Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) Review

INTO SPIDER-VERSE WE GO!!!


 

The cinematic road for Spider-Man has been a bit of a rocky one, beginning first with the original Spider-Man trilogy, featuring actor Toby Maguire playing the title character as well as Kristen Dunst as Mary Jane and actor James Franco as Harry Osborne. The first cinematic iteration (released on 2002) of the so-called “Dawn of the superhero genre” we all know of today), received positive reviews and was highly successful at the box office (making $820 million globally), which green-lit the studio to churn out two more follow-up sequels with 2004’s Spider-Man 2 and 2007’s Spider-Man 3. After that, Sony / Columbia Pictures (the man studio behind this trilogy) went silent with the character of Spider-Man, observing (and watching) as the now popular juggernaut MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) began to grow and dominate the box office; amassing comic books rights for their films and gaining a steady incline of movie fandom. After sometime, Sony Pictures returned to the superhero genre by “rebooting” their Spider-Man franchise from scratch and released The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012, with actor Andrew Garfield playing the role of Peter Parker / Spider-Man and actress Emma Stone playing his love interest of Gwen Stacey. The film did make splash with critics and fans alike and did gain a profitable return (over $750 million at the global box office), which prompted the studio make a sequel with 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2. After that, however, Sony Pictures had several ideas planned for Spider-Man (i.e. another sequel, spin-offs, and even a possible reboot franchise), but nothing ever materialized as Marvel’s MCU, which was under the control of parent company Disney, continued to flourish and expand. Eventually, many rumors and speculation, Sony / Columbia Pictures and Disney finally came to an agreement with the rights of Spider-Man, allowing the character to appear in the MCU franchise and did so in superhero ensembles films 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War as well 2017’s feature film Spider-Man: Homecoming, with actor Tom Holland playing the role of Spider-Man / Peter Parker in all three movies. The inclusion of Spider-Man in the MCU has brought a joyous celebration, with many praising Holland’s performance as the new younger Spider-Man as well as the character finally appearing alongside the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, and other popular MCU superheroes. Now, Sony / Columbia Pictures (as well as Sony Pictures Animation) and directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman present the latest cinematic iteration of Spider-Man with the animated feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Does this cartoon feature film bring its own heart and web-slinging fun to the proceedings or is it just a disappointing spin-off / off-shoot from Sony Pictures who’s desperately trying to find a seat at the superhero film genre?

THE STORY


Living in New York City, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is a teenager about to embark on a private school path he’s not interested in taking, receiving a shot at a better education and trying to please his father, police officer Jefferson Morales (Brian Tyree Henry) and his mother Rio Morales (Luna Lauren Velez). However, Miles just wants to be himself, looking to his wayward Uncle Aaron Davis (Mahershala Ali) for guidance for his free time prospects. After being bitten by a radioactive spider in the labyrinth bowels of the subway system, Miles is transformed, demonstrating unusual powers that are similar to NYC’s masked webslinger hero Spider-Man (Chris Pine) and making his normal high school truly difficult. Unfortunately, just as quick as he discovers these newfound powers, Miles stumbles upon his universe’s version of Spider-Man, who’s attempting to stop Kingpin (Live Schreiber) from using a supercollider he built under Brooklyn from creating a black hole. However, things do go sideways, a grave misfortune happens, and the black hole breaks through the space / time continuum barriers, bringing forth other Spider-People from other dimensional realities to Miles’ Earth, including Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney). Now, still considering how recent he acquired his powers, Miles and other multi-verse Spider-people must band together to stop Kingpin from reusing his particle accelerator supercollider again and potential wreaking havoc across the Spider-Verse. That being said, it still remains to be seeing if Miles is ready his new power and become a new Spider-Man to help save the day from villainy.

