Not to speak ill of Tom Holland’s portrayal in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or take a dig at Sam Raimi’s trilogy, nor Andrew Garfield’s less-than-remembered take, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse makes the character feel alive once more. Under the joint direction of Bob Persichetti (the story artist for Shrek 2 making his co-directorial debut), Peter Ramsey (Rise of the Guardians) and Rodney Rothman (screenwriter of 22 Jump Street), as well as Christopher Miller and Phil Lord (directors of The Lego Movie) on hand as producers, Spider-Verse pays both loving tribute to the incarnations that have come before, as well as revamping a character who has become all a little too well-worn at this point; in the space of sixteen years we’ve had four different actors over the course of three separate story strands.
Right from the get-go, Spider-Verse makes it clear that this will be at once a Spider-Man film and animated outing unlike anything we’ve seen before. Colours leap, bend and mash together on screen in an orgy of unorthodox animation, and the distorted pallet mirrors the reality that this film’s lead Spider-Man exists in. Prior to the standard bitten-by-a-radioactive-spider-incident, our friendly neighbourhood soon-to-be-superhero is young African-American teen Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore).
Doing away with the family drama that has traditionally plagued the Peter Parker version of the character, Miles’ lives in a loving home with his parents (Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Velez) in a city where Parker’s Spider-Man has tragically perished; Chris Pine voices this version of the character in the briefest of audio cameos. The death of Spider-Man helps spur Miles on when he develops his own abilities following his spider bite – he notices the same pattern between himself and the Spider-Man comic books he reads – and it isn’t long after that the city’s own super-villain Kingpin (menacingly voiced by Liev Schreiber) unintentionally breaks the patterns of time and space to bring forth alternate Spider-Men to assist Miles on his heroic quest.
Whilst it all sounds potentially confusing (with no less than 6 Spider-Men variations on-screen at multiple points), the script from Lord and Rothman simplifies the story without dumbing it down for lesser audiences. On the note of avoiding material for certain audience members, Spider-Verse is an alarmingly dark and violent film for something clearly aimed at the younger market. It’s family-friendly but it’s certainly not a children’s movie with surprising violence and emotional stakes peppered throughout. Yes, one of the Spider-Man versions is a talking pig who goes by the name Peter Porker (John Mulaney), so it’s not without its child-like mentality, but brief visual humour doesn’t overshadow the alarming boldness adhered to.
Visually breathtaking – the film seriously looks like a comic book come-to-life with its mixture of 3D and traditional animation – and plentiful stacked with a voice cast that’s both impressive in talent and organic to their animated counterparts (Mahershala Ali as Miles’s suspicious uncle, Hailee Steinfeld as Spider-Woman, and Nicolas Cage as 1940s inspired Spider-Noir are all stellar), Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is far greater than it should’ve been. The animation and storytelling adopted here are prime examples of how to keep the comic book genre fresh without sacrificing the traditions we’ve come to love and appreciate.
About Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the creative minds behind The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, bring their unique talents to a fresh vision of a different Spider-Man Universe, with a groundbreaking visual style that’s the first of its kind. Spider-Man™: Into the Spider-Verse introduces Brooklyn teen Miles Morales, and the limitless possibilities of the Spider-Verse, where more than one can wear the mask.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (PG) is screening in Australian theatres from 13th December 2018.