‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ movie review

Film elevates the CGI animation experience and does it in a way that feels frenetic, immersive, unexpected, enthralling and above all, fun

Peni (Kimiko Glen), Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) in 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse'. Credit: Sony Pictures Animation © 2018 CTMG, Inc.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Rating: 4/5 stars

Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman

Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Lily Tomlin, Zoë Kravitz, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber

The idea of the ‘multiverse’ for superheroes – the concept of infinite universes – is probably as old as comic books themselves. And Spider-Man has enjoyed the love of cinema audiences since the early 2000s. The character continues to inhabit a unique space in people’s minds that’s been aided by his integration into the beloved Marvel Cinematic Universe, as anyone who’s seen Avengers: Infinity War or Captain America: Civil War can attest.

The release date for the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is strategic as it appears eight months after Infinity War and seven months before Spider-Man: Far From Home, the sequel to the well-received Spider-Man: Homecoming. At first blush, this might seem like a Spidey overdose, especially when the marketing goes heavy on the 3-D elements of the film. I’m glad to report that Into the Spider-Verse tackles these challenges head-on and breaks fresh ground while doing it.

The film elevates the CGI animation experience and does it in a way that feels frenetic, immersive, unexpected, enthralling and above all, fun. Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman can be termed path-breakers for what they’ve achieved here. Their effort manages to blend memorable aspects of comic-reading with riveting human characterisation and overlay the film with uniquely stylised 3-D storytelling.

The characters fly off the comic pages and it was an astute call to go with the Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) version of Spider-Man as the centre of this tale. Miles learns what it means to take on the Spider-Man mantle while crossing paths with his counterparts from other dimensions to stop a threat to all reality. Where Into the Spider-Verse hits the bullseye is in tackling the day-to-day facets of Miles just being Miles. It harkens back to the Sam Raimi glory days of Spider-Man 2 (2004).

Speaking of which, the film has several callbacks to the Raimi movies. It’s almost an acknowledgement of the cinematic multiverse that comprises the films from Tobey Maguire, those from Andrew Garfield and the ones from Tom Holland.

Into the Spider-Verse has a number of action set pieces but they do not always work. Some of the action scenes around the climax are edited so quickly that it’s difficult to understand who’s doing what to whom. Some of the sound effects were also incredibly jarring, especially the ones around the villain known as the Prowler.

The film is at its best when multiple Spider-people are interacting with each other. Nicolas Cage as Spider-Man Noir is a treat and a riot. The relationship between Miles and Gwen Stacy aka Spider-Woman/Spider-Gwen is neatly woven so that each small progression feels real and something that’s earned by the characters.

One character that could have used some fleshing out is Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), who pilots an awesome web-shooting droid suit known as Sp//dr. Maybe we’ll get a sequel that will remedy that.

Even a casual Spidey fan will find a lot to love about Into the Spider-Verse. And families will discover a memorable and enjoyable flick that shakes up the animated superhero landscape. It’s a ballad composed by people who love who Spider-Man is, what he represents and the tangible and intangible ingredients that make him a transcendent fixture in pop culture history.

Bonus titbit: There’s a Stan Lee cameo that tugged hard at the heartstrings and drew a wave of oohs, aahs and cheers from everyone in the cinema hall.

 

(Disclaimer: This film was screened as part of a Flix First Screening event. This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film.)

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‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ movie review

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