THE GOOD / THE BAD


I know, I know…that was a lot to write for my opening paragraph (some of it I borrowed from a little bit from my Spider-Man: Homecoming review, but it helped get my point across). Like I said, there have been many attempts by Hollywood in bringing the comic book character of Spider-Man to the silver screen. The original Spider-Man trilogy (2002-2007) was really good, especially considering how it was developed during the more “early days” of superhero movies (quite different from what’s to be expected from today’s superhero blockbusters. To me, the trilogy worked (for the most part) and was able to achieve a full-circle story from beginning to end, which is a good thing. Then came The Amazing Spider-Man (2012-2014) movies and I liked those ones even more, especially due to Andrew Garfield’s performance as Peter Parker (I think he did a better job than Toby Maguire). However, I felt that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was bloated and could’ve been better (i.e. too busy in trying to set up a “larger” cinematic universe rather than focusing on the story being told). Thus, I wasn’t too surprise that Sony / Columbia Pictures didn’t continue with The Amazing Spider-Man movies. Flash forward a few years later and now we have Spider-Man (and Peter Parker) in the MCU, with actor Tom Holland playing the iconic role and (judging from how he’s being set up in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Avengers: Infinity War) seems like he’s gonna be around for quite some time. Thus, it looks like Spider-Man in the MCU is gonna be a “major player” in the future of the MCU.

Of course, this brings me to talking about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a 2018 animated movie from Sony / Columbia Pictures. With a lot of pomp and fanfare from the MCU’s Spider-Man, Sony Pictures, who still retains the rights of the superhero character, continues to try and find their own cinematic piece at the superhero film genre table (most notable with 2018’s movie Venom being a prime staple of that mantra). Thus, I was sort of kind of surprised when I heard of an animated Spider-Man movie being developed from them, especially since he joined the MCU superhero roster. I do remember hearing a lot of talk about the movie (via the internet), mostly due to the fact that the movie would be featuring Miles Morales, an African-American character that dawns Spider-Man mantle in the comic book series, as the movie’s main protagonist. I also remember seeing the film’s various trailers and, while I thought they were good, I wasn’t expecting much from the movie. I don’t know…. I just wasn’t feeling it, which is why I probably didn’t post the movie’s various trailers on my blog. I knew it would be getting some cinematic notoriety, but I had feeling it would be a mediocre “one and done” type animated feature endeavor, especially since the great division between fans and moviegoers on Venom. However, advance reviews of the movie still it’s one of the best superhero movies out there. So, I went to see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse hoping that those particular early reviews were right about this movie. So…were they true. What did I think of it? Well, to be honest, they were. They all were. While the movie has a few minor problems, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse delivers on its promise, producing a fresh, dramatic, humorous, and overall entertaining superhero origin story that’s executed with stylish animation and plenty of Spider-Man meta references. This movie is definitely one of the biggest surprises of the year (and I think many will agree with me on that).

Into the Spider-Verse is directed by not one, not two, but three directors, with Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman acting as the cognitive components of overseeing this animated feature. So, with Persichetti’s background in the art / animation department (Flushed Away and Monsters vs. Aliens), Ramsey’s background in as director for the animated film Rise of the Guardians, and Rothman’s background as a writer (22 Jump Street and Late Show with David Letterman), the three co-directors’ approach Into the Spider-Verse with a sense of familiarity as well as a sense of animated wonder, taking a different take on the classic superhero origin of Spider-Man. In truth, the combination of this trio directors offers up a reflection to the movie there are telling, with each one bringing something new and / or different to help strengthen the narrative of the feature. Thus, their efforts work, making the film both heartfelt and entertainment in their respective sum parts. Additionally, their ideas and overseeing material gels with each other (and not abrasive), finding their shared directional works on Into the Spider-Verse meshing to make a cohesive animated feature rather than a hodgepodge of collective Spidey ideas. Some stuff could’ve been explained or expanded upon, but (for the most part) the works done by Persichetti, Ramsey, and Rothman on this movie is great, showcasing all three independent minds came together and produce something…well…. amazing.

