Sony’s collaboration with Marvel for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse somehow manages to defy the odds by delivering one of the greatest superhero movies you’ll ever see onscreen. Believe the hype because this kind of movie doesn’t come around very often – one with a perfect balance of ground-breaking animation, absorbing characterisation and genuine heart.
In a quite remarkable turn of fortune, Sony have managed to salvage their Spider-Man license with truly amazing results. Spider-Man: Homecoming was a masterstroke, and proved that collaborating with Marvel can only be a good thing (with Tom Holland’s Spider-Man playing a major role in Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War). Venom has pulled in an absurd amount of money worldwide (which I don’t quite understand, personally) but it’s set them up nicely for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, perhaps their most ambitious and risky endeavour to date.
It was a bold move to create an animated film about the Spider-Verse (a Multiverse where other Spider-People exist in their own dimensions, with their own origin stories). Aside from the comic book world, these characters aren’t as well-known or mainstream as other established Marvel heroes, and having had so many Spider-movies hitting our screens over the last 15 years there was a real risk of overkill. Thankfully, the end result is simply stunning.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a truly remarkable movie. From the first minute to the last, your eyes are dazzled with incredible visuals, story, characterisation, spectacle and heart. It’s an emotionally-driven ensemble that utilises some outstanding next-level animation to create a total package that needs to be seen to be believed. Sony Animation has crafted a genre-defining masterpiece that will stand the test of time.
Our story begins with teenager Miles Morales (Shameik Moore). He’s a well-liked kid who has gained admission into a prestigious prep-school downtown. His father, a police officer named Jefferson Davis (Brian Tyree Henry) is a strict but loving dad who just wants what’s best for his son. As good at school as Miles is, he also has a free-spirited nature – something that’s nurtured through his Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali). One night, his Uncle shows him an abandoned area of the New York subway system with a big, empty wall that’s perfect for Miles’ favourite pass-time – doing graffiti art. Whilst down there he gets bitten by an odd-looking spider, but doesn’t give it too much thought to it.
The next day, and after exhibiting some strange side-effects like sticking to walls, Miles goes back into the subway to find the spider. He stumbles upon the real Spider-Man (Jake Johnson) having the fight of his life to try and destroy a collider-machine that is causing a rip into other dimensional worlds. Wilson Fisk aka The Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) has caused multiple dimensions to converge resulting in Spider-People from other walks of life arriving in New York – Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney). Together they join up with Miles to try and put an end to Kingpin’s plans so that they can all return home before it’s too late.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse easily sits as one of the best films of the year and has endless possibilities attached to it. The visual language of the film really is that good – a movie that triumphs on every level to deliver one of the best movie-going experiences you’ll ever get. I’ve never seen a visual style of animation quite like this. It may take your eyes a few minutes to adjust to it, but it’s so worth it. Mixing traditional comic panels with a pop culture explosion of styles, this is one of the most gorgeously rendered films I’ve ever seen. Mix in a killer soundtrack (kudos to Daniel Pemberton) and you have a stylish and stunning visual feast to savour.
As good as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse looks, it’s the storytelling that packs the biggest punch. Bringing Phil Lord and Chris Miller (who acts as a producer) onto the project was Sony’s best move. The writing team of Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman combined with the directing team of Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman have created one of the most emotionally-invested comic-book films you’ll ever see. Every character (and I do mean every character) in this movie is fleshed out properly and has emotional weight behind them. All of the humour and spectacle (of which there is an abundance) works effortlessly off of a story that always knows what its priority is – the human element. It’s a perfect marriage of style and substance that’s endlessly entertaining, and one that will stand the test of time.
The ensemble cast are all incredible. Shameik Moore is outstanding as Miles and leads the film with relatable charm and grace. Whoever thought to cast New Girl’s Jake Johnson as Peter Parker deserves an award as he is simply hilarious and makes for an incredibly entertaining Spider-Man. Hailee Steinfeld is awesome as Spider-Gwen, Kimiko Glenn and John Mulaney always raise a chuckle and Nicolas Cage steals all of his scenes as Spider-Man Noir (a spin-off for him and Spider-Gwen in particular please!).
Brian Tyree Henry carries a lot of the films emotional weight and is brilliant as Miles’ father. Mahershala Ali is the cool uncle we all wish we had, Lily Tomlin makes for a great Aunt May and Liev Schreiber brings a fresh new take to Kingpin. Elsewhere, there’s solid support from Luna Lauren Velez as Miles’ mother Rio Morales and brilliant vocal work from a few characters that make some surprise appearances.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is inclusive, diverse and game-changing cinema that has injected fresh new life into the blockbuster superhero genre. Make sure you stay until the very end of the credits too for a cracking joke mixed in with a drool-inducing look at what’s to come in a sequel. There’s also a nice ‘thank-you’ nod to the legacy that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created, and Stan Lee also appears in the film for his customary cameo role, made all the more poignant after his recent passing. I’m sure he would have been pleased with the end product, because Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is sensational and simply unmissable. It also acts as a real statement of intent for how superhero adventures will be told in the future.
Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Nicolas Cage, Kimiko Glenn, John Mulaney, Liev Schreiber, Luna Lauren Velez, Lily Tomlin Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman Writer: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman Released By: Sony Pictures Certificate: PG Duration: 105 mins Release Date: 12th December 2018