REVIEW: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Spoiler Free)

The Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse spin-off better bloody be solely a film where the regular J. Jonah Jamieson meets noir J. Jonah Jamieson meets anime J. Jonah Jamieson meets the animal J. Jonah Jamieson (all voiced by J.K. Simmons, by the way) or else I’m done with watching movies.

After being bitten by a radioactive spider, the young Miles Morales is thrust into a universe where multiple Spider-Men seemingly exist as a devilish plot that threatens a series of converging dimensions is set in motion.

So, into the spider- … ah, I meant, into the review we go. It’s been a big year for Spider-Man – from awesome intergalactic adventures with the Avengers in Avengers: Infinity War to critically acclaimed video game status with the simply titled Spider-Man to the weird and obscure Sony solo anti-hero film, Venom; the character of Spider-Man and his general mythos and world has been deeply explored and quite fittingly ‘had its due’ for 2018. But then, along came a spider in the form of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and everything has seemingly changed. Praised as one of, if not, the best superhero film of 2018, amongst also just being one of the best films of the year period, Into the Spider-Verse has been garnering so much attention that many have even come to seemingly call it the web-slinger’s best onscreen outing ever. Just think about that word for a second – ‘EVER’. Big call, right? Well, yeah it is, and even though I have my bits and pieces I want to communicate about this film, I have to agree, for the most part, that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was one of the best depictions of the Marvel character on the big screen. Attaining the perfect mixture of comic book accuracy and a healthy dose of obscurity and freshness, Into the Spider-Verse was a standout in both its genre and animation filmmaking as, I have to admit, Into the Spider-Verse was one of the most entertaining and heartfelt films I have seen in 2018.

In recent years, I have been continuously disappointed and beaten down by the methods for which Sony have taken to adapting Spider-Man to the big screen. I grew up on the Sam Raimi trilogy from the early 2000s and will still go out of my way, through all the series’ cheesiness and faults, to continue holding said trilogy on the highest of pedestals in the superhero genre. However, it was around Spider-Man 3 (to which I have admitted countless times that I do not think it is a terrible movie) that direction for the character got rather ‘shaky’. It was when Raimi’s planned fourth film was cancelled in favour of The Amazing Spider-Man reboot series directed by Marc Webb (I wonder why he was hired…) that the cinematic depiction of Spider-Man got real troublesome with two blatantly sh*tty movies that called themselves ‘Spider-Man’. After the failure of that series, I feel you guys know the rest of the story – Sony decided to collaborate with Marvel Studios which led Tom Holland to depict the character onscreen in countless Marvel Cinematic Universe films, reviving the teenage super in all the best ways possible… but… and there’s always a ‘but’… I was still worried about Spider-Man’s future cinematic endeavours. The character was still technically owned by Sony who utilised said ownership to create Venom – a movie I cannot say I was a huge fan of – and later followed through with their plans to animate Spider-Man in a new interdimensional adventure film… but again, there’s always a ‘but’. And this ‘but’ came in the form of one Miles Morales…

So, Sony was making another Spider-Man movie… again… but, this time it was Miles Morales under the mask.

Miles Morales has been a character fans have been pushing for an onscreen adaptation of for years with even, at one point, Donald Glover campaigning to take the role at a younger age. Not only is it super-duper cool that Morales has been placed front and centre of Into the Spider-Verse, but what’s amazing is that through this choice of perspective, filmmakers have finally cracked what makes Spider-Man so damn special – ‘difference’.

Spider-Man is special to generations of people because he is different. Different to every other superhero, vigilante, guardian – whatever you want to call them. You see, Spider-Man’s popularity is due to his youth, his relatability, his constant mistakes and ability to pick himself back up and charge forwards. Spider-Man personifies every one of his fans – and its because of Spider-Man everyone strives to be different. Into the Spider-Verse works because it acknowledges one’s greatest strength is to be themselves, standout, make an impression, find a singular identity and in turn be different to the rest of the crowd – and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse entirely preaches ‘DIFFERENT’.

(Sony Pictures Animation, 2018)

The characters were fresh. The world felt new and diverse. The animation and art direction appeared like nothing seen before in cinema. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a brave and fearless film, creating a story so vast and ambitious and yet so deep and fulfilling that the flick never felt like a re-tread of earlier Spider-Man movies or superhero movies in general. Utilising creative storytelling elements and world-building techniques to inspire humour and heart, Into the Spider-Verse easily crafted a well-done spectacle without skimping on the necessary human element – the ‘man’ element – the Spider-‘Man’ element. And it just so happened our Spider-Man this time around was not completely Peter Parker…

Returning to Miles Morales, Into the Spider-Verse worked so well because of this character. With our beloved Peter Parker being pushed to the sidelines, Morales was able to take centre stage in such electrifying ways. Awesome how Morales encapsulated the same feeling and tone of previous incarnations of Spider-Man without feeling like a complete redo of the same character. Morales may have not Parker, but under the mantle of Spider-Man he was just as much the same character we, the audience, have fallen in love with since the 1960s. The love and compassion seen in Morales’ devotion to his cause along with the character’s cunning and ingenuity all amounted to comfortably familiar but a radically new and exciting protagonist voiced extremely well by Shameik Moore.