Coinciding with that, the film’s script, which was penned by Rothman along with Chris Lord (the mind behind the two Jump Street movies and The LEGO Movie) also plays an instrumental part of the overall likeability of Into the Spider-Verse, providing an origin tale narrative that takes atypical for a superhero adventures, but adds something different. Not just because the character of Miles Morales is a more secondary (against the more commonly used Peter Parker Spider-Man, but because of the introduction of the multiverse (or rather the Spider-Verse) acting as the main focal point of Mile’s origin tale as a superhero. Like the movie points out, the Spider-Man origin has had a long legacy in retelling the classic scenario of the character’s humble beginnings (and the superhero adventures) and Miles’s story (as told in the movie) sees how he fits into this wide variety of Spider-People in this multiverse aspect and how he will define his own legacy as a superhero…or for that matter….if he wants to be a superhero. Thankfully, both Miles and the narrative of Into the Spider-Verse demonstrates a very unique style of storytelling, utilizing the idea of the multiverse as the main component of the feature as well as dealing with a great deal of animated heart, quality, and cinematic nuances to make this superhero origin tale stand apart form other Spider-Man iterations from all forms of media adaptations (both TV and film). Also, there’s plenty to laugh throughout the film, with the movie’s humor takes some pretty hilarious sequences and scenarios, with most playing up the kooky nature of “world collide” with all the Spider-People coming together. In addition, their plenty of meta Spider-Man reference throughout the movie, with some taking clues of the classic storylines of the character (i.e. the origin), some of the comic books, and some direct sequences ripped from the various comic books movies. The film is very self-aware of these particular points and makes some great fun in how they are handled and presented them throughout the feature.

On the presentation / technical side, Into the Spider-Verse is a visually stunning animated feature, providing some very unique styles in serving as the atmospheric nature of the film. Naturally, the animation style is what I’m talking, employing a very different take producing a cartoon movie, especially when comparing to the current roster of animated movies being released. While the movie does have 3D animation style (atypical for almost any animated movies endeavor nowadays), Into the Spider-Verse carries a very distinct look and feel throughout its entire runtime, utilizing a certain type of styles and textures to give it that “superhero” comic book feel that’s being translated onto the big screen. Various techniques and nuances like text boxes to describe Miles’s inner dialogue voice to comic book window pane shots are presented throughout and add a very colorful flavor to the feature. It can be a bit jarring at first, especially since this animation style is not commonly used in comparison to the more traditional 3D animation (like Disney / Pixar, DreamWorks, or Illumination Entertainment), but it’s something you get use (very quickly) and become immersed within its very unique color palette and animation rendering. Personally, it was quite good…like really good. I wasn’t completely sold on it (at first), but it definitely grew on me and I loved Into the Spider-Verse’s animation style. It’s almost like a character unto itself and that’s really a great cinematic thing to “rave” about.

The movie’s animation style also extends to the action sequences that are featured in the movie, providing some creative cinematography elements that an animated endeavor like this could only achieve and the results are quite joyful and beautiful. Again, it’s a bit jarring at first, but it ultimately feels genuine as the narrative progresses. In addition to the movie’s own personal animation style, the movie also shows the different rendering animation style for several of the other Spider-People from other dimensions, adhering to their own personal spins and inspirational. For instance, Spider-Man is drawn with 2D monochromatic coloring, Spider-Ham looks like something out of a classic Looney Tunes inspiration, and Peni Parker is drawn from anime style influence. These different styles to render these respective characters offers something unique to Into the Spider-Verse, providing a texture depth and visually appeal that animated movies rarely have done before. All of this works within the movie and works wonder throughout. Thus, it’s no wonder that the film required up to 140 animators to work on this project (the largest crew that Sony Pictures Animation has ever assembled for a movie). I do have to give credit (and applaud) them for their work on Into the Spider-Verse.

Also, while the film’s musical score, which was composed by Daniel Pemberton, is rather good, Into the Spider-Verse’s music soundtrack is great, offering up an urban / hip-hop flavor of songs selection to add to a flavor towards Mile’s setting. Plus, a lot of the songs used in the movie don’t feel “forced” or anything like and overall “flow” with the movie’s corresponding scenes with utilized. I’m sure some viewers out there will probably by the film’s soundtrack or at least download a few songs via iTunes.

