Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, Kimiko Glenn, John Mulaney, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber
Screenplay: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman
117 mins. Rated PG for frenetic sequences of animated action violence, thematic elements, and mild language.
IMDb Top 250: #26 (as of 1/13/2019)
I was pretty certain that the Sony Animation Spider-Man movie would disappear into obscurity. Sony, as a company, has been throwing everything at the Spider-Man IP and hoping something would stick. After making a deal to get Spider-Man into the MCU, they proceeded to make a Venom movie not featuring Spider-Man, talks of a Kraven the Hunter film and a Silver and Black film, and then there’s Into the Spider-Verse. None of these properties excited me on the outset, but I was at the very least quite thankful to see Miles Morales finally get the big screen treatment.
Miles Morales (Shameik Moore, Dope, The Pretenders) is a teen struggling with his identity. He attends a boarding school that he doesn’t feel at home in. He looks up to Spider-Man but his father, Jefferson Davis (Brian Tyree Henry, Hotel Artemis, TV’s Atlanta) sees the masked crusader as a menace. All Miles wants is to have purpose, and when he is bitten by a radioactive spider and develops powers similar to Spider-Man’s, he finds that this may be his chance. Matters are complicated, though, when he runs into Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson, Tag, TV’s New Girl), a Spider-Man not from his universe. That’s not all. Spider-People from all different universes are converging on Miles’s world, and they must work together to fix the problem and get them all home while they still can.
Into the Spider-Verse is an assault on the senses, and I mean that in the best possible way. My eyes actually needed to adjust to the intense color display and terrific voicework displayed in the film. This film actually forced a new animation amalgam to be attempted in order to give it that “jumps off the comic book page” look that makes the film so damn pretty. The process involved rendering the 3D images and then working over them with 2D drawing to give it a comic book panel look. It’s gorgeous and altogether the most impressive feat of the film.
Beyond all that, Into the Spider-Verse has such an impressive and relatable story. Miles is a kid who doesn’t fit in. He even becomes Spider-Man but he doesn’t believe that he is worthy of the mantle. Peter B. Parker is a man who has lost the woman he loves because he was incapable of being the man he needs to be. Even Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, TV’s Ray Donovan), the Kingpin, has an understandable motive for his menacing plot. During all this, I didn’t feel the stakes of the film very much, and that’s a fault, but it was so fun to watch that it didn’t bother me like it should’ve.
Into the Spider-Verse subverts expectations so well. There are genuinely surprising moments, twists, and turns in the film, something not easy to do with a character/franchise that is seven films over the past twenty years. The Stan Lee cameo in the film just has so much more packed within it, especially given our tremendous loss this past year. The film even sends up the post-credits scene with theirs, and I won’t spoil it, but it’s my favorite moment in the film.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a strange movie, and it’s also totally brilliant. It exists perfectly on its own, even though some would argue that it is a sequel to the Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man films (and I agree). It’s to Spider-Man what Cabin in the Woods is to horror films, in that it validates everything without being beholden to any of it. But beyond all that, it’s an amazing story of finding oneself among the craziness of life. It’s a special damn movie. Go see it.
-Kyle A. Goethe
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