It has taken awhile since his comic book debut back in 2011, but Miles Morales has finally made it to the big screen. What’s exciting about his debut is that we get much more than just his character with this story. It really could have been a disaster, with tons of relatively unknown Marvel characters and plot points to sift through for newcomers. I’m happy to say it does not falter during its roughly two hour run-time and is quite easy to digest. I honestly didn’t think anything could top Incredibles 2 this year for animated films, but Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is an absolute joy from start to finish and is one of my favorite films of 2018.
This story takes place within Miles Morales’ (Shameik Moore) universe. When he’s not drawing graffiti or doing tons of assignments and trying to fit in at his fancy new school, he’s spending time with his Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) who he admires. One night while spraying graffiti in an abandoned part of the subway, Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider and this new iteration of Spider-Man is born. Unbeknownst to Brooklyn and its citizens, the major villains that dwell in this universe are putting together a dimensional rift machine within this abandoned subway. Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) wants to bring his family back so he has created a device to reach out into new dimensions so he can be reunited with his wife and son again. Because of the use of this device though, there are severe implications involved. It has opened up portals to other universes that have other Spider-Men (and women) within them. Another new, much older Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) emerges from one of these universes and reluctantly takes on the task of training Miles with his newfound abilities. Along with some new friends, there’s hope of reversing the damage Kingpin has done and sending all these Spider-characters back to their worlds.
What’s amazing is that this film works and comes together in the end to create something that is new and exciting and pretty easy to digest despite the fact that there are tons of characters with different backgrounds and origin stories that most folks have probably never seen or heard of before. Miles Morales being the character that truly gets the most screen time and story beats is handled very well. He comes from a loving family and is a great role model who believes in doing the right thing, no matter the risk. His super powers are also unique in that he has the usual Spider-Man abilities like wall crawling but he can even turn invisible and emit electricity from his hands. There’s Spider-Man Noir (Nicholas Cage), a dark and brooding version of the character that carries a gun and beats up Nazi’s in his realm. Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) who doesn’t have the traditional Spider-Man powers. Instead, she pilots a giant mech that she controls with the help of a psychic bond with a radioactive spider. Spider-Gwen/Gwen Stacey (Hailee Steinfeld), who is usually known as the girl that Spider-Man killed (by accident). In her world, Peter Parker is dead and she’s a punk rocker/superhero who can hold her own. Finally, we have Spider-Ham/Peter Porker (John Mulaney), who looks and sounds like something straight out of a Looney Tunes cartoon (they make a hilarious reference to that in the film) complete with dropping anvils on enemies and smashing them on the head with a giant mallet. Even the villains who show up are great and have a different look and feel that plays around with their tried and true costumes and design.
Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman (with a screenplay by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman) are clearly having a lot of fun here. The film is so inventive and there are so many great comic book moments throughout that you can’t help but smile. There’s no shortage of love for the source material and plenty of cool Easter eggs to watch out for which means more fun for the audience. There has been a bit of worry that Sony didn’t know what to do with the character (or Marvel properties in general) and that the character was better left in the hands of Disney, but with Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse that is clearly not the case. It’s not afraid to take risks with its story and it’s a better movie because of this. Who knows where the next films in the franchise will take us. I just hope Scarlet Spider shows up at some point.
When describing the animation, the film really is a comic book come to life, complete with thought bubbles, descriptions during different scenes, it all looks fantastic. What’s great as well is that each character has their own design, so Peni Parker and her giant mech feel like they came straight out of a Japanese Anime with the animation to go with them. Each character is unique but they all mesh together despite their different looks which couldn’t have been a small feat to pull off. The film looks and flows fluidly and builds up to a climax that is literally dimension collapsing and looks amazing in motion. The only issue I had with the look of Spider-Verse is that sometimes I thought I was watching a 3D movie without the glasses. It looked a bit blurry in some parts where I felt it shouldn’t, but it was just a minor nuisance that went away shortly after once my eyes adjusted to this new style of animation.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is an exciting, ambitious new entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that is a joy to watch from start to finish. Sony and the entire cast and crew have pulled off something truly amazing here. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of these Spider characters sooner rather than later. Also, be sure to stay right until the end of the credits (you’re welcome). – NVJ
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is now playing in theaters