Bringing the multiverse to your friendly neighbourhood multiplex, Sony have finally captured lightning in a bottle for the second time and created a great Spider-Man movie. With (literally) dazzling animation, a breezy and effervescent story and engaging character work, “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” delivers the first evidence that, with the right talent behind the camera, Sony’s much longed for Spider-Man centric cinematic universe could just work.
Bitten by a radioactive spider in the subway, Brooklyn teenager Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) suddenly develops mysterious powers and when Peter Parker (Chris Pine) is killed in a battle with the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber), Miles struggles with the burden of being the one and only Spider-Man. His life gets much more complicated, though, when he encounters another Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) and soon Miles comes to realise that there are many others who share his Spider-powers and that the Kingpin threatens not only his Brooklyn, but countless others across the multiverse.
There’s a richness of detail and dazzling colour to the distinctive animation style that probably needs at least a couple of watches to fully absorb and appreciate. Is it the best comic book movie this year? No doubt: this is modern day comic book art brought vibrantly, energetically to life. Is it the best superhero movie of the year? It’s definitely in the mix.
Although big on visuals, Phil Lord’s story is a little thin on plot but it doesn’t really matter because it doubles down on character and, in an era of supposed ‘origin story fatigue’ manages to tell not only one origin story but six, making not only a virtue of them but a running gag too. Primarily the origin story of the Miles Morales incarnation of Spider-Man, long lauded by comic book fans as second only to Parker but yet to make the breakthrough into mainstream pop culture consciousness, there’s a subtle metatextual nod to Richard Donner’s 1978 seminal superhero touchstone “Superman” as the ‘father’ becomes the ‘son’ and the ‘son’ becomes the ‘father’ through a disillusioned Peter Parker teaching Miles what it takes to be a hero and, in turn, Miles reminding Parker of what he’d forgotten.
The animation is absolutely stunning, with a particularly clever touch to keep the animation styles different for each dimensional incarnation of the web-slinger intact. The Kingpin character design is likely to be one which may raise some eyebrows though, as his cube of man-meat jars against the more realistic depiction of nearly every other character. With a lot to pack in, both conceptually and character-wise, it’s no real surprise that some characters feel short-changed, particularly Spider-Ham, Spider-Gwen (short changed because there’s so much character to unpack there she needs her own movie) and the anime Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn). There’s so much Spider-goodness to go around that some of the best stuff ends up in a post-credit scene which also nods towards the character’s success in the world of memes.
A rousing, colourful, explosion of a movie, “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” throws open the possibilities and potential for ol’ webhead’s cinematic future, paving the way for multiple incarnations to coexist and crossover as their own events. For Miles Morales, live-action surely beckons and for Sony’s Marvel licence, the year ends on the highest of high notes. As a tribute to the passing of Stan Lee, nothing could have been better than this: Spider-Man triumphant. Excelsior!