Directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahersala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Zoe Kravitz, Nicolas Cage, Kathryn Hahn, Liev Schreiber, Chris Pine
Written by: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman, (Miles Morales created) Brian Michael Bendis, Sara Pichelli, (Spider-Man created), Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, (comic characters created) David Hine and Fabrice Sapolsky
Running Time: 117 mins
Release date: 12th December 2018
It seems now that when one superhero movie leaves the cinema, another comes along to replace it. Just this week we have two entries, DC’s Aquaman and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. The latter is the four incarnation from Sony Pictures but the first big screen outing for an animated Spidey. While that may put off most people, don’t. This turns out to be the most inventive of the movies and injects something special into the whole superhero genre.
Miles Morales is a young boy from Brooklyn whose father is a dominating cop and who goes to a boarding school he hates. He has a passion for graffiti art and while out painting an old subway tunnel, he is bitten by a spider. He soon discovers he has powers he doesn’t understand and when he bumps into a recently deceased Spider-Man, it soon becomes apparent there is something wrong with the universe. A portal has been opened by griefing Kingpin, bringing to Brooklyn a group of Spider-People from varying universes.
What stands out most about this film is just how good the animation is. Managing to capture the feel of the comic books, right down to the colour dots the drawings are made up of, this is the closest to picking up the magazine and flicking through the pages that any superhero movie has got to. While the background gives the effect of a 3D movie gone wrong (I did spend the first few minutes wondering if I had wandered into the wrong screening room), it’s there for a good reason, so you focus more on the foreground and the characters than what is happening behind them.
Then the film shifts into gear once the other Spider-People arrive and this is where the filmmakers really go to town. Managing to mix different animation styles, from Manga/Anime to Looney Tunes simplicity, the film reinvents itself as it goes along, even adding a post-credit sequence that takes the styles one step further. to hilarious effects. You are dazzled at the workmanship this film conveys and at the same time, it never loses what Spider-Man really stood for: a young man given great responsibility and not knowing how to handle it.
Another strength is that it never forgets that mantra. Through the naive Miles, the film shows a boy who would love to control the powers he possesses but he’s got a long way to go. While being guided by alternate Spider-Man or Spider-Girl, or Spider-Man Noir (a black and white Spider-Man voiced by Nicolas Cage) a giant robotic Spider-Man or Spider-Ham, a pig version, Miles has to learn that sometimes it’s better to save one than the world. It’s never hammered home but it’s a message that works throughout.
Having said all this, the film is also a blast, going from the strange to surreal with jokes aplenty to thrill both young and old. From the creative minds of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the guys behind The Lego Movie, it treats its source material with respect while allowing the audience to have a good time as well. It has enough references to the whole Spider-Man universe to keep the fanboys happy, as various villains pop up as well as poking fun at that self-same world (a montage of merchandise including a Christmas album is a hoot).
If you thought the whole Superhero cinematic world was getting weary, think again. This does everything you want from an entertaining movie and then some. You may be dazzled, you may be amused, you may be excited. Whatever your feelings, you will love this and you wish that all Superhero movies could be this much fun.