Despite a lot of positives remarks about this movie, I did have a few minor complaints about Into the Spider-Verse. Like all movies, nothing walks away completely unscathed from criticism. The one that will probably stand out the most is the overall familiarity with some of the narrative elements throughout the feature. With this film being a somewhat Spider-Man origin story for character Miles Morales, there’s a lot of familiar (a bit formulaic) storyboard references that play out throughout. It works for the character and for a superhero film, but the overall narrative path seems predictable and does come off as such. Personally, I didn’t know much about the character of Miles Morales (from his comic book source material), but I kind of sort of guessed what was going to happen before it did. I don’t know…maybe it was by design or maybe it was just the “nature of the beast” when trying to bring another Spider-Man tale to the silver screen.

The same thing can be said about the other Spider-People from other Spider-Verse dimensions. The idea of multi-verse is a common staple in superhero comic book tales as well as other science fiction stories (i.e. books, TVs, and feature films) and has been done many times over. Heck, I remember the 1994 animated Spider-Man cartoon series doing a similar narrative (a collection of Spider-Man from the multi-verse) during the show’s last season. Again, the familiarity of a multi-verse storyline and characters come together (i.e. clashing, bickering, and sharing dilemmas) is there and does become a bit predictable throughout. Although, this narrative scenario usually brings some funny sequences of characters sharing difference within their dimensional worlds (like I mentioned above). So, I guess it’s a “give and take” type of idea / criticism. Another problem I had with the movie is that so particular parts are a bit confusing. Being a comic book superhero, sometimes the story arc and various pieces of it can be a bit nonsensical (i.e. taking a lot of things with a grain of salt) and Into the Spider-Verse does do that a few times. Yes, the story (for the most part) is pretty straightforward, but there are bits and pieces that aren’t fully fleshed and left me a bit perplexed. Again, these criticisms are not a “deal breaker” and relatively minor ones at that. Just stuff that noticed while watching the movie.

The cast in Into the Spider-Verse is an awesomely solid, assembling a selection some recognizable actors and actresses to lend their respective voices in order to bring these characters life. While widely common practice for big named actors and actresses to perform within animated features, Into the Spider-Verse’s voice cast is highly impressive, finding no weak link in the entire roster. At the head of the pack (and acting as the main hero of the feature) is the character of Miles Morales, who is voiced by actor Shameik Moore. Known for his roles in Incredible Crew, Dope, and The Get Down, Moore does give some compelling vocal work in his role of Miles, going from unsure teenager and to the classic self-assured superhero. It’s tried and true storytelling method that has been utilized throughout many superhero origin tales (or even kid’s fantasy adventures), but the way how it is handled in Into the Spider-Verse is great and Moore’s giving Miles a lot of character depth, ranging from joyous, sadness, uplifting, and triumphant. Thus, the character of Miles Morales (thanks how he’s presented in the movie and how his voice is brought to life) is a terrific Spider-Man protagonist character of which many will enthralled and engaging in his origin tale in Into the Spider-Verse.

Of the more secondary characters are two of the other Spider-People from the multiverse that aid Miles in his journey, with characters Peter B. Parker and Gwen Stacy, who are voiced by actor Jake Johnson (Tag and The New Girl) and actress Hailee Steinfeld (Pitch Perfect 2 and The Edge of Seventeen). Johnson’s Parker gets a lot of screen-time to develop throughout the movie as the elder and more cynical Spider-Man that almost acts as mentor figure for Miles. Plus, Johnson is great in the role, providing enough humorous one-liners for the character. Additionally, the vocal chemistry between Johnson and Moore is great, with plenty of witty banter between them both. In comparison to Johnson’s Peter B. Parker, Steinfeld isn’t given much of a storytelling arc as Gwen Stacy, but she does have a lot of screen-time for some character fun as well as having some moments of heart with Miles that could quite possibly pave the way for a deeper story in the future. Still, of all the other Spider-People, both Johnson and Steinfeld shines immensely in their respective roles.

