‘Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse’ Review

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDERVERSE (10 out of 10) Directed by Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsay and Rodney Rothman; Writen by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman; Starring Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Lily Tomlin, John Mulaney and Nicholas Cage; Rated PG for frenetic sequences of animated action violence, thematic elements and mild language; Running time 117 minutes; In wide release December 14, 2018.

Spider-Man has had quite a bumpy road in his big screen outings. The first two Raimi films are considered some of the best of the bunch with everyone (wisely) forgetting the next four movies until Homecoming came along. So everyone was quite surprised at the announcement of Into the Spiderverse, his first animated full-length film to be released in theaters which would hit less than a year before Far From Home, the follow-up to Homecoming. With a fantastic trailer, voice cast and an impressively diverse set of characters, expectations were almost obscenely high going in. Rest assured that it not only meets but exceeds them in almost every aspect.

There is a lot to digest here, and there are a ton of Easter eggs and plot twists to experience. It’s best to go in as blind as possible, so I will keep this brief. All audiences really need to know is that teenager Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is bitten by a radioactive spider and begins to develop powers that, until then, were only available to the one and only Spider-Man (Chris Pine). Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) has invested a fortune into a device that will open a rift between dimensions, but doing so inadvertently summons various Spider-People from five other dimensions who must join forces with Miles to keep the Fisk Corporation from opening the rift again and destroying all of New York City.

Set squarely in the Ultimate Spider-Man and Miles Morales comics written by Brian Michael Bendis, Spiderverse is a treat for the eyes, ears and emotions and is an animated film unlike anything ever made before. From the writing and acting to the cinematography, score and soundtrack, everything has a place and purpose and pops with excitement and meaning. There isn’t an ounce of fat to be found here as its nearly two hour running time is fully deserved and never drags or feels like padding. Even just the small moments of silence between heroes or father and son have gravitas and impact and tug at the heartstrings as much as the action set pieces get that same heart racing.

But aside from all of that, this is easily the best and most accurate comic book movie made since Scott Pilgrim, and is much arguably better than that. The animation is reminiscent of cel shading from video games like Borderlands or The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker combined with the filming technique of Waking Life or A Scanner Darkly. Simply put, it’s like nothing ever seen before and is jaw dropping even before the movie starts. Spiderverse is also acutely aware that it’s a comic book film as word and thought bubbles appear in the background showing Miles’ emotions and running inner dialogue as the actor performs the lines. Add in visual sound effects like “thwipp” and “oof” when web slinging or fighting bad guys, respectively, and this feels exactly like the comic pages come to life on the big screen.

This doesn’t even begin to cover the rest of the cinematography that makes this one of the most gorgeous and visually stunning films of the year. Anyone who has seen the trailer is familiar with the scene where Miles jumps off a skyscraper and dives towards the street below only to have the shot reverse to make it look as if he is falling upward surrounded by broken pieces of glass, glinting in the star light. That shot alone could be made into a print and framed and put up on display and would have even casual passersby impressed. The thing is, there are countless moments like this in the film, and if every one of them were displayed in this way, one could fill a museum.

So I know this has been a lot of gushing, but there really isn’t a single thing wrong with Spiderverse. It’s a masterpiece in animation and sets an impossibly high bar for any comic book or Spider-Man movie to come in the future. Not only does it capture the essence of what it is to be Spider-Man, it perfectly balances action, heart, comedy and emotion in a way never seen before. Not only is this the best comic book and Spider-Man movie ever made, it’s also, hands down, the best movie of the year. So go see this in IMAX while it’s still available because to miss the opportunity to experience this on the biggest screen possible would be a disservice to the viewer as well as the movie.

10 out of 10

Image credit: vox.com