The name Spider-Man is known around the world. Sony is capitalizing on the revitalization of the Spider-Man image, due to Tom Holland’s role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Spider-Man, by making an animated film centered around the character. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a new take on the many different versions of Spider-Man known in the comic book world. However, this is not the typical Peter Parker version the film audience knows and loves.
The film centers around Miles Morales, a teen trying to break out of his private school bubble and into the world of street art. However, everything goes wrong when he gets bitten by a spider and becomes Spider-Man. Eventually, alternate realities begin to clash together forcing many “spider-things” to come into Miles’ own universe. These “spider-things” include characters such as Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Ham, and Spider-Gwen. While all this universe clashing is happening, we follow Miles’ story as he learns to control his powers and figure out how to save his own universe from the evil Wilson Fisk. Though it boasts a complex plot, Spider-Verse was completely separate from other superhero films, requiring little background knowledge.
Spider-Verse is original, well-paced, and cinematic. The film’s central focus is on the connection of the different universes where a “spider-thing” exists and how those versions all came together. The humor and jokes that arose from the characters like Spider-Man Noir, Peni Parker, Peter Porker, and Gwen Stacy along with the two stars Miles Morales and Peter B. Parker were fantastic. Though they were a team thrown together at the last minute, the crew had great comradery. The mentor relationship between Miles and Peter was especially touching, as it was touching to watch Peter develop from a decidedly apathetic Spider-Man to a caring mentor.
Storytelling and pacing are challenging to get right, but this film exhibits a great mastery of these practices. The characters took time to get to know each other and evolve from the beginning to end of the film. Fun with the characters is maintained while stakes are kept high. The story exemplifies the idea that anyone – or anything – could be Spider-Man. This sends an empowering message to all viewers, especially children. The film allows Miles to find his bearing and role in the universe while the other Spider-People gave the audience a show to remember.
The artistic expression displayed in this film is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Many shots illustrate just how many things can be portrayed through animation in a way that can not be achieved in live action. The film is bright, colorful, and exciting, which adds to the element of fun the characters have throughout their adventure. The mesh of animation styles when the characters from other universes enter the story world is a fantastic example of the complexities of animation and how much variety it allows.
According to a New York Times review by A. O. Scott, the film “finds greater imaginative freedom in venerable comic book traditions,” and I have to agree. It brings in elements of comic books like the brief moments where the introduction of Spider-Characters’ lives begin by being narrated in the form of a comic book, so the panels are visible. There are also occasionally words on the screen, like in the photo above, similar to comic books. The squiggly lines signifying spidey senses is something you could only get from an animated film.
The only qualm I have with Spider-Verse is that the characters from other universes did not get enough screen time. They were a big part of the trailer and were a sizeable comedic aspect of the film. It was fascinating to watch their unique art styles mix with their different points of view and personal stories. I enjoyed them so much, so I was disappointed they did not feature more in the film. It is understandable why they were not included too much, as the film could have gotten too long if more was added, turning a fun ride into a drag. Nevertheless, the different universes offer them many great opportunities for sequels, which I hope they explore in the future.
Into the Spider-Verse skillfulness is not going unrecognized during the current awards season. The film was recently nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film and won Best Animated Feature at the Golden Globes. Sadly, Spider-Verse may not be as recognized and praised as other superhero films just because it is animated. Many adult superhero fans might be turned off to the movie because of its choice of storytelling style. Unfortunately, they will be missing out on a groundbreaking film that is meaningful for all ages.
Overall, Into the Spider-Verse does a fantastic job at storytelling and uniquely using animation. I highly recommend anyone interested in the film to watch and support it, as it is an essential example of new ideas being put into use to tell a classic story. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a remarkable success of animation and film. It is indeed a film for people of all ages to watch and enjoy. I rate the film a 4.5 out of 5.