Into the Spider-Verse is a bold movie. It kills off it’s most recognisable character in the first act. It introduces not one but six unique Spider-People into a cinematic world already full of superheroes. It uses an animation style that looks radically different to anything else. And it aims itself clearly at a mass audience with a story-telling device mainly reserved for the comic-book geek. As bold as these key parts are; the film is unique and successful because of it.
Spider-Man is one of the most recognisable superheroes in the world and the movie plays upon this familiarity by doing away with the Peter Parker we all know and love. This film is boldly focused on a new superhero, Miles Morales, a boy who is cool but struggling to fit in at a new school. It establishes his family, his social-life and social faux-pas without feeling like a cliched, well worn story which we’ve seen a hundred times before.
In fact, the original and bold approach is what makes Into the Spider-Verse work so effectively. It is a new hero and although Morales will become Spider-Man, he gets his powers in a different way. The movie is even self-aware enough to recognise when it is retreading old ground, highlighting that we have seen the Spider-Origin many times before so gives a brief account and moves on swiftly.
Although the film decides to kill off the most recognised Peter Parker, in a scene which is heroic and shocking, it doesn’t lack Spider-People. The draw of Spider-Verse was that this is a film featuring many different versions of the same character. Apart of Morales, whose view we see these events from, the two “main” Spider-People is a tired and dysfunctional Spider-Man called Peter B. Parker and the more impressive and much cooler Gwen Stacy. These two are the focal point for the “multi-verse” angle of the story and make this Spider-Man movie so much more different than anything else you’ve seen.
It helps that Spider-Man is so well known. It means that a slob Spider-Man, brought to life by the excellent Jake Johnson, works because you know what he should be like. He is funny because he has let himself go, even though you can recognise all the elements which still make him a recognisable Spider-Man. The same for Gwen Stacy. It is cool to see a female superhero so sure of herself, with little emotional baggage but a lot of cooler elements. She isn’t reduced to a female love interest but does have a complex and dynamic story which is explored without bogging down the rest of the movie.
It is these interactions, between Morales who wants to be taught so badly how to be Spider-Man and the other two confident Spider-People from other universes which is the meat of the story. It is about how to become a hero, how anyone can wear “the” mask and unlocking your unique potential. These are not unique messages but Spider-Verse manages to deliver these messages in a way which touches upon the emotion of each character by never feeling cheesy. It also helps that the movie is never too far away from a joke either and is genuinely very funny.
Some of those gags are slap-stick and a lot play on the unique visuals. The animation is supposed to mimic that of a comic strip and does so very well. For some it may seem very jarring but once you let it settle, you find it is a technique that is primed for plenty of animated action. The finale itself is a huge, colourful, multi-verse explosion and implosion which uses the animation to eye-popping effect. Not to mention some of the cooler moments included, like when Morales finally embraces his inner Spider-Man.
Spider-Verse is not perfect though. It does suffer from three Spider-People too many. The story would have worked very well with the core three but introduced midway is Spider-Man Noir, Peni Parker and her anime robot and Spider-Ham (which is as ridiculous as it sounds). These are all cool versions of Spider-Man and will appeal to the true Spider-geeks but really don’t add enough and the movie would be no different if they weren’t included (even if it is cool to hear Nicholas Cage as Noir).
This is minor and the characters are nothing more than annoying distractions in a practically perfect animated movie. It is bold and original, playing with a well-known character in a wholly unique way. It has plenty of potential and could be the Sony superhero franchise they have always been looking for.
Overall, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a bold and daring animated movie which pays off in spades. It is funny, unique, clever, heart-felt and uses animation in an inspired fashion. Although it has three-too-many Spider-People, the characters are brilliant and open up a whole new possible superhero franchise.
Rating – 5!
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)
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