Who hasn't been bitten by a radioactive spider and had to save the world a time or two, am I right?!
My History with Spider-Man
I grew up watching the cartoon shows of Spider-Man and read a small number of the comics in my lifetime, but I always loved Spider-Man. He was one of my favorite superheroes as a child, I doodled my own little comic books of Spider-Man back then and when the first film with Tobey Maguire came out in 2002, I was beyond ecstatic. I adored every minute I watched on that gigantic screen and I’ve seen every single Spider-Man movie in the theater ever since. Cut to now, as a pseudo-adult, I still enjoy the first two Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man movies as fun camp; the third, not so much. The Amazing Spider-Man I really liked even though it had a few problems, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was riddled with issues, but Andrew Garfield was perfect as Peter Parker. Spider-Man: Homecoming was decent popcorn fun and had a terrific villain with Michael Keaton as the Vulture. Out of all that I’ve seen up until now, I can’t say that a single one of them is truly a great film; they have certain great aspects about them or hold a solid amount of entertainment value, but none of them have ever reached the heights that I feel their potential. At least, that is my opinion. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, on the other hand, is legitimately a great comic book film.
The Plot is Out There
Miles Morales is your average teenage boy going through the normal stresses of school and his home-life, simply figuring out where his true calling is. One night soon after being bitten by a radioactive spider he accidentally runs into a giant quarrel between Spider-Man and a number of his enemies that are trying to create some sort of portal to a parallel dimension, resulting in a variety of Spider-People to enter Miles’ world and together they must stop the Kingpin from continuing on with his plans or else it may be the end of everyone’s world.
This is about as ‘comic-booky’ as you can get with a premise and it was pretty amazing, I loved this movie. It was quirky and a hell of a great time in the theater; the pacing was incredibly done, the characters are all lovable, the action is exhilarating, the comedy was hilarious, and the visual aesthetic and animation of the film was inspiring. The artwork that went into creating this movie was mind-blowing for me, I was practically drooling over every frame of this. Into the Spider-Verse is a blast from start to finish, in its story and everything that goes into it. At no point did I feel lost or confused, nor was I predicting every single thing that was going to happen. I would occasionally pick up on something, but usually only just before it happens, other than that I had no clue where this movie was exactly going. We get just enough backstory on every single ‘Spider-Man’ without bogging down the narrative too much, but not too little for me to not care about the characters either; it captures a perfect balance of exposition, character and story.
Miles Morales is a character I am honestly not all that familiar with. I mean I know of him, I’ve been told a few details about him and I experienced him as a character earlier in this year in Marvel’s Spider-Man video game on the Playstation 4; other than that, I don’t know too much about him in the comic books. This film makes me want to pick up a comic and read a story with him in it because he was a terrific character. I really liked this kid, I heavily related to some things that he was going through, pre-getting bit by radioactive super spider. Miles felt like a real teenage kid with real teenage kid problems, not quite fitting in and having that fear of living up to expectations of others, while also being extremely charismatic and funny. I also thought his unique powers that differed from the other Spider-Man were really cool and created some clever moments within the action. Miles also shares a sort of romance with Gwen Stacy here that I found to be very cute. His character arc was well done and I look forward to seeing him more after what I have seen from this movie as well as the video game.
Peter Parker is the Spider-Man I grew up with and I’ve witnessed numerous different versions and takes on the character, this is one of the more original ideas I’ve seen explored for Peter. A relatively seasoned Spider-Man that has hit a major slump in his personal life causing him to become somewhat lost. Going through a divorce and some other major hits in his life, he’s now starting to let everything go the wayside to an extent. He still is willing to do what he must to save lives, he’s still a hero deep down, but he has lost that spark to really keep him going. Jake Johnson voices Peter Parker here and he is surprisingly one of my, if not my absolute, favorite interpretation of Spider-Man. He is Peter Parker, just older and tired from everything he’s gone through and I really dug that about his character. When he has a quip, it is side-splitting and when he has a dramatic moment it hits hard; the chemistry between Peter and Miles is fantastic with good comedic timing and plenty of humanizing dialog. They complimented each other tremendously, I’d love to see a sequel starring them together again.
The villains all provide some astonishing action and they all have something interesting about their character; Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin, is this hulking mobster that will stop at nothing to see his deceased family again. Doc Ock makes an appearance that I actually didn’t see coming and thought their action sequences were all breathtakingly awesome. A villain called the Prowler also comes into play, a terribly intimidating figure with a backstory that contained a turn that I reveled in as that subplot unraveled. There are a few others that pop in here and there and they all serve their purpose well. This was a Spider-Man movie that knew exactly how to juggle multiple villains in one story. I will say that I wish that there was a bit more involving Wilson Fisk, but I enjoyed what I got out of it with a bad guy who had relatable motives and I respected that as it created a 3-Dimensional character rather than just the run-of-the-mill baddie.
The Action & Style
Artistically speaking, this is possibly the most gorgeous comic book flick I have ever seen in my entire life. The visuals were eye catching in every single frame of the film and I couldn’t look away. It is literally like watching a comic book come to life. From subtle line work to full blown LSD trips, Spider-Verse completely embraced its comic book routes and ran with them. This animation is some of the most ambitious animation I’ve seen in a long time; sure I’ve seen plenty of beautifully crafted animation in the last few years of course, but this movie takes it an extra step further and practically makes every scene a work of art. Sony Pictures Animation is the studio that made this film and they’ve had their fair share of hits along with misses; if you aren’t aware of the movies done under their belt then here are a few examples such as The Smurfs, Hotel Transylvania, The Emoji Movie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and a few others. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is by far in a way their best looking animation.
The action had my eyes widened through most of this nearly two hour runtime. When the movie gets going, it gets going with full speed. The action sequences here rivaled most actual live-action movies I’ve seen from this year. The combination of the color schemes, animation, visual aesthetic and camera work made every action beat so exciting as I smiled like a kid inside of an exploding candy shop. Maybe not a great comparison, but I think you understand what I mean. My heart raced with every punch thrown and fiery explosion emitted. But the action always feels necessary in the moment and never forced. When a fight goes down it doesn’t feel artificial to the writing, but rather natural to what’s going on in the story while keeping the pace up immensely.
In Conclusion, Stop Reading This and Go See the Movie
This was one of my favorite experiences in the theater from 2018, I had an unbelievable time seeing this on the big screen. It really did bring me back to that feeling I had as a child as I watched the very first Spider-Man movie; excited, scared, happy, sad, and completely mesmerized. This isn’t just some cartoon that shouldn’t be taken seriously, this is a real film with true artistic merit to boot. Yes, the plot is totally absurd to say the least, but it pulls it off with incredible talent and never feeling convoluted in the slightest. Now that is no easy feat to include a premise involving multiple dimensions and a cast line filled to the brim. Everything gets the right amount of attention and care from the characters and story to the cinematography and animation, nothing is left to be the weak link. I’m personally so glad to see that we have, not one, but two great comic book movies playing in the theater right now between Aquaman and Spider-Verse. If you haven’t seen either already then may I suggest that you swing on by to catch the next screening of your friendly neighborhood, Spider-Man or freedom fighting for fish Aquaman in a theater near you! Okay, not the smoothest way to end a review, but they’re both really good flicks that deserve the love!
© 2018 John Plocar