“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” combines smooth animation and novel writing into a movie unique to a market saturated by generic action flicks.
Starting with the 2002 “Spider-Man” movie starring Tobey Maguire, movie studios have spent the better part of two decades trying to get this iconic superhero right on the big screen. With “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” they have finally hit the mark. Three characters set this story in motion: Miles Morales voiced by Shameik Moore, Spider-Man (Peter Parker) voiced by Chris Pine, and the main antagonist of the movie, Kingpin voiced by Liev Schreiber. The movie centers around Miles Morales, a 13-year-old boy struggling to find himself, when he is bit by a radioactive spider in an old subway station. He exists in the timeline of a Spider-Man that is meant to be an amalgamation of all the onscreen Peter Parkers that came before him, a young charismatic hero who has the heart of New York City as he keeps them safe from evil. This Spider-Man meets his end in a catastrophic incident while he was trying to prevent Kingpin from creating a transdimensional portal, a death that Miles bore witness to when he went back to the old subway station looking for the spider that bit him. As Spider-Man is dying, he tasks Miles with a mission, to disable the portal, and that is the basis for the rest of the movie.
Several storylines blend together to keep the audience enraptured all the way to the end, a testament to the pacing and world-building in the movie, as the runtime is just shy of two hours. Although Miles opens as the anchor story and remains so throughout the movie, the rest of the characters are fleshed out in a way that make them compelling, allowing viewers to become invested without being overwhelmed. Peter B. Parker voiced by Jake Johnson, the first alternate universe Spider-Man we meet, is a haggard and demoralized version of the character who spends most of the movie making self-deprecating and sarcastic remarks and serving almost as an anti-hero. Throughout the movie we see how interacting with Miles, and even unwillingly, teaching him the ropes helps him regain a sense of self. The rest of the motley crew of alternate universe Spider heroes also seem to grow from the movie in their own, much smaller, character arcs. The attention to detail in the story development in the movie is incredibly impressive and one of the key factors in making this movie such a success.
The animation of the movie was a feat of technological advancement and dedication to the project. It is meant to inspire the feeling of being inside a comic book, with line work and speech bubbles and the look of comic art — but in fully fleshed out CGI animation. This was achieved by combining the aforementioned CGI with 2D techniques and the results are impeccable. Each of the multi-verse characters looks like the type of animation their character would have. For example, Peni Parker voiced by Kimiko Glenn, is animated like one would expect of anime-style animation, and the Spider-Noir, voiced by Nicholas Cage, style is presented with what one would expect if mystery novels were animate. They each exist within the main comic book frame but look and feel like their own separate characters, which allows audiences to really immerse themselves in the notion of the multi-verse.
The movie has everything going in its favor — a compelling story, a brilliant script, and gorgeous animation. The writing was brilliant, the humor of all types abounds, especially from Peter B. Parker whose apathy and dry wit play into larger situational jokes. Each character plays into their universes’ ‘genres’ for their humor, for example, Spider-Noir relies on overly dramatic and exaggeration statements, which comes from noir novels’ convoluted and dramatic plots. Miles is a main character of color, whose race is not used for politically correct brownie points but is instead just a part of his identity. Miles is an Afro-Latino character, not a caricature, and that is a very important part of what solidifies this movie. Fundamentally, the movie represents a divergence from the cookie-cutter superhero movie we have all come to expect, with a diverse range of characters and intelligent script writing that elevates the movie from a simple kid cartoon movie to an artistic piece.
Director: Peter Ramsey, Robert Persichetti Jr., Rodney Rothman
Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali
Image courtesy of IMDb