Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Bryan Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin
Directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Runtime: 117 minutes
Release Date: 12th December 2018 (UK)/14th December 2018 (USA)
Jo S: There has been such a richness of comic book related movies this year, you could be forgiven for thinking that Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse was one too many to bother with. “Meh, it’s animated”, “Pffff, it’s for kids” you might say, and maybe find something else to see or watch another Christmas movie on Netflix. I am here to tell you, you MUST see this movie and if you’re a comic book fan too then you are in for the treat of the year. From the start this has a totally new feel - characters are inklined, like a comic book, and surfaces are made up of close-packed dots, not to make it look more realistically textured, but instead to make it look like a kind of classy, hi-tech newsprint. Kirby Krackle abounds, filling the screen with bubbling brightness, and there are continual tricks of focus and perspective, blurring of elements to fool the mind into wondering what’s real and of this dimension and what might be from another place entirely. As the different universes are brought together, what could have been a contrived tangle of different art styles are instead seamlessly woven together, their incongruities becoming greater than the sum of their parts, and as the newest Spider-Man begins to get a feel for his powers, his thoughts appear in old-skool thought bubbles bouncing across the screen.
...but I’m getting ahead of myself. The title clues you in to the basic concepts here: we begin in Miles Morales’ version of Earth - the son of a cop, he’s a scholarship-winning kid with potential who is already struggling with responsibility and the temptations of life outside academic study when a combination of events leads to the Peter Parker of his world coming to harm in a mysterious incident and Miles himself to acquire the super-powers required to take on the Spidey-persona. Voice actor Shameik Moore makes Miles relatable and believable, one of an excellent cast of voice talent who adeptly bring the heart and soul to this story: the trailed set piece where Miles’ dad (voiced by Bryan Tyree Henry) demands he express his love for his dad publicly is superbly timed. Miles’ relationship with errant Uncle Aaron is played by Moore and Mahershala Ali with great subtlety, and the awkwardness of his first proper encounter with Gwen Stacey (Hailee Steinfeld) is captured brilliantly - and, talking of the trailer, it was interesting that Peter Parker’s line about ‘What makes you different is what makes you Spider-Man’ doesn’t appear in the movie itself; the edition of Parker delivering Miles’ training (voiced by Jake Johnson) is a darker, chunkier, more jaded version of Spider-Man and this line would, it seems on reflection, be out of character for him.
The direction and writing moves the movie along a nearly impossibly creative line, avoiding the pitfalls of multiple corny origin stories, instead playing them for laughs by almost literally pitting them against each other. And that’s the biggest strength of this film - along with the phenomenal quality of the visuals, it is absolutely hilarious throughout; I think I laughed more at this than any other movie this year. I need to see this again as a matter of urgency to take closer notice of the neon billboards and phone contacts lists - multiple in-jokes clearly appeared in both which will need forensic nerd-analysis.
Stan Lee’s cameo was bound to be something of a lump-in-the-throat moment, but it’s done beautifully, raising a smile, and the movie gives both him and Steve Ditko their deserved respect in a simple but moving tribute.
The dynamics of the various Spider-Entities are phenomenally fluid and superbly animated, absolutely enormous action scenes thwip around at breathtaking speed and nary an unplanned-for jolt or futz throughout. The music is selected and crafted with matching skill, giving energy to the action and adding to the characterisations of the different Spider-Guys and Gals and, wow, there’s a hero for everyone in this film: yes, it’s a PG-rated family piece, so you can comfortably recommend the Spider-Ham content to your friend who has kids but it also has Spider-Man Noir - whose classic sound effect lettering and ‘Let’s start from the beginning’ mini-origin story had the entire row of PCG members roaring appreciation - plus a kick-ass Aunt May and a brilliant twist on Doc Ock to name but a few of the treats on offer.
To quote Peter Porker; “You got a problem with cartoons, buddy?” Put your prior conceptions about animated movies aside: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse truly finds a way to give everyone exactly what they want in the cinema. 10/10