“Alright, let’s do this one last time.”
I’ve only read one comic book in my life. Pretty sure it came with a Happy Meal, now that I think of it. I was always more into the Sunday paper strips, sitting down to enjoy The Far Side, Dilbert, Garfield. A few lengthy Calvin & Hobbes collections still serve as my bathroom reading material to this day. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse walks and talks and oozes the sensibilities of comic books even if you haven’t the faintest idea of what that really means, and the story surrounding this game-changing piece of portraiture packs heart and laughs aplenty. It’s easily the best animated film of the year, as well as one of the most surprising.
Packing some serious surprises and a few big twists, the less I say about Spider-Verse’s plot the better. Here are the basics. Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) lives in Brooklyn with his parents, attends a boarding school, has a skill for the art of graffiti. That last one doesn’t bode well by his police officer Father (Brian Tyree Henry), so Miles often seeks counsel from his Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali). The kid is bit by a radioactive eight-legged freak, witnesses a fatal fight between Spider-Man (Chris Pine) and Kingpin (Liev Schrieber), and becomes the burrough’s new de facto, neighborhood friendly superhero. He has to learn on the fly.
The movie thoroughly builds this world and fills it to the brim, introducing Miles to different iterations of Spider-Man from parallel dimensions. This is a huge leap for an animated film to make, and it works because the drama unites the protagonist and the antagonist together as one. Worlds collide after Kingpin uses a behemoth device hoping to see alternate versions of his deceased Wife and Daughter, and at the same time Miles is introduced to five different iterations of the web slinger. The anime Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), and Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), an older and plumper Spidey who’s about fed up with the gig. The image above illustrates one of the finest aspects of the film; while they look different and are wholly unique, this menagerie of characters share the same soul. Seeing a young POC elevated and finally celebrated as a superhero alongside dissimilar folks is a landmark moment in film for the year.
With resonating themes about letting go and facing your fears, Spider-Verse truly is a remarkable movie, albeit an extremely dense one. Featuring some great self-referential humor and call backs to previous film adaptations of the character, all while breathing life into a completely new specimen for newbies like myself, each and every one of the storylines succeeds whilst also feeling a bit truncated, cut short so as to make room for more and more and more. And maybe it’s just me, but I was absolutely lost during the psychedelic climatic battle. It’s a stunning sequence to look at, the pastel colors practically bursting off the screen, and yet I literally could not discern where or what was going on because Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse refused to stop moving. That’s one of its greatest strengths, and briefly its biggest blemish. What an exciting film though. My senses tell me that this creative spark plug has permanently changed the animation genre for the better.
“You’re on your way.”
Rating: 4 out of 5