Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
Just before the year’s end, we obtain an amazing animated Marvel feature, distributed by Sony Animation. The different design turns it into a unique gem of 2018!
Genre: Action / Animation / Comedy
Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey & Rodney Rothman.
Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Nicolas Cage, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Mahershala Ali, Kathryn Hahn, Liev Schreiber & Brian Tyree Henry.
Run Time: 117 min.
US Release: 14 December 2018
UK Release: 12 December 2018
German Release: 13 December 2018
I am a little late to the party but here we finally are! My last review for a 2018 release is a banger, something I hadn’t expected from the trailers and the fact that it is a Sony Spider-Man movie. My biggest fear was the look of the design, however, I was proven wrong. It also marks the first motion picture featuring Miles Morales, the second Spider-Man. So, how good is it? Well, this just might be the Webslinger's best film! It also was the perfect movie to watch in cinemas on boxing day!
When a group of villains open up a multi-dimensional portal underneath New York City, teenager Miles Morales (Moore) becomes blessed with the powers of the Webhead. The weapon fails, yet five spider-powered individuals are transported to his reality. When the Kingpin (Schreiber) wants to re-open the portal, the six Spider-Men need to come together to stop a threat to all realities.
In 2014, following the debacle that was The Amazing Spider-Man 2, then Sony co-chairman Amy Pascal had discussed plans to “rejuvenate” the franchise, by developing a lighter-toned comedy in the form of animation. She approached Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, with the duo accepting only under the condition that they were to adopt the 2014 crossover event “Spider-Verse”, with Miles Morales front centre.
Sony doesn’t have the greatest reputation, concerning their incarnations of the friendly neighbourhood spider, since 2004’s Spider-Man 2. The first Amazing Spider-Man was a solid remake in my opinion, but the sequel tanked that cinematic adaptation. This is technically another reboot, retelling the origin story of how Spider-Man came to be, except that we focus on Miles Morals, with Peter already being a seasoned Spider-Man. It is also worth noting, that what makes the plot great, is that we follow Miles throughout the whole run time, as he trains to become the new Wall Crawler. We see him make mistakes throughout the way, learning from them. This humanised the person, making him relatable to the audience.
The meta factor and self-awareness of how silly the premise is, including the perfectly elaborated humour, make for a surprisingly fun experience. The heartfelt, dramatic family subplots, have relatable emotional moments. Then there is the dialogue, which is quippy, clever, as well as a funny, coming-of-age commentary.
This animation is filled to the top with a great cast plus characters. Sadly I can’t focus on everyone, which is why I quickly want to mention the great work done by Kathryn Hahn as Doctor Olivia Octavius, Lily Tomlin as a surprisingly feisty Aunt May, just like the great Nicolas Cage, lending his voice to Spider-Man Noir.
Miles Morales, who is fantastically voiced by Shameik Moore, is a very relatable persona, especially for a teenage audience. He is stuck in a place he does not feel comfortable in, he is socially awkward, plus doesn’t get along with his father, who is a cop. His best relationship is with his uncle, who encourages him to bend the rules a little. That heavy weight carried by the character is perfectly emulated by Moore. His chemistry with Hailee Steinfeld, who plays Gewn Stacey, also known as Spider-Woman in this incarnation, is impeccable! Steinfeld also gives an empathetic rendition of a strong female teenager.
Jake Johnson lends his voice to Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man. This Peter is older, he has been the Webslinger for a while, losing too much along the way. He is depressed, having given up for the most part. That said, it doesn’t beat viewers over the head with melancholy, rather using Peter’s sadness as a source of appropriate comedy. Contrary to Miles Morales, this is a character older audiences can connect with.
Mahershala Ali voices Aaron Davis, Miles's uncle, and is a great side character. I don’t want to say more about him, just in case you aren't aware of who Davis is in the comics, though his reasons to do what he does come from social injustice. Finally, we have Liev Schreiber as Kingpin, the big baddy behind it all. Unfortunately not as often on the screen as I hoped for, but his motivations are also clearly set!
The animation was one of the parts I was most afraid of, as I wasn't completely sold on the design. While it took a while to get used to, the fears completely evaporated quickly. Not only does the computer animation feel completely fresh, like nothing we experienced as of now, it rivals the typical Disney template that became known for Western animation. To make the imagery look more like a comic, 2D animation was used on top of CGI frames. An older technique called motion smear, was also used. Further influential styles are drawn from Japanese anime and manga.
Daniel Pemberton composed the soundtrack, revolving the melodies around the persona of Miles and what a teenager like him would be listening to.
Verdict: Sony did hit a home run with this adaptation of one of the more popular storylines, from the Web Slingers graphic novels. Written by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, who also co-directed, the script adapts a version of the narrative where Miles Morals, the Spiderman of Marvel’s Ultimate comic line, is the lead. The extensive focus on his teenage life, his struggle with his parents, girls, school, and on top of that, obtaining superpowers, makes the character incredibly relatable. The dialogue includes a lot of jokes, self-aware commentary, plus sincere emotional trauma. The complete cast is fantastic, including some fun cameo voices, with Moore Johnson and Steinfeld selling their leading roles. The animation feels fresh, creating a look that did pay homage to its comic book heritage. This might well be the best Spider-Man movie we have obtained so far, deserving a 10 out of 10!
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