The first Spider-Man film debuted in 2002. Since then, we’ve had seven feature films about Marvel’s webslinger. Out of all of them, this is the first in the series since Spider-Man 2 that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. Spider-Verse begins like all the others: the tragic origin story of Peter Parker. But we get hit with a zinger: Peter Parker isn’t the only one to wear the mask.
(This review is spoiler-free.)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse tells the story of Miles Morales (voiced by The Get Down‘s Shameik Moore), a teenager who admires Spider-Man and struggles to survive teen life in Brooklyn. When fate bites Morales on the hand and an accident opens the door to multiple universes, Morales becomes one of the many Spider-Men that team up to save New York City.
Miles Morales just started attending an elite boarding school and struggling to meet his parents’ expectations. He looks so uncomfortable with the uniforms and uniformity of the school, much preferring his old brick and mortar public school in Brooklyn. Miles feels like an outcast, losing himself in tagging walls with spraypaint – not the hobby that the son of a cop should have. His life changes like all of the Spider-People because of a bite. After he is bitten, his powers don’t just change him. They alter the look of his whole world. From a pulsating spider-sense and his thoughts appearing on colorful caption boxes, Miles’ world gets more interesting to see on screen.
Miles doesn’t have Peter to guide him on his journey as a Spider-Person…at least not the one in his neighborhood. The device used by the Kingpin (voiced by Liev Schreiber) breaks down the walls to multiple dimensions and creating the way for more web-slingers to come to Miles’ universe, including another Peter Parker (voiced by Jake Johnson). This OG version of Spider-Man is reluctant to be a mentor, a disheveled version of the hero we’re used to seeing. Where you think that he should know everything to teach Miles, this Peter Parker doesn’t know much. He’s a veteran who is at the end of the It was interesting to see this shade on the original Spider-Man. Peter Parker is all over Spider-Verse, I can’t say anymore without spoiling the film.
Another character we’ve long awaited to see is Spider-Gwen (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld). This super-heroine is another popular iteration in the Spider-Man franchise and has only grown in popularity with fans in the comics. This sassy and sarcastic heroine is the right amount of girl power in the film. She might have the best set-up for a sequel or spin-off film. Nicholas Cage lent his voice to another Spider-Man character that I enjoyed seeing on screen. All the other Spider-people hail from loopier worlds, including Spider-Pig (if you are thinking of Looney-Tunes, you’d be right).
Spider-Verse is aiming for the opposite of realism. The 2.5D (if you aren’t watching this in 3D) universe is fascinating to watch on screen. The visuals take their cue from Miles’ graffiti but there is also inspiration from four-color comic book illustrations. The opening credits with the various studio logos transforming with eye-popping psychedelic glitches is a clear sign that is is not going to be your every day animated movie.
Focusing a film on Miles feels like a soft franchise reset. The much loved 2000’s Tobey Maguire trilogy channeled into Spidey’s mid-60’s origins in a retro Manhattan with elevated downtown trains, supervillains hiding out on a waterfront and corded phones. The Amazing reboot franchise, while it started off strong, is not my favorite. Andrew Garfield’s Parker is a moody Xtreme sports science whiz who probably listened to Panic at the Disco! or Sum-41.
Tom Holland’s played Peter in three of the highest-grossing movies ever made, two of them being ensemble films and one solo adventure. The next solo outing, Far From Home, could be enjoyable depending on the results of Avengers: Endgame and the formula they will be following. Holland’s been popular among fans and I don’t mind him being a protege of Tony Stark’s Iron Man. I just hope he can separate from that title in his next solo film.
This film is probably the best Spider-Man film that I’ve seen since Spider-Man 2. The bold storytelling along with the animation made this film one of the best I watched this year. The heart and humor blended in with the superhero action makes a perfect recipe that not all films, especially in this genre, reach. The idea of a mixed-race superhero was revolutionary (It still is). The main heart of the film comes from Stan Lee’s original concept he and Steve Ditko had for the character: That any normal person can wear the mask. It doesn’t matter if it is a man, woman, or animal… Anyone can be Spider-Man.
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