Hard to believe that just four short years ago, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 acted as a second nail in the cinematic coffin for the webslinger. After the film’s loathsome critical reception tagged with a high, but supposedly disappointing box office return, Sony buckled down and granted Marvel Studios to welcome the character home in the MCU. Ever since 2016’s brilliant Captain America: Civil War, the character of Spider-Man has once again become a fan favorite, whether it be in part to Tom Holland’s pitch perfect portrayal, or the wondrous highs that the PS4 game had in mass abundance. Now, in the twilight of 2018, Sony once again takes another crack at making a Spidey picture. This time, with the help of Sony Animation, the final result is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a weird, offbeat and gloriously entertaining odyssey that perfectly captures the essence of the title character in ways never seen before. Sony has finally struck gold.
Into The Spider-Verse is the first film to center on fan favorite Miles Morales. The film follows his all too relatable high school days, as he maneuvers through one awkward encounter after another. Complete with a conflicted family life at home, we can truly see Miles’ emotional plight that is tailor made for Spider-Man. Before we know it, multi-dimensional elements hit the normalcy of his life like a train, leading him to meet Peter Parker, albeit an older (and fatter) iteration. Before you know it, a slew of (mainly) unknown and obscure versions of Spider-Man pop up, including Spider-Noir, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Ham, a pig version of the character (Homer Simpson would be so proud), and an anime inspired take called Peni Parker.
The synopsis given may be seen as vague, and rightfully so. Movies are to be cherished and met with a sense of mystery and discovery, and Into the Spider-Verse has this in mass abundance. The visual palette is something to fall head over heels for. Take a comic film like Watchmen, which was touted as a comic film brought to life, perfectly realizing the moody visual aesthetic of its source material, working as a perfect cinematic translation of Alan Moore’s original. Nearly ten years later, here we have a film that practically transports the audience into the comic book panels, delivering the most comic book-y film ever put on screen. The animation uses this to its full advantage, with Sony Animation delivering an innovative and at times groundbreaking view of what a superhero movie could and should be. Speech/thought bubbles are used to great comedic effect, giving the film a spontaneous feel with an urgency that only some of the best comedic films achieve. The use of color and lighting are something to behold, possibly offering the most visually appealing film of the year. A recent gripe that I’ve had with many MCU films is the at-times lifeless direction given to scenes that don’t involve action. Too often does the camera do the bear minimum to show that two characters are having a conversation. In the case of Into the Spider-Verse, the visuals only heighten and amplify any and all emotional heft provided within these characters.
What makes Spider-Man such a beloved character is his optimism, his will to keep moving forward despite being dealt with a bad hand. Even given all the adversity that one could possibly endure, both physical and emotional, the character of Spider-Man finds a way to progress, to outdo and grow from the present danger. This film perfectly encapsulates this characteristic. No matter how dire things seem for Miles Morales, his first instinct is to think how he can make things right, when a lesser person would submit to the pain. By the end of this, Miles Morales becomes a beloved addition to the vast Marvel cinematic landscape, proving to be more than worthy to earn the name Spider-Man.
In a year of true superhero triumphs, whether it be the cultural shockwave of Black Panther or the cosmic juggling act that was Infinity War, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse stands out by being a visually intoxicating odyssey compared to the normalcy of the two aforementioned films. It’s clear from the get-go that the filmmakers are crafting this movie with love, knowing full well what makes the character so special and Stan Lee’s greatest creation.
Final Grade: A+