Let’s just be completely honest here – in today’s day and age, there are quite a few comic book or superhero films being released. Whether you are a fan of the Marvel comics or the DC comics, this truly is a great time to be a superhero fan. This year alone, we got the extremely critical and commercial success that was Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, and just a couple of months after that, we had Avengers: Infinity War, which was a cinematic event that was ten years in the making, and Marvel Cinematic Universe fans breathed a sigh of relief when the film turned out to be everything they had ever hoped for and more. In fact, there are still some superhero motion pictures that have still yet to be released this year such as Aquaman. Many audiences and critics alike are feeling “superhero fatigue” and just when you thought that this may be a reality, comes Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a wholly original and fresh comic book movie that swings to life with remarkable humor, heartfelt emotions, and a ton of fun scenes that will leave you wanting more.
In Brooklyn, New York, a teenager named Miles Morales (voice of Shameik Moore) attends an elite school, and does not have many friends. He also does not always get along too well with his father Jefferson (voice of Brian Tyree Henry), and for relaxation, Miles often listens to music in his bedroom. He also has quite a massive crush on his fellow classmate Gwen Stacy (voice of Hailee Steinfeld), and is having trouble working up the courage to go and talk to her.
One day, while spray painting in the subway station with his uncle Aaron (voice of Mahershala Ali), Miles gets bitten by a radioactive spider, that gives him the powers of a spider. This confuses him, as he recognizes that this is the exact same thing that happened to Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), which turned him into the infamous superhero Spider-Man. But it is not long after that Miles realizes that he is not the only person with powers similar to the wall-crawler, as there are various different dimensions that house different Spider heroes.
I do not want to give away too many plot details regarding Into the Spider-Verse, because this is one of those films that is best experienced if you do not know too much about the story going in. Everything I already mentioned happens in the first fifteen to twenty minutes in the movie.
This is definitely something that a plethora of people say regarding animated movies, but this is the honest truth – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has some truly stunning animation. It may actually be one of the most beautifully animated films of the entire decade. Fans of comic books will certainly get a kick out of this film, as there are many stylistic animation choices that will remind audiences of comics. Sometimes, when a superhero punches a villain here, little “POW” or “ZAP” words appear on screen, just like you would see in a Spider-Man comic in real life. This is also something that the animation team did not have to do, but they did, because they really do care about the little details to make the experience that much more memorable.
Also, the voice talent here is truly great. There is not a single dull performance from the impressive cast list, which includes the likes of the extremely talented Ali and Steinfeld. Moore’s voice work here as Miles is excellent. He is such a likeable character, and I always cared about his story. The film sets up a lot in terms of his character, and it all paid off. This is a real human kid that has struggles in life. Once he gets bitten by the radioactive spider, he is not a perfect superhero. He has things to learn from, and has to take things one step at a time, which was so refreshing to see in a comic book film.
Speaking of Steinfeld, she gives the best portrayal of the character Gwen Stacy / Spider-Gwen we have seen in cinema yet. Bryce Dallas Howard did decent in this same role back in Sam Raimi’s 2007 film Spider-Man 3, but in the long run, I just did not care about the character in that movie. The reason being is because there were so many characters caught up in love triangles including her, which became sappy and annoying after a while. Stacy is extremely likeable here, and is actually one of the most comedic characters in the film.
Into the Spider-Verse does have quite a few characters involved here as well, and before seeing it, I was certainly worried that the film would struggle to find a way to balance them all. Luckily, they are all fleshed out so well, and by the end, I really did find myself caring about every Spider hero involved in this story.
Just like every other superhero movie that has been released, this film has action. Thankfully, it is truly great, and one of the more memorable pictures with its sequences of action. It is all handled so well, and some of it reminded me of the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films with its visceral feel.
It is also a surprisingly emotional experience, with many scenes that impacted me deeply. There were a couple of scenes in particular that almost got me teary-eyed. A lot of the emotion in Into the Spider-Verse has to do with characters, and when certain things happen in the film down the road, you truly feel the emotions and it can be genuinely heart-wrenching at times.
Where Into the Spider-Verse falters however, is with its main villain, Kingpin (voice of Liev Schreiber). They really do not attempt to delve that deep into his backstory at all here, which was disappointing because the rest of the characters were developed really well. With Kingpin, we only get one big scene that shows us a bit of his backstory, but even then, it had quite a bit of unnecessary exposition involved. It would have been nice if the story took the time to make him a more compelling villain.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a breath of fresh air for the superhero genre, with an emotional story, brilliant voice acting and animation, and an abundance of humor and fun.
Overall Grade: A
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for frenetic sequences of animated action violence, thematic elements, and mild language
Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali
Directed by: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Releasing
Running Time: 117 minutes