It may be controversial of me to say this, but there hasn’t been a truly excellent Spider-Man film since Spider-Man 2. Sure Tom Holland’s version is great and was used well in Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, but for stand alone Spider-Man films, they’ve ranged from the okay (Spider-Man 3 and Spider-Man: Homecoming) to the unwatchable (The Amazing Spider-Man 2). I was really excited for this one though. It was long overdue for a film with Miles Morales to be made and the involvement of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller peaked my interest. Whilst I did have concerns over the plot being overcrowded, these were not founded, and I think this is the best Spider-Man film since Spider-Man 2.The film focuses on Miles Morales, a half-Black, half-Puerto Rican teenager living in Brooklyn who becomes his universe’s version of Spider-Man. When he initially gets his powers, he finds himself at the site of an experiment by The Kingpin to create a portal to parallel dimensions, which brings through another universe’s version of Peter Parker. Whilst Peter helps Miles come to terms with being Spider-Man, a bunch of other heroes, Gwen Stacy; Peni Parker; Spider-Noir and Spider-Ham, come through as well, with all of them having to team up to destroy the portal and find a way back home before the Kingpin turns the machine on again, which will destroy New York. Now, as I said, I was worried that introducing so many characters would crowd out the film, but the right call was made to keep the focus squarely on Miles Morales. The only other heroes who get significant growth are Peter and Gwen, with their growth coming as part of Miles’ story. By focusing on Miles and his journey to becoming Spider-Man, it creates this idea that anyone can put on the mask and become Spider-Man. It is a strong message and one that the young audience, especially ones who will identify with Miles, will latch onto. The film also does a great job at setting up the world and environment for Miles Morales, letting you fully know the character from the first five minutes of the film, and his growth in learning to become a hero and his relationship with his dad creates some strong heartwarming moments.
There’s also this love of Spider-Man that comes through in the film. From recreations of scenes from the Sam Raimi films to tributes to the 60s TV series, there’s this affection for the character. This allows there to be a sense of fun to the events of the film, with a loving mockery of some of the sillier elements of the Spider-Man mythos and tie-ins, and this affection allows for the world of the film to feel more defined, allowing every dimension the other Spiders are from to feel believable.
The performances meanwhile are strong throughout. Shameik Moore is excellent as Miles Morales, showing a charm to the character and a sense of confidence early on, but the fear and weight of being Spider-Man once he gets his powers, with a fear of what he’s doing and that he won’t be able to be an effective Spider-Man that really helps his character development. Jake Johnson as Peter Parker is also strong, showing a Peter that’s both more mature but is more damaged and prone to making mistakes, with him learning to come to terms and make amends for mistakes he made in his own dimension. Hailee Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy meanwhile is a lot of fun, showing a more comedic side, with the relationship that develops between Gwen and Miles being a sweet side of the film, allowing Gwen to be willing to open up to people, which Steinfeld does well. There’s some good comedy value with Kimiko Glenn, John Mulaney and Nicolas Cage as Peni Parker, Spider-Ham and Spider-Noir respectively, Cage in particular being a lot of fun, bringing some Jimmy Cagney and Edward G Robinson to his performance, making him a great parody of noir characters. Brian Tyree Henry is great as Jefferson Davies, Mile’s dad, showing him to be the right kind of embarrassing dad with a clear love for his son, and a fear that he’s not being able to reach to Miles effectively, whilst Luna Lauren Velez as Rio Morales, Mile’s mum, is effective at showing a loving side to the character and I loved that when she speaks in Spanish, it isn’t subtitled. Mahershala Ali is effective as Aaron Davis, Mile’s uncle, showing an affectionate side to Miles, but also clear differences between him and Jefferson which led to the two being estranged. Liev Schreiber as The Kingpin meanwhile is an effective villain, having this calm intimidation in his voice, but also showing the Kingpin to have an understandable motivation, which ultimately makes him a more effective villain when contrasted with how ruthless he is. There’s also good work from Lily Tomlin as Aunt May, Zoe Kravitz and MJ and Kathryn Hahn as Doctor Octopus, which helps add to the world of the film.
The standout element of the film though is the animation. Simply put, this is some of the most impressive animation I’ve seen in a long time. Everything from the design to the movement to the colours makes this the closest thing I’ve seen to a comic book on screen. Even things like sound effects coming up in text and Miles having though balloons creates this comic book feel. This allows for the movement, especially in the action scenes, to be handled in a unique way, having this fast pace and stylism that makes the film stand out. This is also reflected in the character animation, not only in the colours, with the white/purple suit of Gwen and the black and white suit of Spider-Noir being strong contrasting elements, but also in the way they move, such as Gwen’s movements being more like a dancer than the other Spider’s (as seen with her shoes being styled like ballet slippers) and Spider-Noir having a more brawler style to his action, to reflect his noir roots. The animation even changes to reflect the characters, with Miles, Gwen, Peter and Noir having the more comic book inspired movement, whilst Peni has an anime style and Spider-Ham is animated in 24 frames per second, Looney Tunes style, even with the weapons he uses being more reminiscent of Looney Tunes, with the accompanying sound effects. This even extends to the villains, especially the Kingpin, with this powerful wide frame and jet black suit giving him this air of intimidation in every frame he’s on screen, with other villains like Prowler and Doctor Octopus having unique movements that could only be accomplished in animation. The use of colours, mainly in the climax, is excellent, creating some trippy visuals that further helps to establish this comic book feel to the film. The only issue that could be seen is one that is ultimately optional, with the creative use of blurring effects in the film making it unsuitable to watch in 3D. If there is one thing to take away, it’s to watch this film in 2D only.
Overall, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is an excellent Spider-Man film. Whilst the story and performances are strong, the animation is what really sets this film apart. Everything from the colour scheme to the character movements creates a strong world that tells so much about the environment through little background details and the small gestures of the characters, even the way the animation style changes to reflect each character. All the praise has to go to the animation team and directors Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsay and Rodney Rotham, in creating such a unique style for the film, making this one of the best looking superhero films ever made, with a heart to match the style.
My Rating: 5/5