Directors: Peter Ramsey, Robert Persichetti Jr., Rodney Rothman
Voice Actors: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfield, Liev Schreiber, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Nicholas Cage, Lily Tomlin, Kimiko Glenn
Runtime: 2hrs Rated: PG
Watch the trailer here
Due to the sheer number of movies, video games, and cartoons that have been released, Spider-Man is one of the most well known superheroes in pop culture history. Considering the huge success of the recent Tom Holland version of the character along with the excellent PS4 game, there wasn’t really a reason to expect an additional take on the character to come out any time soon.
Then, out of seemingly nowhere came Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse. My interest in this film started out moderate as I thought the trailer was pretty good and hoped it would be half way decent considering Sony’s hit or miss history with Spidey. By the time the movie released my excitement was building as I had seen all of the overwhelmingly positive early buzz. Even then I still had no idea how much fun this movie would actually be. Not only is this hands down the best animated movie of the year, but it’s also fair to throw it into the running as one of the best superhero films of the year, period. I would even go as far as to say that this is one of my favorite Spider-Man movies ever.
This movie is a blast for all ages.
Don’t let this being an animated film fool you into thinking Spider-Verse is targeted solely at kids; there is more than enough packed into the film to keep everyone thoroughly entertained. Even if you normally shy away from animated films, do yourself a favor and give this one a try while it’s still in theaters as the big screen is undoubtedly the movie’s intended format. (If you have kids just use them as an excuse to see it…I won’t tell).
Spider-Verse tells the story of Miles Morales, a fan favorite from the comics, who takes over the mantle of Spider-Man in an alternate timeline of the Marvel universe most people will be familiar with. In this version, things get out of control when an elaborate device used by the Kingpin, Wilson Fisk backfires and brings different versions of Spider-Man from other alternate universes to Miles’ timeline by accident. Once assembled together, the team of Spider-People have to stop Kingpin as well as a host of other villains in order to get back to their own timelines before it’s too late. This is a comic book plot through and through.
The animation is unlike anything you’ve seen before.
First and foremost though, I have to talk about the style of the animation; it’s unlike anything I’ve seen in a film before. The creative team actually created new techniques, taking inspiration from vintage comic printing methods to create a vibrant world that feels like a comic book come to life. No, actually it feels like several comic books being mashed together into one gorgeous story and then brought to life. The screen often divides into multiple comic book style panels, thought balloons and caption boxes appear in scenes, and sound effect words pop up such as the “thwip” sound of web swinging. We even get to see the famous squiggly lines that symbolize Spider-Man’s “spidey sense” going off. I recommend if you’re able to, see this on an IMAX screen. I rarely say that for a movie but having the largest screen possible will add to the visual scope of the movie.
Literally the only negative I can come up with for the entire movie is that as a side effect of the art style, there are some scenes where the foreground/background looks out of focus or distorted. It can make it difficult to see what’s going on at times but never actually ruined a scene for me. For a brief moment I did think I had accidentally stumbled into a 3D showing of the movie. I heard somewhere that the out of focus effect was intentional and meant to showcase the repercussions of multiple universes colliding. It all sounds cool, but it still takes a min to get used to and could be jarring for some.
This is 100% a comic book story, but better executed than many live action films.
The story is well executed and never failed to keep me entertained or engaged with what was coming next. The 2 hour run time flies by, and if anything I would have been fine if the movie was just a bit longer. This is Miles’ story and focuses on him growing into his unique powers as Spider-Man. We get a good look into his family dynamic and what that means for this Spider-Man. There are also creative twists on some of Spidey’s well known villains that helps to keep things feeling familiar yet new.
While the movie is entertaining for all ages, there are some very positive messages for kids and is a great family film. It also can’t be understated the importance of bringing an African American/Latino Spider-Man to the big screen. What I liked most of all about this was that no one made a big deal about it; actually I’m pretty sure Miles’ race is never even brought up by anyone in the movie. He just is. Miles becomes the Spider-Man of this timeline and it’s great seeing the hero from his unique perspective and personality.
The cast is an all star, stellar line up with literally everyone involved giving excellent performances. Nothing feels “phoned in” and each Spider-Man or Woman has their time to shine with their own distinct personalities that are enjoyable in their own ways. Each gets a unique version of the same introduction which is perfectly executed; giving the exact information you need to know for each. Much of the humor in the film comes from taking these very different Spider-Men and forcing them to temporarily co-exist. I’m not sure who thought of it but Nic Cage as Spider-Man Noir was a stroke of genius.
Speaking of humor, Spider-Verse is jam packed with intelligent comedy that will have you laughing from start to finish. So many moments do such a great job of subverting what you expect to happen in simple yet hilarious ways such as Miles’ reaction to being bitten. Jake Johnson as “Peter B. Parker” does a fantastic job delivering the quipy lines you’d expect from Spider-Man. Johnson isn’t really someone I would have thought of to play Parker, but he brings a wit and sarcasm to the role that reminds me of his character in the show New Girl and now I don’t know how I never saw the possibility before.
There are a ton of villains in this movie; each one is not only visually creative but also has a unique twist on how you may be used to seeing them. It would have been nice if the villains had a similar introduction to what the heroes received, telling the audience why the Green Goblin is a giant monster or who the heck is Hammerhead. The lack of these intros doesn’t hurt the movie, I just think those who don’t read comics will be interested to know more. Because this is an animated film, the fight scenes are also much more elaborate than what you might normally see in a live action film. The screen explodes in action and color in true comic book fashion.
The music score is fantastic and gives as much character to the film as the visuals; it not only fits with Miles’ overall style and personality but it also does an excellent job of building the excitement and tension of each scene. I enjoyed the overall sound so much that I’ve added it to my work playlist rotation.
A couple final thoughts.
Maybe it’s the fact that this is the first cameo I’ve seen since his passing, but the Stan Lee cameo is one of his most memorable; as heartwarming as it is funny.
There is an after credits scene at the very end, and while it may or may not have been hinting at a sequel, it was very funny and another example of how this movie subverts your expectations in hilarious ways.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider verse is a near perfect superhero masterpiece, packed with equal amounts of humor, action, and heart. From the visuals to the music along with the exceptional voice acting and story, there is almost nothing negative I can say about this film. The only thing I can muster is the occasional “out of focus” look of some of the shots that may be annoying to some. There’s already talk of a sequel which I can’t wait for as I definitely want to jump back into this massively entertaining universe.
Cinematic Quality: 4.9 out of 5
Fun Factor: 5 out of 5
Worth the price of admission: 5 out of 5
Re-watch Value: 5 out of 5
Overall Score – 4.97 friendly universe hopping Spider-Peeps out of 5
Check out these great character posters for the film: