Action, Animation, Brian Tyree Henry, Chris Pine, Comedy, Hailee Steinfield, Jake Johnson, John Mulaney, Kathryn Hahn, Liev Schreiber, Lily Tomlin, Mahershela Ali, Nicolas Cage, Shameik Moore, Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Superhero movies
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a breath of fresh air, a film that takes the mythos of Spider-Man and does something radically different and wholly original. I’ve never seen an animated film like this before; the film is stylized in a way that is made to reflect a comic book, and takes total control of the animated medium in order to create something that never could have been achieved with live action. At the core of it is a great human story about how anyone can be a hero, but the film is very much defined by its style; when we see so many comic book films, this one stands out as one thats sporadic, silly, goofy, and weird.
Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is a teenage artist who’s caught between the warring ideologies of his strict police officer father (Brian Tyree Henry) and his carefree Uncle Aaron (Mahershela Ali). After a radioactive spider bites him, Miles is assigned a mission by the one and only Spider-Man Peter Parker (Chris Pine)- to destroy a super-collider that summons alternate dimensions created by the evil Kingpin Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber). On his adventure, Miles joins forces with alternate Spider-Mans from different dimensions, including Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), Spider-Woman/Gwen Stacey (Hailee Steinfield), Spider-Ham/Peter Porker (John Mulaney), Spider-Noir (Nicolas Cage), and Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn).
This may be the most viscerally exciting action movie I’ve seen since Mad Max: Fury Road; every scene explodes with energy and wit, using comic framing devices and language to create something that looks wholly unique. Music and artistry are key features that are used to define Miles as a character, and the result is character development that is told in an untraditional manner. The action is exciting and fun, and goes to over the top lengths that reflect comic books, but never could have been accomplished with live action.
Each alternate Spider-Man brings their own visual style to the film, and as Miles learns to forge his own identity as Spider-Man, we see how similar ideas and themes can be incorporated across different iterations. Miles’s story is rooted in discovering how he differentiates himself, both from other Spider-Mans and from his family. I also loved the story of Peter B. Parker, and how he tries to atone for the mistakes made in his dimension.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is so richly layered that it demands multiple viewings just to take in every moment, joke, and feeling. In just one viewing, I was most struck by the film’s touching tribute to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, artists who inspired others through the message that superheroes were just like me and you. I think Into the Spider-Verse honors that message in the best way possible. Grade: A