Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Review

After 20 years of superhero films dominating the box office and becoming the cornerstone of the moviegoing experience in the 21st century, no one ever stopped to ask, “who do these films need to be live action?” Enter “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” a complete game-changer for not just the business of on-screen heroes, but for animation on the whole.

Comic books, after all, are a drawn medium, so why did it take so long for a studio to sink resources into animating them? Superheroes such as Spider-man thrived as cartoons in the ‘90s, helping endear today’s young adult audiences to these characters and laying the foundation for their live-screen success. “Into the Spider-Verse” not only taps into that experience, but also the comic book experience, with a visual aesthetic that’s textured like a comic book and frames that often resemble panels.

This kind of innovation is no surprise from the minds of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (“The LEGO Movie,” “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”), who have simply never missed when they take a swing at something. They were the perfect partners for Sony producers Amy Pascal and Avi Arad, who have been part of every Spider-man movie project, and who struggled to figure out what to do with the character once the Andrew Garfield/Marc Webb reboot failed to gain traction. And now that Tom Holland’s Spidey lives under the Marvel Studios banner, it left Sony with a big question mark in terms of how to keep its big cash-spider spinning.

“Into the Spider-Verse” opens with a short montage that provides a linkage to (while also making fun of) previous live-action Spider-man movies, but launches into something completely new that simultaneously reconciles all the many iterations of Spider-man that have existed over the years and creates a fresh story. It centers on a relatively new Spider-man from the comics, Brooklyn teen Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who is bitten by an interdimensional spider and must stop Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber) from continuing space-time experiments that have resulted in Spider-heroes from other dimensions from entering Miles’ world.

Middle-aged Spider-man (Jake Johnson), noir Spider-man (Nicholas Cage), Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), anime Penny Parker (Kimiko Glenn) and her spider-bot and even the Looney Tunes-inspired Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) make up this colorful cast of Spideys, many of whom represent different animated styles. They all make Miles’ journey of coming into his own type of hero messy though more interesting.

The incredible visual ingenuity implemented by directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman stands out as the film’s defining feature. Everything about it from the neon color palette to the interdimensional “glitching” effect elevates the film above any comparable animated action movie—this is not some unofficial, kid-focused “Spider-man” side project, but a serious artistic endeavor.

In doing so, “Spider-Verse” completely erases any previously held notions of what a superhero film can or should be. It also is a reminder of how limiting live action can be when telling these stories. There’s so much more possibility and creativity that can happen in animation and this movie proves it. With Lord’s story and script, the storytelling and especially the humor is a really solid base from which all this visual creativity can flow. And flow it does.

In age of superhero movies that feel like carbon copies of each other, “Spider-Verse” stands out immediately, sparking excitement and renewed interest in these stories in a way that hasn’t been felt in many years. Only “Black Panther” comes close from a production standpoint in terms of using visual creativity to deepen engagement and investment in a film.

“Into the Spider-Verse” pulses with renewed energy as it incorporates the dimensions of live-action films, cartoons and comic books into its own diverse but homogenized aesthetic. It proves what superhero stories can become when creators and artists strip away all the filters and make a commitment to not placing any limitations on what a movie can be. It’s quite possible that this wouldn’t have just worked with any character or story, but as the Marvel hero with whom audiences are most familiar, Spider-man proved to be the perfect hero for this experiment. Mind blown.

4.5/5 Stars

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Written by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman
Starring: (voices) Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld


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