Oh, and by the way, that’s not to say Peter Parker never appeared or made much an impression in the film. The Parker depicted in Into the Spider-Verse was slouchy, deadbeat and kind of a has-been… which worked perfectly, especially through the voice of one Jake Johnson. This may have not been the same Parker we are used to, yet this version was such a welcomed one nonetheless. The chemistry between Parker and Morales was on fire as Parker’s characterisation and his personal struggles with serious issues like possible depression really allowed for an emotional and inventive arc to take place for one of comic’s most iconic characters. Also, in the film, Hailee Steinfeld’s Gwen Stacey really shun as Spider-Gwen or Spider-Woman, or whatever you would like to call her. The character really stuck out as an exhilarating, vibrant newcomer for which I understand now 100% why Sony want to spin her character off the most.

As for other characters, I really liked how the film utilised Morales’ father, Jefferson Davis, voiced by Brian Tyree Henry and Mary Jane Watson, voiced by Zoe Kravitz, to great emotional effect. A standout character would indeed have to be Lily Tomlin’s Aunt May for which… my gosh, you have to see it to believe it. And also, we have the film’s central villain, Liev Schreiber’s Kingpin whom I really really liked. It’s been a strong year for the character of Kingpin with the amazing third season of Netflix’s Daredevil and now this: Kingpin’s character motivations did exactly what any good villain’s motivations should do – made you empathetically entwined with the baddy and his plight whilst also allowing the narrative to move forwards logically and smoothly.

Also, real quickly, Mahershala Ali’s Aaron Davis was possibly Into the Spider-Verse’s best utilised character whilst Kathryn Hahn’s Dr. Olivia (no spoilers) was so inventive and separate in comparison to previous Spider-Man movie villains that I unconditionally loved her.

As for the other Spider-Men… wow, were they all handled perfectly. My personal favourite would have to be Nic Cage’s Spider-Noir and his 1930s overly serious Batman appeal for which offered some laugh out loud comedy and was complimented greatly by the mysterious and deadpan voice of Cage. Kimko Glenn’s Peni Parker fulfilled all my anime hopes and dreams with impeccable character design and an awesome backstory to really sell her as a wholly original and cool character. Meanwhile, the Looney Tunes inspired, Spider-Ham, voiced by John Mulaney, was such a huge hit of obscure nostalgia and greatly executed humour that it could be argued there was not enough of him. In fact, all the Spider-Men were so unique by offering plenty to be enjoyed and adored, that you could say their brilliance was all due to a smattering of separate reasons. One reason could be the genius voice acting – another could be the writing – but most importantly, in my opinion, it was the animation that really highlighted the best of all the Spider-Men.

In general, the animation in Into the Spider-Verse was some of the best animation I have ever seen – like ever – like ever ever – like EVERRRRR. Literally appearing like a living and breathing comic book complete with thought boxes, visual sound effects and detailed half-toning, Into the Spider-Verse was one of the most unique endeavours in animation history to the point that the film would even deserve legacy status purely from the way it looked. The colours were all so vibrant and gorgeous – there was never a dull frame to be seen throughout Into the Spider-Verse as everything appeared visually packed together in such different and ambitious ways. Into the Spider-Verse was a damn well beautiful sight for sore eyes and nothing, I repeat nothing, felt poorly done – it was all so mind-blowing.

Returning to the characters, in particular the Spider-Men, the animation and general designs of the protagonists offered such juxtaposition and colour contrast that everyone appeared so uniquely separate. Into the Spider-Verse would allow the anime inspired designs of Peni Parker to clash with the 2D Looney Tunes inspired designs of Spider-Ham to furtherly clash with the black and white old timey inspired designs of Spider-Noir to really sell the film on diversity – on difference, for which is the theme I continue to return to.

If anything, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse understood the importance of difference – why standing out should not be something one is ashamed to do, but proud of. Into the Spider-Verse may be the best Spider-Man film to completely understand and re-reflect the role of Spider-Man to audiences of all ages. The character is an inspiration – he’s a hero, not just because of what he does in comics and movies, but from what he inspires people to be. Into the Spider-Verse aligned itself with the themes of Spider-Man as a character so well with brilliantly constructed scenes of growth and acceptance as a large standout sequence to me happened to be a singular wall-walking moment of conversation between Parker and Morales for which showed off the pair’s relationship in the most brilliant and visual of ways possible.

Phil Lord and his screenwriting companion, Rodney Rothman, have created something entirely unique and of its own with Into the Spider-Verse. For a while now, I have gone around calling Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 and Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming the two best and penultimate Spider-Man films, with the latter taping into the character with the best onscreen portrayal ever… but now, Into the Spider-Verse has changed all that. Unlike Spider-Man 2 and Homecoming, Into the Spider-Verse had the upper hand by working in animation. Hayao Miyazaki said before that anything is possible in animation and Into the Spider-Verse, through creative means in designs and colour, crafted a visually faithful comic book world, enabling the filmmakers to dive deeper into the mythos of Spider-Man than any film before it could have. So, I guess now, whenever I am asked what the best Spider-Man film is, I’ll just have to say this: “Spider-Man 2 is a great film, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a great MCU film but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the best Spider-Man film”.

So, with a kick-a** soundtrack and an end credits sequence to best all end credits sequences (seriously, you have to stay for the end credits – it’s the best!), Into the Spider-Verse may be 2018’s most surprising and fulfilling hit. A film for literally all ages, Into the Spider-Verse provides fun, excitement and heart through its complete understanding of its central character, ultimately standing out and achieving so much because of one crucial aspect – it’s different.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is, in fact… Lost Art


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One thought on “REVIEW: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Spoiler Free)

  1. What an outstanding film -between Homecoming and Spiderverse, these standalones are really hitting those notes. And another fantastic review! I always look forward to reading your take when returning from the cinema.

    Liked by 1 person

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