By The Nerdling
It is genuinely difficult for me to contain my glee for this movie. If you look at other reviews and social media, many are calling Into the Spider-Verse one of the best superhero movies they have seen. I know in a year that gave us Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War that is a massive statement. But I have to agree with them and take it a step further. This might be the most well-done superhero film yet. The reasons why is the ambition this film has and how much it manages to accomplish.
Into the Spider-Verse is an origin story for Miles Morales’s (Shameik Moore) Spider-Man, a tribute to past Spider-Man films, a loving homage to all those who created the numerous variations of this beloved character, and a self-referential take on the many universes in comic books. The animated film incorporates several variations of the character of Spider-Man. What makes the film so unique is how the animators managed to blend the different styles of these characters.
Miles exists in a universe where there is already a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man (Chris Pine) out fighting crime who is wildly popular. During a night out with his Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali), Miles is bit by a radioactive spider. He wakes the next day with super powers. Investigating where the spider came from, Miles stumbles upon Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber) opening a portal to other universes.
When the portal is opened, other Spider-People are pulled into Miles’s universe. An older, burned out Spider-Man/Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), who agrees to be Miles’s mentor. Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), a version of Gwen Stacy who was bit. Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), a dark and gritty Spider-Man from the 30’s area who is all in black and white. Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) who powers a mech suit called SP//dr which is partially controlled by a radioactive spider with whom she shares a psychic link to. And Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) a spider who was bit by a radio active pig.
It is a confusingly large cast of superpowered people. But directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman helming Phil Lord and Rothman’s script allow for each new Spider-Person to have a very memorable introduction.
The massive team of animators (142 animators, by the way) brilliantly blend the unique visual styles of all these distinctive universes. None of the wildly different characters look out of place. Noir’s black and white, Peni’s anime look, Gwen’s neon brightness, Spider-Ham’s cartoonish style, and the traditional lines of Peter all are able to exist within Miles’s stippled world.
The entire look of Into the Spider-Verse is so unique. Each frame is like stepping into a comic book panel. The traditional “WHAM”, “THUMP”, and “THWAK” appear. Thought bubbles follow characters. The third act insanity is truly spectacular. It could have been a visual mess, but the three directors keep the action and story grounded. Comic books and the artists behind them are properly honored through these different animation styles. Steve Ditko and Stan Lee are given a special tribute at the end of the film.
I could go on and on about the visual beauty of Into the Spider-Verse, but really it needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.
In addition to Into the Spider-Verse’s amazing animation, the voice talents bring the characters alive. The characters feel like real people and not cartoons. Cage as Noir was a spectacular stroke of genius. He may not be as in the forefront as Peter, Miles, or Gwen, but Noir steals ever scene he is in.
Lord and Rothman’s script is heavy on the jokes and self-referential moments, but there is surprisingly a great deal of heart. Miles is struggling with his transfer to a big private school in a nicer part of town. He doesn’t feel as if he fits in and is overwhelmed by the work. He is at odds with his father (Brian Tyree Henry) who knows his son has so much going for him. While much of this is brushed aside once the action starts, it is evident it will be a recurring plotline for the announced sequel.
The only real flaw Into the Spider-Verse has is it glosses over a really big emotional moment for both Miles and his father. There are two major death’s in the film. The first one happens pretty early. If you saw the after credits teaser with Venom, you know exactly who it is who dies. This death effects Miles’s decisions for the rest of the film. The second death should have been a really big, life altering moment for Miles and his father. But it is addressed too quickly and virtually no repercussions come of it. I’m hoping it becomes a major plot point in the sequel.
The one flaw aside, Into the Spider-Verse takes on several iterations of a loved character and creates a stunning world I am excited to go and visit again. With all the positive buzz, not only has the sequel been announced and already begun production, but there will be a couple of spinoffs. One focusing on Spider-Gwen and all of the female Spider-Women in the comics. Lord and producer Christopher Miller have expressed their want to do a series of shorts featuring Spider-Ham.
Into the Spider-Verse is hands down the best superhero film. It is visually stunning, filled with great action sequences, but is not lacking in humor or heart. The voice talents bring the characters to life and you will leave the theater filled with so much joy. Especially with the hilariously genius post-credits scene. Do yourself a favor and go see this film. Or if you have already seen it, go see it again.
The Nerdling was born in the majestic land known as Texas and currently resides there after several years of journeying through Middle Earth in a failed attempt to steal the one Ring from that annoying hobbit, serving the Galactic Empire for a time, and then a short stint as a crew member on the Serenity. Since moving back to her homeland, Nerdling flirted with a hero reputation. Saving children from the dangers of adoring domineering, sparkly vampires (champions with souls are the only vampires worth loving) and teaching normals the value of nerdom, all while rooting for her beloved Dallas Stars. Then came the Sokovia Accords and her short spell of saving others came to an end. With Darth Vader’s reputation rightfully returning to badass status, Nerdling is making her way back to the Empire. They do have cookies, you know. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.