INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
PG, 117 mins.
2018, PG, 117 mins.
Shameik Moore as Miles Morales / Spider-Man (voice) / Jake Johnson as Peter Parker / Spider-Man (voice) / Hailee Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy / Spider-Gwen (voice) / Nicolas Cage as Peter Parker / Spider-Man Noir (voice) / John Mulaney as Peter Porker / Spider-Ham (voice) / Mahershala Ali as Aaron Davis / Prowler (voice) / Liev Schreiber as Wilson Fisk / Kingpin (voice) / Oscar Isaac as Miguel O'Hara / Spider-Man 2099 (voice) / Chris Pine as Peter Parker / Spider-Man (voice) / Jorma Taccone as Norman Osborn / Green Goblin (voice) / ZoŽ Kravitz as Mary-Jane Watson (voice) / Kathryn Hahn as Olivia Octavius / Doc Ock (voice) / Brian Tyree Henry as Jefferson Davis (voice) / Lily Tomlin as Aunt May (voice) / Lake Bell as Vanessa Fisk (voice) / Stan Lee as Costume Shop Owner (voice)
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman / Written by Rothman and Phil Lord
Okay, so shove
these facts up your mind, true believers:
SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is, believe it or not, the very first feature length animated film about the world's most famous wall-crawler. It's also the seventh SPIDER-MAN film since 2000, including Sam Raimi's sometimes masterful and sometimes mediocre trilogy, Marc Webb's equally mixed bag two pack of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN franchise reboots, and, yes, the MCU reboot of the reboot in last year's SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING.
latter version also appeared in CAPTAIN
AMERICA: CIVIL WAR.
That's a lot of
SPIDER-MAN movies and movie appearances.
it's become quite difficult, for me at least, to get genuinely excited
about a new film - animated or not - based on Stan Lee's and Steve Ditko's
immortal comic book creation, which left me in a somewhat hesitant
position going into SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, but the fact that
it's an animated effort not based within the larger MCU (this is produced
by Sony Pictures, which still has joint rights to use the character) had
I'm mostly pleased to report that this Spider-Man effort deserves
some serious props for artistic innovation (more on its animation style in
a bit), its unique handling of yet another Spidey origin story, and, most
importantly, a keen focus on being an ethnically diverse Spider-Man
adventure with several unique twists along the way.
INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE still has some rough and undisciplined edges,
but it's arguably the very first film in this long running, multi-studio
franchise that has a legitimately and engrossingly fresh take on this
iconic and cherished character.
This is not a
Peter Parker centric Spider-Man film (although he does appear in it), but
rather the story of Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), a young
African American teen that lives in Brooklyn and is about to start his
first day at a new private school, but he's not altogether that excited to
be changing schools, even if it means a better education and chances for
His police officer father in Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry) is
beyond giddy at his son's new opportunity, but Miles still finds himself
hooking up with his Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) for quality time away
Poor Miles feels disconnected from his old inner city school pals,
but he escapes, so to speak, from his depression in taking up street art,
a hobby that he's definitely talented in and is supported by his uncle.
For the most part, though, Miles feels down in the dumps and
socially isolated from the other kids attending his posh new school.
Much like it did
with Peter Parker, fate steps in when a radioactive spider bites Miles
while in a subway, which has - for anyone that has ever read a Spider-Man
origin comic - has predictably transformative results for the lad.
His newfound superpowers seem perfectly timed, especially
considering that the real Spider-Man (Chris Pine) has been - gasp! -
murdered by the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) during an altercation that
involved the webhead trying to shut down the villainous thug's particle
accelerator, which seems to have opened up multiple portals to other
And, wouldn't you know it, another Peter Parker shows up in Miles'
life from another dimension that crossed through thanks to the
accelerator, but this version is older, pudgier, less clean shaven, and -
double gasp! - is divorced from Mary Jane Watson.
This Peter (voiced by Jake Johnson) is a depressed schmuck that
Miles amusingly refers to as "a janky old broke hobo
Much to Miles'
surprise, alternate Peter was not the only Spider-Man (or should I say
Spider-Person) to come through the dimensional portal: Multiple variations
from multiple universes also appear at Miles' doorstep, including an all
black and white iteration from the 1930's, Spider-Noir (Nicholas Cage),
Spider-Gwen (yes, that Gwen Stacey, voiced by Hailee Steinfeld), an anime
inspired Peni Parker (complete with giant mech Spidey robot, voiced by
Kimiko Glenn) and finally - and most absurdly - the Loony Tunes inspired
Spider-Ham (aka Peter Porker, voiced by John Mulaney).
