Fans of Spider-Man fatigued by portrayals of Peter Parker will revel in this beautiful and fresh interpretation of Spider-lore.
Light spoilers ahead!
When a new Spider-Man movie is announced, it’s somewhat difficult to get excited. As at least a passive fan of the web-slinging hero since my childhood, I’ve typically enjoyed the big screen adventures of Peter Parker. Still, with so many stories of comic heroes completely ignored, it sometimes feels like a new Spider-Man story takes the place of something that could be entirely new and fresh. Fortunately, Spider-Man movies are typically worthy cinematic feats striking the balance of humor and action well. When first hearing about an animated Spider-Man, though, with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, I was skeptical, but the intrigue of telling Miles Morales’s origin story as Spidey hooked me, and having seen the film, have completely jumped on the bandwagon and am now a diehard Spider-Man fanboy.
Spider-Man’s origin is one that is well-known and has had it’s time on-screen in several films, so going into the film, I was comforted that at least I would be getting the origin of Miles Morales rather than a retelling of Peter Parker’s story, which, compelling and entertaining though it may be, has been done and is still fresh in audience’s minds. Without giving all the details away, the movie begins with Peter Parker telling his origin, but in doing so, comically acknowledges it’s a story that’s been told before, and is a nice homage to previous iterations of Spider-Man films while making sure the audience is coming into this story with the requisite background knowledge.
The humor and tone of this opening sequence set the film up perfectly, but was struck me as a surprise was just how gorgeous the film was from its opening sequence. While the trailers highlighted the unique animation style, until I was in the theater, I did not grasp just how beautiful the art in this movie would be. The animation style subtly reminds you that you’re watching something based on a comic book, striking a great balance of using captions, comic book paneling, and text overlays to give you a nudge to remind the audience they’re witnessing a visual masterpiece play out before them.
In addition to being visually stunning, the story is compelling, fun, and at times, a bit emotional. In the film, we learn how Miles Morales comes to don the mantle of Spider-Man, seeing him bit by the essential radioactive spider, then struggle to figure out how to use his powers. King Pin, whose wife and son have died in this universe, is attempting to open a portal into parallel universes to bring back his family back into the universe he’s living in. Inadvertently, in his preliminary attempts, other versions of Spider-Man are brought to Miles Morales’s universe, including Spider-Woman Gwen Stacey, the Peter Parker from our universe, Peter Porker, Spider-Man Noir, and Penni Parker, all of whom tell their origin story in a brilliantly planned, and remarkably funny montage. These Spiderpeople help to train Miles Morales with the ultimate goal of returning to their original universe.
I want to keep this review light on spoilers, so without revealing any of the plot twists, suffice it to say that the length of this movie is perfect, as the main storyline never seems to drag. A myriad of familiar Spider-villains are employed by King Pin to head off the various Spider-Men from thwarting his plans. With Spider-Men from different universes, a combination of animation styles are used, enhancing the beauty and design of this film. Seeing different fighting styles and clever uses of familiar Spider-powers, each action sequence is engaging and meaningful, and Miles, as the main protagonist, is compelling, and watching him learn to step up to the plate makes for an enjoyable adventure.
In this film, at times serious and heavy messages are delivered in a perfect balancing act making use not only of Peter Parker’s notable humor, but employing Peter Porker and Spider-Man noir as comedic relief in the perfect times. The film is believable and engaging, without ever feeling too corny. It adeptly meets is goal of being a film the entire family can enjoy. Walking into the theater, I appreciated Spider-Man, but this movie has made me fall in love with both the more unfamiliar versions of this character as well as for Peter as a protagonist. I don’t want to be too hasty in judging, but if this adaptation of Spider-Man lore is not the best movie version of the web-slinging hero, it is certainly a close competitor for that title, and in terms of superhero movies, of which the cinemas are inundated, is a fresh example of what a comic book movie should be, and is worth every penny of admission.
By: Dan Burkett