Movie Review: ‘SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE’ catches greatness in its visionary web

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Connor Bynum // Film Critic

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

Rated PG, 117 minutes.
Director(s): Bob PersichettiPeter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman
Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake JohnsonHailee SteinfeldMahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry and Nicolas Cage

After the utter disappointment that was VENOM, I must admit my expectations for Sony’s latest Spidey film were fairly low. The trailer didn’t do much for me either. The choppy animation style was wonky, and it just felt like the people behind it were grasping at anything they could just to hold onto the rights to the web crawler just a little bit longer. Then I saw the movie. Being wrong rarely feels this good. To put it simply, SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is the greatest Spider-Man film ever made.

SPIDER-VERSE follows a gifted young Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), who wants nothing more than to leave his private school life in New York and go back to the lower class neighborhood he calls home. Miles’ father (Brian Tyree Henry), on the other hand, wants the best education for his son and insists that Miles use his gifted mind responsibly. In a universe where Peter Parker (Chris Pine) is just about the perfect incarnation of the iconic web-head, Miles openly looks up to the vigilante superhero. Mere moments after being bitten by a radioactive spider himself, Miles inadvertently stumbles across Spidey as he ultimately fails to stop Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber) from activating his atomic supercollider that bridges the gaps between alternate dimensions. With nobody from his own universe left to teach him how to hone his newfound super powers, Miles must seek out the help of a different dimension’s Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) to stop Fisk and his evil plan.

L-R: Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), Aunt May (Lily Tomlin) and Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld). Courtesy of Sony Pictures.

As convoluted as the plot may sound, the film carries a simple message: Anyone can be a hero. This is perfectly communicated as the film showcases different iterations of Spider-Man that are each unique in their own way, but still carry the responsibility of being the hero of their worlds. Spider-Gwen is from a world where the love interest, Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), is New York’s favorite web slinger; Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) comes from a dark SIN CITY-inspired universe; Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) is a little girl who’s father’s soul resides in a robot that she uses to fight crime in an anime inspired future; and lastly, Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) is a cartoon pig with Spider powers who also wields a comically large mallet that can “fit in your pocket.” It should be noted that each of these characters are absolutely real and have their own series of comic books. Yes, even Spider-Ham.

Seeing the different Spider-Heroes work together on screen is nothing short of mesmerizing. Not only do each of them have their own fighting style, but their own unique animation style as well. The artists behind this film truly went the extra mile to convey that these characters do not belong in Miles’ universe. Also, the lack of motion blur and choppiness of the animation, while initially off putting, is easily adjusted to after the first few minutes. The only negative I can think of is that I wish just a little more time had been spent on each of these side characters before the credits rolled. Of course, side characters by definition are never meant to steal too much of the spotlight. But one or two more set pieces featuring their fighting styles would have been nice.

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is proof that there will always be new stories to tell for this character. It is abundantly clear that the people behind this film share a serious love for the comics behind these characters and you can’t help but enjoy the ride. The story is compelling, the humor is on point, and the action is spectacular. But above all, the film is bursting with heart. I personally can’t wait to see the inevitable sequel.

Grade: A

SPIDER-MAN INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE swings into theaters on Friday (12/14).

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