Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse (2018)
Film review #353
Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
SYNOPSIS: Miles Morales is a typical teenager who is starting at a prestigious new school. While hanging out with his uncle Aaron, he is bitten by a radioactive spider and finds he has developed similar powers to Spider-man himself. He runs into Spider-man, who is trying to stop Kingpin from opening up a portal to other dimensions in order to bring back his family. This fight results in Spider-man being killed, and Miles is left as the only one who can stop Kingpin’s schemes. However, he soon finds out that he is, in fact, not alone, as various others who have inherited the powers of Spider-man have found themselves in Miles’ dimension when Kingpin activated his machine, and they must all team up to stop Kingpin and find their way back home…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse is a 2018 animated film. The film starts of by introducing Spider-man, or Peter Parker, as he has become the well known superhero everybody loves. The opening provides a quick recap of who Spider-man is, his origin story, and so on. If you’re watching the film, then you probably have a good idea of the various facets of Spider-man lore, but it helps set the scene nicely without spending too much time retreading the same well-worn ground of the origin story we all know. There are a few sly references thrown in to previous iterations of the Spider-man franchise, which offer something new to those who are familiar with it. The film starts properly by introducing Miles Morales, a teenager who is starting a prestigious new school thanks to winning a lottery and has to leave all his old friends behind to find he doesn’t quite fit in at his new school. While the film started off briefly introducing Peter Parker as Spider-Man, Miles Morales’ story is much less known, so the film takes a while to get going by introducing his character, his family and so on. His origin story isn’t so different from Peter’s (he gets bitten by a radioactive spider much the same), so the beginning does re-tread ground a little, but tries to intersperse the story with Miles’ unique position and as a character most people are unfamiliar with.
While trying to come to terms with his new powers, Miles encounters Spider-man, who is attempting to stop villain Kingpin from turning on a large machine which will open up a portal to other dimensions and cause catastrophic damage to New York City. Miles is entrusted with a memory drive that can shut down the machine, but before Spider-man can escape, he is caught and killed by Kingpin. This is quite a turn in the film, and it delves into the aftermath of Spider-man’s death and the effect on the people of the city. Miles also finds himself personally without anyone to teach him how to use and control his new powers, which adds to his problems. However, he soon runs into Peter Parker, or Spider-man: not the one that he saw killed, but one that was pulled from another dimension when Kingpin’s machine was activated. This Peter Parker is older and more jaded than the one Miles familiar with, and is set up as one that has lived through a large number of troubles, including breaking up with his wife/childhood sweetheart Mary Jane, which has left him a bit of a wreck. The Parker/Morales relationship that develops between the two is a cross between a father-son relationship and a ‘buddy cop’ kind of movie, where the experienced partner reluctantly takes on a rookie, and eventually learns to trust people again and so on. The film also plays around with Morales’ troubled relationship with his Dad and his more friendly relationship with his uncle, which all leads to developing a very complex web (pun intended) of relations and interactions. We are perhaps so familiar with superhero origin stories that they are rendered a little sterile and without impact, and Into the Spider-verse does a good job of playing with that. It also does it with a diverse cast and characters who you don’t see as much in superhero stories, which will also appeal to a different type of audience, while also providing enough substance for veterans of the franchise. Spider-man is often shown as a hero who works alone, with no side-kick or partners, so the film’s attempt to provide something new and also true to the formula provides a good variety of content and delves deep into the Spider-man mythology without it becoming too overwhelming.
The highlights of the film are numerous, but I’ll try and focus on the important ones. The Parker/Morales relationship as mentioned is portrayed very well, and while not the most original dynamic, it projects it into a superhero story that is usually told with only one hero. Praise definitely should also be given to the composition of the scenes as the dynamic perspectives and interspersed comic book effects really portray the kind of energy of a comic book come to life. The animation too is like nothing else attempted before, and captures high speed, action-packed scenes with a high amount of intensity and vibrant colours achieved through a technical expertise I can’t really fathom. Each character also has their own unique figure or animation style, and that helps contribute to the diversity of the film. Not only do a whole cast of Spider-man’s from various dimensions, but there’s also a number of different villains for them to face off against, and plenty of twists and turns in the story keep the energy flowing throughout the entire film.
There are a few negative points, but they are pretty minor, and don’t detract very much from the positives. While the Parker/Morales partnership is well developed, the other Spider-man characters aren’t explored and developed anywhere as near as much. They provide some variety, but most of their screen time is providing grounds for a specific joke or a bit of dialogue you would expect them to say, which flattens their character somewhat. There are also one or two times when the dialogue isn’t clear over the songs they play, but these are all minor moments and not a huge problem. The soundtrack itself is not particularly appealing to me (not a criticism because it is not aimed at me), but some of the songs are a bit more wide appeal.
Overall, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse tells a familiar story in the Spider-Man universe, but does it with new characters and old, cramming in references to all other iterations of the franchise while providing a fresh take on some of those familiar elements. The animation and composition is strong and displays a technical competency while also putting it to good use developing a colourful and vibrant aesthetic. The action is fast and intense, the humour is silly, appealing, and the serious moments have distinct impact. There are some elements of the film that are underdeveloped somewhat, but because the film is so filled with characters and content that is to be expected. Into the Spider-Verse is a film that will appeal to and entertain those who are familiar with all the Spider-Man iterations and those who are new to the franchise.
Also; this film probably has the best post-credits scene ever.