It’s fair to say that Sony has had a pretty lousy time with Spider-Man movies ever since the disappointing Spider-Man 3 back in 2007 with the franchise facing diminishing returns with each film, including the recent Venom spin-off film that somehow managed to be a surprise hit, which is terrifying to say the least. However, new and fresh life was injected into the web-slinger when Marvel Studios teamed up with Sony to produce the fantastic Spider-Man: Homecoming, but despite this success, Sony still felt the need to give Spidey another fair crack at the whip, except this time it would be in animation. Another bold decision Sony made was, not just to focus on one Spider-Man in Miles Morales (who has only just had a recent boost in popularity thanks to the 2018 Spider-Man PS4 game), but to include several Spider-People that includes the likes of Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man Noir and even the cartoonish Spider-Ham. This all may have sounded like another cynical cash-grab from Sony, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse not only subverts expectations, but is also something truly special.
This film is a love letter to every single piece of Spider-Man lore ranging in the comics, movies, cartoons and every other form of media or paraphernalia, so if you’re the kind of fan that looking for the definitive Spider-Man experience, this film is definitely for you. It oozes so much style and creativity, you can’t help yourself from being drawn and sucked into its rich, vibrant universe. The unique blend of 3D and 2D animation is simply stunning, slick and gorgeous to behold, translating Spider-Man to the big screen in a way that’s never been seen like this before. It’s a technically impressive marvel that plays with all sorts of styles (which is supported by its diverse range of characters), including the most comic book-y of techniques and devices like the yellow though boxes and words popping up out of nowhere to describe the impact, so it plays fast and loose with its creative animation while never losing sight of its heart and spirit.
That heart and spirit lies in its story and characters, and this story wisely takes its time in establishing Miles Morales (Shameik Moore giving a likeable performance), his thoroughly engaging family and his own world before chucking him into the deep end by becoming the new Spider-Man after the Peter Parker from his universe dies in battle. After he becomes Spider-Man, insanity ensues when the alternate Spider-People arrive into his dimension, in particular an older Peter Parker (Jake Johnson’s performance is hilariously charismatic) whose more jaded, a bit of a loser and has a deep love of junk food. This creates a brilliant teacher-student dynamic between Miles and this alternate Peter: the former that’s the most passionate about being a hero while the latter isn’t. This makes for some very humourous moments that becomes even more interesting once the rest of Team Spider-Verse enter the fray. Spider-Gwen has a compelling arc throughout, the futuristic anime-inspired Peni Parker in her robotic SP//dr suit is a joy, Spider-Man Noir is highly memorable (thanks to the brilliant Nicolas Cage), as is the cartoony, Looney Tunes-influenced Spider-Ham. Each and every Spider-Person that enters the film gets their own mini-origin story that offers many hilarious callbacks to the comics and films, and it’s a testament to the writers that they managed to get the groundwork just about right, and despite the overabundance of characters and storylines, everything falls into place perfectly.
Despite all odds being against it, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse somehow reinvents Spider-Man in a big way. It could have gone the route of being a generic, by-the-numbers, cookie-cutter cash grab, but the entire cast and crew have truly made something special. standing apart from most of the other animated films of recent years and makes a strong case about how animation can be just as exciting and invigorating as the standard, mainstream live action blockbuster. It ranks alongside the likes of Spider-Man Homecoming and Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man films as one of the best Spider-Man films to have been released, and this offers a great compromise for Sony and Marvel: Marvel Studios can have Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in their MCU films while Sony can have their own Spider-Man universe with these animated films, which can result in a win-win situation for both studios. Whether or not that transpires remains to be seen, but regardless, this film breathes new life into Spider-Man yet again, resulting in, not just the best animated film of 2018, but one of the best films to have been released this year.
Dir: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Scr: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman
Cast: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Jake Johnson, Liev Schreiber, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Velez, Lily Tomlin, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Chris Pine, Kathryn Hahn
Prd: Amy Pascal, Avi Arad, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Christina Steinberg
Music: Daniel Pemberton
Run time: 117 mins
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is out in cinemas on Wednesday 12th December.