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It’s hard to get excited for another Spider-Man movie when there’s been a new one put out roughly every two years since 2002.
The Sam Raimi/Tobey MacGuire version crumbled under the weight of it’s 3rd film, swollen with characters and some truly obnoxious performances.
The Mark Webb/Andrew Garfield movies showed minimal promise and went down in flames with the Rise of Electro, which—if you’ll excuse the pun—was so shockingly bad that Garfield hasn’t been seen since.
Marvel intervened and struck a deal with Sony, who they’ve been tussling with over rights to the character for years. They injected Spidey into the Avengers timeline (and broader Marvel cinematic universe) via Tom Holland and Spider-Man Homecoming. It scored a pass, but wasn’t anything special.
Which brings us to the here and now with Spider-Man, Into The Spider-Verse. Now in really simple terms here’s the thing with Marvel and Sony—because Marvel signed away the license for Spidey to Sony before Marvel Studios became a thing—as long Sony pays their licensing fee and keeps making Spider-Man movies, Marvel Studios probably wont get their hands on him in his entirety any time soon.
So my first reaction when they dropped a trailer for this earlier this year wasn’t necessarily why, it was just indifference. However upon actually watching the thing and seeing the cool comic book visuals I was immediately intrigued.
Who made it?
We’ve got three directors in Bob Persichetti—who is well know for his animation work on Puss in Boots and Wallace and Gromit, the Curse of the Were Rabbit—Peter Ramsay who has worked as a highly respected storyboard artist for tonnes of great movies like Being John Malkovich, Fight Club and Sausage Party—and Rodney Rothman who’s worked as a writer for Letterman and produced Forgetting Sarah Marshall among many other things. They’ve teamed up with writer Phil Lord who’s best and most famously known for his work on screenplays for the Lego Movie and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
Their combined resume is stacked!!! And so is the story for Spider-Man, Into The Spider-Verse. It’s incredibly ambitious, which drew some speculation from this jaded old movie goer.
What’s it about?
We’re talking trans-dimentional stuff here. Miles Morales becomes the Spider-Man of his universe with the help of several other Spider-Men (and Women) from parallel universes. They have been brought into Morales’ world and need to stop a host of villains ranging from the Kingpin to the Scorpion from crashing the multi-verse and ending life as everyone knows it.
You get to see all these ‘what if’ versions of Spider-Man. What if Spider-Man was a washed up loser? What if Spider-Man was from the 1930’s and a detective? What if he was a she and Gwen Stacy got bitten instead of Peter Parker? What if the radioactive spider was part of the CPU of a mech piloted by Japanese teenage girl? What if Spider-Man was a cartoon pig? It’s like Spider-Man meets Sliding Doors in some ways, or Spiding Doors perhaps? Or not?
But it is crazy to think this could work in the one movie right? Multiple Spideys zipping about, a huge gallery of rogues all mashed into one film but guess what? It does! Thanks to some great writing and the awesome character that is Miles Morales. They take their time to weave him through the centre of the story he ties the audience to the other characters without making the plot feel crowded.
Who’s in it?
The voice cast is huge and I don’t want to single too many out because of spoilers. Some of the standouts for me were: Jake Johnson as Peter B Parker, Hailee Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy, Leiv Schrieber as Wilson Fisk, John Maleny as Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham, Brian Tyree Henry as Jefferson Davis, Mahersala Ali as Uncle Aaron, Shameik Moore as Miles and Lily Tomlin was excellent as Aunt May. They’ve also managed to wrangle Nicolas Cage as Spider-Man Noir!
The animation for this movie takes a little getting used to in the early scenes but it is really colourful and beautiful. I especially liked the way each of the characters from their respective universes were drawn in a different style, for example Penni Parker is Anime, Peter Porker is very Looney Tunes and Spider-Man Noir is black and white.
While there is loads of fast paced colour and movement that should melt your retinas into a bloody salsa, it’s handled really well by ensuring each scene has a focal point that you can follow without losing your lunch. All backed up by a great soundtrack that keeps the story thumping along.
In spite of all the apprehension that comes with yet another iteration of Spider-Man, using animation to put you back into the pages of the comics instead of taking you out of them was a really smart move. Animated doesn’t mean it’s just for kids either, it contains a few adult themes and jokes that will fly right over the kiddies heads but land nicely with the older audience. There’s a depth to the bad guys that adds much more weight to the story and the character of Miles is the perfect everyman, which has always been the secret to Spider-Man’s success. He’s a guy just like any of us, plucked from his normal existence and forced into filling a much bigger pair of shoes.
Finally Spider fans have a movie they can love as much as the character. This is not only the best Spider-Man movie there is, I think it’s also one of the best super hero movies and probably the best animated film I’ve ever seen.