INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” centers on Miles Morales, a young teenager who himself gets bitten by the radioactive spider that turns him into the new Spider-Man. Soon enough, he meets former Spider-Man Peter Parker, who reluctantly teaches him how to use his powers as a force for good. Along the way, they meet up with four different versions of the same superhero: Spider-Gwen, Spider-Ham, Peni Parker and her mechanical suit SP//dr, and Spider-Man Noir, discovering that they are all connected through a multiverse known as the Spider-Verse, comprising of different Spider-Man-related universes.
The film presents itself as a deconstruction of all the familiar aspects of the Spider-Man story and an embracing of everything we love about its mythos. To that end, it succeeds on both fronts, but it also does so in unique and unconventional ways. Much of the screenplay features Peter Parker’s signature wit and one-liners in full force times two, thanks in no small part to the involvement of “Lego Movie” directors Phil Lord & Christopher Miller. This is all masterfully balanced out, however, by Miles’ character arc as he discovers who he is and takes that leap of faith in utilizing his newfound powers. With the origins of the different Spider-Verse characters being quickly sped through, the film gives them room to come into their own and showcase their own abilities as well. All of the other characters, including such supporting players as Miles’ parents, have distinct features and personalities that make them all the more diverse. The action feels so much more dynamic here by containing all of the numerous visual details of a comic book and capturing that same intensity. The world-building is presented as a compendium of different aspects to urban New York, which benefits the more universal aspects of the story.
What stands out about the animation itself is how the artists at Sony Pictures Animation take full advantage of the stereoscopic 3D effects and unorthodox techniques to create CGI unlike anything that has ever been seen before; it can best be described as a three-dimensional plane with a two-dimensional style. They go to great lengths to replicate the iconic Spider-Man pencil line art, text/thought bubbles, split-screens, and offset printing panels, giving off the illusion of a comic book in motion, with the occasional flashes of colorful static imagery. Likewise, this extends to the visual onomatopoeia, spider sense/exclamation effects, glitching, and assorted visual aesthetics of Spider-Man Noir (black-and-white), Spider-Ham (cartoon), and Peni (anime). The entire voice cast successfully do their job in making these characters compelling, with Shameik Moore proving to be an absorbing presence as Miles, learning so much more about himself and everything in the multiverse. Jake Johnson’s interpretation of Peter Parker is one that is more jaded yet also more of a mentor figure for Miles. Hailee Steinfeld portrays Spider-Gwen, and she balances things with a more down-to-earth approach in her performance. John Mulaney’s Spider-Ham provides some much needed physical comedy to the wiz-bang action, while Nicolas Cage captures the brooding mannerisms of Spider-Man Noir extremely well. Supporting performances from Brian Tyree Henry as Miles’ father Jefferson, Mahershala Ali as his uncle Aaron, and Liev Schreiber as Kingpin all help to elevate the Daniel Pemberton’s score resembles a blend of electronic music beats and Danny Elfman-style orchestration, which significantly adds to the multiverse setting, as does the hip-hop and rap-oriented soundtrack. The film feels that much more poignant with a posthumous cameo appearance from the late Stan Lee, as it showcases his significant impact on the comic book landscape as a whole.
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” with its dazzling comic book-style animation, emotionally gripping story, and captivating characters, proves to be not just the best Spider-Man movie in quite some time, but perhaps even one of the best in the superhero genre.