Into the Spider-Verse: A Real Stunner
Just when you thought that superhero films have grown stale, here comes Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse swinging in with wit and swagger. After being fired from Solo, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, AKA the creative minds behind The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, bring their unique talents and fresh vision to the Spider-Man Universe, with a groundbreaking visual style that's the first of its kind.
Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is juggling his life between being a high school student and being Spider-Man. However, when Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk (Liev Schreiber) uses a super collider, another Spider-Man from another dimension, Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), accidentally winds up in Miles’ dimension. As Peter trains Miles to become a better Spider-Man, they are soon joined by four other Spider-Men from across the “Spider-Verse”. As all these clashing dimensions start to tear Brooklyn apart, Miles must help the others stop Fisk and return everyone to their own dimensions.
The first thing that is immediately apparent about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is how absolutely terrific and groundbreaking the animation is — the film establishes the tone straightaway with the opening credits, which are full of vibrant style and epileptic twitch (a la Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void), setting the stage the delightful, family-friendly insanity that’s about to unfold. The stunning thing about the animation, once the film starts proper, is just how accurate directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman (and team) have filmically captured the feel of a comic book, complete with panel-by-panel moves, thought bubbles and description boxes, and all.
Lord and Miller wanted the film to feel like "you walked inside a comic book", and they were able to achieve this with masterful effect by combining computer animation with traditional hand-drawn comic book techniques, which were inspired by the work of Miles Morales's co-creator Sara Pichelli, including “line work and painting and dots and all sorts of comic book techniques” to make it look like it was created by hand. To make it feel more like a comic book, it was animated without motion blur, and came up with substitute versions of the traditional squash and stretch animation principles, “so that in texture and feel it felt different, but it still achieved the same goal.” This revolutionary achievement took a team of 142 animators, which is the largest animation crew that Sony Pictures Imageworks has ever employed, and each iteration of Spider-Man is given their own unique look and feel.
Narratively, the film is not as groundbreaking, but is nothing short of thoroughly engaging, fun and entertaining, emotionally resonate with heart and oozing with wit. It juggles the 7 different Spider-Men/Women with grace and ease — which include Peter Parker (Chris Pine), Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) — giving everyone their time to shine and unique quirks that set each individual character apart. The story packs in action, emotion and laughs, while maintaining the most important message of all: “Anyone can wear the mask. You can wear the mask.”
The pacing is incredible, and it moves from moment to moment without any dead space or fat to trim. The film has some absolutely superb action sequences — maybe some of the best of the year — and the way that the some fight scenes move through space and time (like the brawl at Aunt May’s house) is truly astounding. No matter how chaotic events may become, the story is always grounded by Miles, and everything always returns to him; his struggle, emotions, hopes, dreams and doubts. Most of the primary characters have arcs, but Miles is the biggest, most important, and touching.
To top everything off, the film is complete with a fantastic ensemble cast — probably the best ensemble of the year — who all really embrace their characters and give them added touches. My favorites were Nicolas Cage as Spider-Man Noir, channeling Humphrey Bogart, John Mulaney hamming is up as Peter Porker/Spider-Ham, and Kathryn Hahn’s wacky Doctor Octopus, but all cast members are absolutely remarkable. Its score also bumps pretty hard.
I was rendered nearly speechless by this, and I consider it the new animation high bar, well deserving to be among the ranks of other superhero masterpieces like The Dark Knight and Logan.
Recommendation: Whether you’re a diehard comic nerd or just looking for a good time, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has something for everyone and will not disappoint.
Rating: 5 spidey senses outta 5.
What did you think? Were you blown away by Spider-Verse? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!