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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld
Directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
RUNTIME: 117 Mins
There’s no replacing a comic book legend like Peter Parker, but Sony Animation’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse makes a strong case for why more Spider-People is a good thing.
Miles Morales’ journey from zero to hero is brought to life with jaw-dropping animation, whimsical call-backs to previous Spider-Man media, and memorable side characters from the multiverse that range from fan-favourite Spider-Gwen to the outright bizarre Spider-Ham.
The unique and often brilliant 3D animation style is a fantastic aspect of the movie, though it does take some time to get used to. It’s like watching a comic book being brought to life, complete with vibrant colours, a few KAPOWS, and some actual thought bubbles sprinkled in for dramatic effect.
With so many American animated films resembling Pixar nowadays, Into the Spider-Verse is a visual experience unlike anything seen before. Those one-of-a-kind visuals add an otherworldly look, which is appropriate since the story is not set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Into the Spider-Verse wisely takes its time when it comes to rolling out its story, allowing for strong character development as we learn more about Miles (Shameik Moore) and his family life before the web-swinging begins. The Morales family is genuinely engaging, especially in the complex relationship the creative Miles has with his hard-nosed police officer father Jefferson and his estranged uncle Aaron. Miles’ search for the right kind of mentor is a big part of his character arc.
On the superhero side of things, after Miles is bitten by a genetically-modified spider, the story gets crazy… in a good way. In typical comic book bad-guy fashion, Kingpin creates tears in the space-time continuum and gains access to an infinite supply of alternate Earths – and their Spider-Men. As over-the-top as that is, the writers create a deeply personal story for the infamous villain that feels more authentic than the easy ‘I want to take over the city for no reason’ approach.
The character design for Kingpin looks appropriately menacing, too, and feels distinct from his recent appearances in other Marvel projects, including Netflix’s Daredevil TV show and Insomniac’s Spider-Man game. Here, he’s a gigantic and physically intimidating blocky mass in a black suit, with Liev Schreiber’s deep booming voice emitting from it. Into the Spider-Verse would have benefited from spending more time with its intriguingly deep villain instead of focusing the majority of its time on its spandex-wearing heroes.
Kingpin’s dastardly deed brings a diverse group of Spider-People to Miles’ Earth. The best of the bunch is an older, more jaded version of Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) who enjoys burgers and bagels more than exercise. Miles and Peter are the perfect odd couple: one guy doesn’t want to be a superhero anymore, while the other passionately wants to learn how to be one.
The unlikely duo is entertaining, especially in the first half when Miles is still learning how to use his powers. Peter is no Yoda, and his lack of patience with Miles allows for some hilarious banter, which is bolstered by Johnson’s charismatic performance as the elder webslinger.
Peter’s frustrations are not unfounded since Miles’ journey to superhero status is a slow one, and that’s a good thing. Instead of a rushed training montage, a good chunk centres on Miles’ struggle to accept and trust his new abilities. It’s a refreshing take on an origin story and adds a nice bit of suspense, making Miles legitimately doubt if he has what it takes to join the superhero elite.
Once Miles does figure it all out, his youthful exuberance is palpable whenever he’s swinging through the brightly lit New York City streets, thanks to Moore’s strong voice work. As a superhero, Miles embraces many of the characteristics that Peter exhibits: bravery, kindness, and a strong connection to his family.
However, Miles’ way of being Spider-Man is different enough to not make him seem like a copycat, and helps this feel like a fresh, new Spider-Man story instead of a re-tread of familiar material. When he’s in action, Miles’ distinctive set of superpowers – his ability to stun opponents and use camouflage to become all but invisible, to name a few – are thrilling to see on display.
Each new Spider-Person is introduced with an amusing montage, offering a glimpse at the respective hero’s origin story. A few of these scenes offer humorous callbacks to old Spider-Man cartoons, comic books, and even video games. In the same way that The LEGO Batman Movie paid homage to and even poked fun at previous portrayals, Into the Spider-Verse follows suit by embracing both the good and the cliche aspects of Spidey over his 50-year existence.
Ultimately, taking a bold departure from the Pixar animation style we’ve come to expect from mainstream animated films, Into the Spider-Verse delivers a dynamic visual experience unlike any other. This is a must-watch for both cinema and comic fans.
Now showing in: Cineco, Seef II, Avenues, Juffair Oasis, Wadi Al Sail
Kristian’s verdict: 5/5