All of these radioactive spider powered super heroes inevitably
find themselves banding together to help train the in-over-his-head Miles
to become another Spider-Man while stopping the nefarious plans of the
Kingpin, who wants to take his massive accelerator to the next dangerous
level that could mean doom for New York.
SPIDER-VERSE is an absolute technical dynamo and among one of the most
thrillingly realized animated films I've seen in an awfully long time.
Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman and
their crew of 140 animators from Sony Pictures Imageworks have managed to
painstakingly create a movie that pitch-perfectly captures the essence of
comic book panels come lovingly to life.
Utilizing traditional 3D computer animation and then augmenting it
with a classical 2D hand-drawn vibe, INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE honors the
artistic styles of the pantheon of artists that have drawn Spider-Man over
the decades by making their version feel like it has been plucked right from
graphic novel pages.
With bold line work that was 2D rendered on top of the 3D
animation, the overall bravura effect here is unlike anything I've ever
It's also telling that the film, at times, feels like it
aesthetically compliments Miles' own graffiti artwork within the story;
even the opening credits of INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE has this hyper-stylized
LSD-like trip allure, and the results are a bold and oftentimes beautiful
psychedelic infusion of color and movement.
I also loved the
fact that all of the Spider-Man characters presented here have their own
unique look, flavor, and personality, with each one being flawlessly
adapted from their own comic book antecedents.
It's fitting, for example, that Spider-Ham is as, well, hammy as
possible and often results to sight gags involving oversized mallets and
that Spider-Noir comes from a world of no color, which leaves him overcome
with awe when he encounters a multi-colored Rubik's Cube on Miles' desk
(in one of the film's more clever gags).
Even the Kingpin looks fascinatingly menacing and appears
unhealthily massive, almost like a suited up tank with a pin head.
For the most part, though, the real focal point of interest is
Miles himself, who was created in 2011 and was one of the first mixed
raced super heroes ever.
His arc has familiar beats to those of Peter Parker, but this
version of Spider-Man-to-be seems to have more nagging self-doubts and
barriers that impede him from actually becoming a costume clad hero.
There's an underlining theme of the importance of family - in
various forms - that informs Miles' life.
He loves his dad, but finds his uncle more supportive of things
that inspire him, and later on he finds a surrogate father figure in
Peter, who's primarily responsible for training Miles in the fine art of
There's added dramatic conflict when it appears that Peter doesn't
think that Miles will ever be worthy of the mantle of Spider-Man, which
hurts his pride and confidence.
I was so enamored
with the characters and ideas at the core of INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE that it
left me more than a bit jaded and confused by the schizophrenic tone of
the film, which begs multiple questions from me.
The film was co-written by Phil Lord (who previously made ultra
self-aware films in 21 JUMP STREET
and THE LEGO MOVIE).
There are times during INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE when it's as
positively heart-wrenching as a drama, but then those scenes give way to
massively scaled action set pieces with many other sequences shoehorned in
that have ultra broad humor that makes the whole enterprise feel like an
AIRPLANE styled spoof and lampooning of the larger Spider-Man comic book
There's so much effort taken here to impart depth on Miles as a
conflicted young man that's struggling with identity (both of the masked
and unmasked variety) and what it means for him to be a hero that he's
idolized in another form, but INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE awkwardly and
sometimes aggressively bombards viewers with some distracting fourth wall
breaking scenes where its characters seem fully cognizant that they're
populating a SPIDER-MAN movie. INTO
THE SPIDER-VERSE has a lot of fan servicing in the respect of its
characters cracking wise franchise in-jokes that it really creates this
disconnect in the film. On
this level, the film is literally all over the place and can't seem to
decide whether it wants to be a legitimate Spider-Man origin story or a
goof self-referential farce or an action picture that blends pathos with
I've read a few other critics that have essentially labeled INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE as the PG love child of DEADPOOL and THE LEGO MOVIE. That seems pretty apt, and is one of the sources of, in my opinion, its biggest weakness. However, that's not to take away from the other audacious choices that make this film work, like its supremely pioneering and intrepid visual design and a noble minded attempt to give viewers a SPIDER-MAN film that's delectable different from all others that have come before. Best of all, INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE - despite a too-jokey-for-its-own-good tone - has a relatable new Spider-Man in Miles Morales, which also gives the story added dimension and heart, the latter trait that frequently gets ignored a lot of other bloated and self-indulgent comic book films.