The other Spider-People in the movie, including actor Nicholas Cage (Face / Off and The Rock) as the old-school detective Spider-Man Noir, actress Kimiko Glenn (Orange is the New Black and Nerve) as Peni Parker, an anime style-universe who co-pilots a biomechanical suit with a radioactive spider that she shares a telepathic link with, actor Nicholas Cage (The Rock and Face / Off) as Spider-Man Noir, a dark and monochromatic from the 1930s universe that’s reminiscent to the old crime noir “dick tracy” character, and actor John Mulaney (Mulaney and Kroll Show) as Spider-Ham, a looney tunes inspired anamorphic pig that dawns the Spider-Man mantle. These three characters are great additions in the movie and do bring a different type of variety of the Spider-Verse. Although, the only downside to their inclusion is that they don’t share as much screen-time as the other Spider-People (Miles, Peter P. Parker, and Gwen Stacy) as Peni, Noir, and Ham come later in the film. Still, their inclusion in the film is a welcomed one, finding each to bring a screen uniqueness to this multi-verse.

Looking beyond Miles and the other Spider-People, Into the Spider-Verse has several other characters that play some important roles in the movie. The more important ones of this bunch are the character of Jefferson Davis and Aaron Davis, who are played by actors Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta and Hotel Artemis) and Mahershala Ali (Green Book and Moonlight). Both Jefferson and Aaron acts as Miles’s parental fatherly figures in the movie (Jefferson being Miles’s father and Aaron being his uncle). Thus, they bringing equal parts to shaping the character of Miles throughout the movie. Plus, Henry and Ali provide excellent vocals for these respective comic book characters. In the villain category, actor Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan and Spotlight) as Wilson Fisk / Kingpin and actress Kathryn Hahn (Bad Moms and Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation) as Dr. Olivia (don’t want to spoil her character, but it’s fun twist on a Spider-Man character). Both Schreiber and Hahn give great vocal performances in their respective characters…. although I don’t like the character design of Kingpin (too blocky, too bulky), but that’s more of an artist design rather than voice talent.

Rounding out the cast are several minor characters that appear throughout the movie, including actress Zoe Kravitz (Divergent and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald) as famously known Spider-Man character / love interest Mary Jane, actress Luna Lauren Velez (Oz and Dexter) as Mile’s mother Rio Morales, and actress Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie and The Magic School Bus) as Aunt May. These character, though minor ones, still provide good vocal performances whenever they’re on-screen.

Lastly, much like its superhero movie of late, be sure to still around for the film’s ending credits as there are two Easter eggs scene (one mid-credits and one at the very end). While the latter offers a humorous sequence that will surely make you have (and vague possibility at hinting a future movie sequel), the mid-credits scene is the more palpable one that will speak to all comic book moviegoers / fanboys out there. You’ll know what I mean when you see the movie.

FINAL THOUGHTS


Miles Morales goes from awkward teenager to aspiring superhero, experiencing an adventure to save the multi-verse and learns what it means to be a hero in the movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman latest project sees the classic superhero origin story unfold in a vibrant new way, playing around in setting that’s both familiar and surprisingly fresh at the same time. While the movie does tread into some formulaic / predictable territory in its undertaking, the movie ultimately succeeds in being a stunning and visually entertaining animated film, thanks to the film’s unique comic book animation, a new spin on an old classic origin narrative, and an amazing voice cast across the board. Personally, I loved this movie. Like I mentioned above I wasn’t too super excited to see this movie, but I had a blast watching it. It was funny, heartfelt, engaging, colorful, and had some great superhero entertainment value. Thus, I have to say that my recommendation for this movie is a rock-solid “highly recommended” as the movie does have something for a lot of moviegoers out there, even if you’re a fan of Spider-Man / superheroes genre or not. Given all the praise and positive fanfare that this movie has been receiving, it’s safe to assume that there’s gonna be a Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2 sometime in the future (it’s just a question of when and if it will be worth sequel to this movie). All in all, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is an amazing and wonderfully animated superhero origin story, delivering a spectacular introduction to the character of Miles Morales that will leave its viewers wanting more.

4.6 Out of 5 (Highly Recommended)

 

Released On: December 14th, 2018
Reviewed On: December 28th, 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse  is 116 minutes long and is rated PG for frenetic sequences of animated action violence, thematic elements, and mild language

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