give him a standard “take over the world” goal, letting the spectacle carry the viewer away. But the filmmakers didn’t go that route. Kingpin’s goals are, despite the process it takes to achieve them, relatively simple. They are personal and emotional and based on failings shared by the movie’s heroes. It adds emotional heft to the final showdown, which, despite taking place in one of the coolest and most inventive action set pieces I have seen in a movie to date, has narrow, simple, and very personal stakes for both Miles and the Kingpin. Those stakes help balance the climactic battle far better than most other superhero films. Yes, the world and multiverse is at stake, but the viewer stays focused on Miles’ family and what the outcome will mean for them. It grounds the movie with a sense of emotional realism.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Stan Lee cameo in the movie is really gold. There is also a nice tribute to him in the credits, but the scene itself is absolutely perfect. It’s funny but poignant aside about what it means to be a hero, and especially to be Spider-Man. Stan Lee always had a soft spot for Spider-Man and it shows here.
If I had to say one thing bad about the movie, and that’s a tough thing to do, I would say they kind of rush through the origin stories for three of the Spider-Heroes, but, honestly, it doesn’t matter. By that point in the movie, you know the Spider-Man origin story and can recite it with them. These aren’t immensely different characters than what we have seen, but that is kind of the point. As a hero, Spider-Man is an inspiration because he is the best parts of who we are. It doesn’t matter who is under the mask, because it could be anybody. It could be us if we are brave enough to take that “leap of faith,” and this might be the first Spider-Man movie to ever truly capture that. As someone who enjoys watching fun, visually unique films, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is breathtaking in its design, with a strong narrative and emotional backbone to support the stylized visuals. As someone who grew up reading Spider-Man comics, this is the best version of one of the greatest comic characters of all time. If you are even a little bit interested in this movie, go see it. I promise you it’s worth it.
10/10 Perfectly Spider-Man
If you liked Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse or didn’t or just wanted to talk about all those easter eggs in it, hit me up on twitter @DanielDunston