The hero with a thousand (webbed) faces
Review: Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse
Starring: Shameik Moore, Mahershala Ali, Liev Schreiber, Brian Tyree Henry, Hailee Steinfeld, Jake Johnson, Lily Tomlin
Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse is the best Spider-Man film.
Not best animated film.
Since the character’s film debut in 2002, Sony (and later, Marvel themselves) have had multiple attempts at capturing what makes the character so compelling. While each have succeeded to some extent, Into the Spider-Verse captures the franchise mythos and the major lessons in a way that McGuire, Garfield, and Holland somehow don’t.
Part of the reason here might be the medium, in that this animated film takes the audience into what in many ways feels like a moving comic book. The animation style is comparable to Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s recent classic, The Lego Movie, but has its own distinct style.
Into the Spider-Verse is loosely based on the comics’ Spider-Verse event. It brings together multiple universes’ versions of the Spider-Man character, including the likes of the Miles Morales/Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir (Nick Cage), Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney). When the Kingpin and one version of Doctor Octopus use a supercollider to try to bring back his dead family, the resulting chaos brings these heroes together, forcing them to work together to stop reality from collapsing altogether.
Since his debut in 2011, Miles Morales has been a great addition to the Spider-Man family. For all of these other characters, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is very much Miles’ story, featuring much of his origin story from The Ultimate Spider-Man. As a new hero, Miles must overcome a lot of intense pressure to stand alongside established veterans, a story that mirrors his personal struggle to fit in and succeed at his new elite charter school. While Miles is mentored by another universe’s weary, older version of Peter Parker (a character with his own struggles), he has no real preparation for the situation he must face.
Into the Spider-Verse’s script manages this big cast of characters well, balancing things nicely. Without ever being tokenistic or making a marketing push out of it, Marvel have long managed to give the Spider books a diverse cast. Here, each character is introduced with a complete backstory and an accompanying comic book cover.
Lord and Miller continue their legacy of making poignant animated films, with dialogue that is both hilarious and surprisingly deep.
While Into the Spider-Verse doesn’t quite gets to the point of acknowledging the audience in the same manner as Deadpool, Into the Spider-Verse is self-aware and self-effacing. It doesn’t quite break the fourth wall, but it acknowledges that it is there.
Stan Lee’s recent passing gives Into The Spider-Verse extra impetus. The film has Lee’s first posthumous cameo (one of his best overall) as well as a touching tribute to both Lee and Steve Dikto, the first artist to draw Spider-Man.
The film also features an incredible soundtrack, featuring the likes of Post Malone, Nikki Minaj, Blackway and Black Caviar, among many others.
For parents with small children, Into the Spider-Verse has a number of worthwhile points to impart, but it is at points violent. For older children (and all of us with an inner child) there are great points about the risk-taking, personal growth, and an interesting take on the Spider-Man character as a whole.
In a crowded super-hero genre, Into the Spider-Verse stands out. It provides the film introduction of Miles Morales, a jumping-off point for an animated films franchise, and the best Spider-Man film to date.
As is the case with all of these films, stay for a post-credits sequence that opens things up for the inevitable sequel.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is playing now in cinemas.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor