‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ does something remarkable, it manages to make arguable the most over saturated genre in Hollywood feel fresh again. A new superhero movie seemingly releases every week and yet ‘Spider-Verse’ stands out. It does this not by drawing inspiration from its cinematic contemporaries but instead by taking its cue from the comic books where Spidey made his name.
Of the films many smart decisions, centring the whole thing around Miles Morales, Shameik Moore (“Dope“, “The Get Down (TV)”) is its wisest. Peter Parker’s origin story has been well told, a fact the film pokes plenty of fun at, so avoiding that worn ground was vital. Morales has never been featured in any of Spider-Man’s previous big screen outings and his perspective feels fresh and unique.
Morales has a whole different set of personal struggles to Parker, for starters his parents are still very much alive. The emotional beats between Miles and his pushy, but well meaning, father are among the film’s most heartfelt and impactful.
Of course, Peter Parker is still knocking around, with ‘Spider-Verse’ giving us our fourth big screen iteration of the character. This time the responsibility has fallen to Jake Johnson (“Jurassic World“, “The Mummy“) who does a decent job playing an older and more jaded Parker who’s life has crumbled due to the pressures of constantly saving the big apple.
The student and mentor dynamic between Parker and Morales is pleasing if not especially original. It’s slightly disappointing that cinematic conventions rule their relationship rather than any sound logic though. Miles get really good at being Spider-Man after not all that much training!
As the name suggests the whole Spider-Verse is opened up here so it’s not just Parker and Morales web shooting baddies and swinging across the Manhattan skyline. Joining the battle against Kingpin, Liev Schreiber (“Isle Of Dogs“, “The 5th Wave“), who’s the token big bad here, are Spider-Gwen, Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”, “Ender’s Game”), Spider-Noir, Nicolas Cage (“Mandy“, “Mom And Dad“), Peni Parker, Kimiko Glenn (“Orange Is The New Black (TV)”, “BoJack Horseman (TV)”) and Spider-Ham, John Mulaney (“Big Mouth (TV)”, “Saturday Night Live (TV)”), you know the Spider-Man who is also a talking pig.
Spider-Gwen is thankfully a badass character in her own right and treated as more than a mere love interest for Miles. While Nicolas Cage is wonderfully brooding as Spider-Noir. However, Peni Parker (a female Spider-Man from a futuristic alternative Earth) contributes almost nothing and Spider-Ham, while a funny punch line, is a tad too silly even for an animated feature.
The biggest misstep, of which there are remarkably few, is that the actual Spider-Verse is never explored. A curious decision considering the ‘Into to the Spider-Verse’ subtitle. While we meet several characters from alternative worlds, we never get to explore Spider-Noir’s black and white 1930s New York or Peni’s ‘Blade Runner’ lite version of the Empire City.
It cannot be overstated just how visually marvellous ‘Spider-Verse’ truly this. Not since ‘The LEGO Movie’ has an animated film looked this impressive. The film combines a mix of 2D animation and 3D creating a remarkable straight off the page look. Combined with a killer visual style that crackles with artistic inventiveness and you’ve got easily the best-looking film of 2018.
Multiple Spider-Verses is an inherently silly concept, and if it wasn’t then the inclusive of Spider-Ham certainly makes it so. The film is well aware of this and makes several well-timed jokes at its own expense. ‘Spider-Verse’ often strays into the meta humour territory and is all the better for not taking itself particularly seriously.
In a year which has seen the long awaited culmination of the decade spanning MCU juggernaut ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ makes a genuine claim for being the best superhero movie of 2018. It takes a rather nonsensical plot and several characters previously deemed too ridiculous for the silver screen and packs them into the most visually stunning and joyful feature the genre has ever produced.