Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
You know, Peter I woulda given T.G.I. Spidey’s a shot. Couldn’t have been any worse than Stark’s attempt to get into the restaurant game with Tony Rockets. Today I’m gonna be talking about the 2018 animated superhero film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Voice talents are provided by Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, as well as many others, and it was directed by the team of Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse tells the story of Brooklyn teenager M.M, voiced by Shameik Moore, who has recently transferred from public school to the Brooklyn Visions Academy charter school.
He doesn’t feel like he really belongs there and has trouble connecting with his cop father and, to make matters worse, he gets bitten by a radioactive spider and witnesses a particle accelerator rip into multiple dimensions. You know the usual. So Morales must join forces with dimensionally-displaced Spideys to stop the film’s villain, Kingpin, from destroying the space-time continuum.
I’ll be honest, I’ve still never read more than a few pages of a comic book (not counting a couple of graphic novels) but after having seen six Spider-Man movies, I felt like I finally had a pretty good handle on all this. But, I’m clearly still solidly out of the loop. I remember seeing the first trailer for this and thinking it was for some mediocre tv show coming out on a streaming service. The idea of a Spider-verse sounded ridiculous to me.
It was like some fanfiction premise where the author wrote themselves into the Spider-Man universe along with a Spider-Girl and Porky the Pig dressed up in a Spider-Man suit. Nothing about that sounded appealing to me and I promptly forgot about it. That is until everybody and their Aunt May starting raving about it. Even after that, I wasn’t particularly keen on seeing it, so it really took an Oscar nomination to finally get me in the theater.
You know what I mean. And this Spider-verse thing, right down to the damn Spider-Ham, is real too. And just when I had finally started to really feel confident in my knowledge of superheroes There’s no denying that this is a very unique and original film. It seems a little silly to say that about Spider-Man; a character who’s been a part of pop culture since 1962, who’s been the star of countless tv shows and six other theatrically released films, whose adventure in this seventh film is based directly on a comic book storyline.
But, it’s true. I really have never seen anything like this before. The animation is about as close to a perfect representation of an animated comic book as you can come. It’s a little jarring at first, but once you accept the style, it’s an amazing multimedia spectacle. 3D blends with 2D and all of it’s full of bright glitchy colors. The texturing really astonished me. It was like three-dimensional representation of a comic’s texture-shading crosshatching.
The integration of other identifiable comic book reference points was also great. While the 1966 Batman series had clumsily tried to integrate the comics with its “Biff!”s and “Pow!”s, this film makes the blend seamless. Sudden sounds (like the click of a pen) are emphasized by sound lines around the object. Spider-sense has a visual representation that’s instantly recognizable. Thought bubbles for inner monologues, scene transition set-up cards, and a panel framework are all also cleverly pulled into the story too.
Even beyond the animation, this film takes a unique approach regarding its story. It’s an origin story for sure but mixes it up a bit. Rather than watching Uncle Ben die for the umpteenth time, we witness the origin of a Spider-Man other than Peter Parker. This film really subverts expectations, at times, while still poking fun at some of the tropes we’ve come to expect.
The big dramatic spider bite ends with a casual swat, heroic training moments end in failure, or more frequently, non-attempts. A reference to the “With great power comes great responsibility” line is waved off by a character who claims that he’s “sick of hearing it”. Even the idea of the Spider-verse is introduced in a reasonable way. What could have been a completely out of control, a redundant mish-mash of multi-dimensional story bloat somehow managed to stay contained and mostly on point, while remaining entertaining at the same time. As with every Spider-Man film, this movie isn’t just about the action and cool things that Spider-Man can do. It also focuses on the struggles of being a teenager.
Of existing in a world that you have little control of and coming to terms with the things that you actually are capable of doing. This one does have a lot of heart. I imagine people who already know and like the character of Miles Morales will really like him here. As a newcomer to his storyline, I found him fine, but a little redundant. Sure, the specifics of his situation are different, but he’s pretty much Peter Parker redux. And speaking of Parker, I found his scenes far more compelling than any of Morales’.
I guess I just like Peter Parker better. Or maybe I like older, more experienced Spider-Man better. I’m really not sure which it is. There is a lot to like in this movie. The animation was great (other than a few weird moments of blurriness with depth perception shots), the story was interesting, it had some fun referential humor, the other Spideys were mostly worthwhile, it had the best Aunt May yet, and the characters travel to the Hudson Valley (which is where I’m originally from). But something about it just didn’t blow me away.
I honestly can’t fully explain it, but I know it wasn’t based on the hype. It was a really good movie, but not a great one. I think I’m gonna have to chalk it up to me (apparently) being a Peter Parker purist. Also, a fan of alliteration. Okay, so let’s talk about the pros and cons of this seventh Spider-Man movie. Pro number one is animation. The filmmakers have crafted an utterly unique visual style with this film. It mixes 3D, 2D, computer generation, hand-drawings, pop art, and comic book styles into a colorful, constantly stimulating visual menagerie. It took me a few minutes to get used to and there were a couple, assumingly intentional, visual oddities here and there, but it was the ultimate cinematic representation of a comic book. The second pro is the execution of the multiverse.
Now, I have some issues with the Spider-Verse that I’ll talk about in the cons, but I have to say I was impressed with how they handled it. This story goes a lot of different directions and expands to a pretty large number of characters, but somehow it still always felt reined in and never too overwhelming. Pro number three was a comedy. Right from the initial Peter Parker introduction that directly references moments from the Raimi trilogy, I knew this was gonna work comedy-wise.
It’s got some of the more traditional gags that you’d expect, but most of the humor here is smart or referential ñ frequently both. There are a lot of good lines and I found myself smiling more than once in the theater. Okay, onto the cons both of which involve the story. Con number one is the Spider-Verse in general. Like I mentioned in the pros, I thought the execution and implementation of the Spider-Verse were done well, but I just wasn’t a big fan of the premise. It had its decent elements: Peter, Gwen, Spider-Noir but it seemed like it was unnecessary on the whole.
The second con for me was Miles Morales. Now I know it’s cause I’m not well-versed spider-versed? in his story, but I still greatly prefer Peter Parker as Spider-Man. I thought Morales was fine, but I’m a little tired of origin stories in Spider-Man movies. I want an older, experienced Spider-Man. This film gave me a glimpse of that and I liked what I saw. In fact, I’d be totally on-board with a non-Spider-verse film about either of the Parker Spideys from this movie. I’m gonna give Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 4 out of 5 paws.
I actually had a really hard time deciding how I felt about this movie. Even now, I’m still not entirely confident with my rating. It feels both too high and just right at the same time, so I’ll have to see eventually with repeat viewings. I would recommend Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to anybody who likes superhero movies and to anybody who’s a fan of animation. And if you like both, then this is really the movie for you. Also, if you’re a big fan of Spider-Man as a character, there are a lot of nuances and references scattered throughout this that you’ll appreciate. If you liked Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, I would recommend that you check out The Lego Movie.
It was also written by Phil Lord and similarly manages to take a highly-recognizable piece of pop culture and turn it into an original and unique story full of smart humor and heart. If you liked the referential aspects of this movie, I’d also recommend The Lego Batman Movie. While I definitely prefer the original Lego Movie, Lego Batman does for Batman what Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse did for Spider-Man, humor, and reference-wise at least. And, if you just like Spider-Man and have somehow managed to miss them, check out the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy. Well, maybe you should just stick to the first two. Okay, so some questions for you guys.
First: Have you seen Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse? If so, what’d you think of it? And second: What do you think of the idea of a slightly older, more experienced Parker Spider-Man?