Dan's Review: "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" is the best animated feature of 2018
Dec 14, 2018 10:24PM
● By Dan Metcalf
Jake Johnson and Shameik Moore in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - © 2018 Sony/Columbia.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Sony/Columbia)
Rated PG for frenetic sequences of animated action violence, thematic elements, and mild language.
Starring (voices of) Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Jake Johnson, Liev Schreiber, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Velez, Lily Tomlin, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Chris Pine, Oscar Isaac, Kathryn Hahn, Zoë Kravitz, Lake Bell, Jorma Taccone, Marvin "Krondon" Jones III, Post Malone, Stan Lee.
Written by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, based on "Miles Morales" by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli, based on the "Spider-Man" comics by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman.
Feeling a little Spider-Man fatigue lately? I mean, there have been no less than SIX major releases since 2002, when Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire offered up their interpretation of Stan Lee/Steve Ditko’s uber-popular comic book superhero. After Maguire’s three films, Andrew Garfield had an unsuccessful run as the web-slinger in 2012 and 2014, followed by a new version from the Marvel Cinematic Universe starring Tom Holland (another will be released in 2019). So, when I heard there would be an animated Spider-Man feature film, I thought it might be one of those “barely good enough to avoid direct to video release” attempts. Boy, was I mistaken. Not only is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse an awesome animated film, it’s an incredible movie and perhaps the best Spider-Man movie ever produced.
It’s best to describe the story as a mash-up of many different versions of Spider-Man. You begin with a timeline involving all things of the “Sony” world involving an extension of the Maguire/Garfield interpretations. The “real” Spider-Man is voiced by Chris Pine, who describes everything that’s happened so far, and beyond. Enter Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a Spider-Man fan and teenaged prep school kid living in New York with his mom Rio (Luna Lauren Velez) and father Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry), who is also an NYPD officer. Miles idolizes his uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) who is estranged from Jefferson, leading a life of crime. When the pressures of school get to him, Miles visit his uncle, who takes him a tour of New York’s hidden underground, where the boy can freely express his graffiti talents. Their excursion takes them near a secret lab operated by the evil Kingpin (Liev Schreiber), who is constructing a portal he hopes will allow for travel to another dimension so he can reunite with his dead wife and child. Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider that crept through the underground wall and begins to exhibit superpowers. He returns to the lab where the “real” Spider-Man is attempting to shut the portal down. Miles tries to help, but instead, witnesses Kingpin’s murder of Spider-Man after the portal is opened. In the brief time the portal was opened, several other “Spider-Man” alternate universes converge, with the arrival of other “Spider-beings.” They include another “real” but slovenly version of Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Jake Johnson), Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Noir (Nicolas Cage), anime Peni Parker and her robot SP//dr, along with the cartoonish pig Peter Porker/Spider-Ham (John Mulaney). Miles enlists the grubby Spider-Man to train him and learn how to use his powers, as the “Spider-People” band together to take Kingpin and his right-hand enforcer and lead scientist Olivia Octavius/Doctor Octopus (Kathryn Hahn) down. They also enlist (dead) Peter’s Aunt May (Lily Tomlin) for assistance, which comes handy, due to her secret lab under the shed behind her home. Kingpin soon strikes and someone close to Miles pays the price, leading to a final confrontation between Kingpin and the Spider-Team.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is an incredible film, both in terms of animation and visual spectacle. The movie is presented in a format that comes across as watching a story on comic book paper, yet with three-dimensional form. The visual artistry and intense action are complimented by a hilarious and poignant script and a perfect voice cast.
The greater success of the movie is the way it weaves so many separate versions of Spider-Man into a narrative that is respectful of Stan Lee’s original superhero concept. It’s a means of acceptance; as if Marvel is sharing Spider-Man with the universe and allowing fans to share their own interpretations of what it means to be a superhero.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is easily the best animated feature film of the year, and perhaps one of the best films of the year.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Trailer