SONY PICTURES RELEASING (2018)
Directors: Bob Persichetti / Peter Ramsey / Rodney Rothman
Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber
Wait, wasn’t this guy dusted in that other movie?
Everyone’s favourite web-slinger is back! No, not that Tom Holland/Peter Parker dude, he’s still not feeling too good. I’m talking Miles Morales, another soul bitten by those pesky spiders and the lead character in the new animated flick, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the latest venture from Sony and Marvel. After six Spidey movies, plus appearances elsewhere, could an animated direction yield different results?
After he is bitten by a radioactive spider, Miles Morales (Moore) develops those old Spidey skills, though he has no idea how to use or control them. They soon come in handy after a proton collider created by the nefarious Kingpin (Schreiber) tears open various dimensions and realities bringing Morales face-to-face with a whole host of Spider variations. They must all work together to bring down Kingpin and his machine, whilst Morales must battle with his new powers and the struggles of simply growing up. It’s an altogether different type of origin story and a refreshing take on a beloved, but worn character. Whilst Morales is still undoubtedly a good person, he is less “goody-goody” than Peter Parker was – rebelling against school and far more at home listening to hip-hop with his uncle (voiced by Ali). But there are no clichés or agendas with his character – just a kid trying to find his way.
As an animated movie, Into the Spider-Verse is also an entirely different beast. Whilst it took a few minutes to adapt to the different visual style, once it was absorbed, its eccentric beauty shone through and leaped off the screen like...pages from a comic book. Scenes were drawn in the traditional comic style, blended with 3D and 2D and splashed with vibrant colours to create a wholly unique experience that provided something that other similar movies haven’t. The excellent voice work from an insanely talent ensemble compliments the visuals so well and each character is given a real personality by their respective vocalists. Shameik Moore isn’t a million miles away from Morales’ age and imbues the character with heart, soul and a boatload of humour. Liev Schreiber is generally excellent in most things, especially in a villainous role, whilst Steinfeld and Ali also are wonderful. Everyone is great, simply put (that’s not even mentioning Nic Cage or John Mulaney).
The writing, too, is great and filled with gags aplenty (the Lord and Miller touch is alive and well here) and, despite Spider-Verse falling foul of the cliché, the movie finds plenty of time to poke fun at the many conventions of superhero flicks. The Spider-Verse itself is presented well and is utilised effectively – something I wasn’t initially sure of. There’s also a bagel joke which literally made me do that LOL thing...you know, laughed out loud. There are plenty of messages here for the younger viewers to take on board (Spidey has always managed to do that so well) amongst the fun and whizz-bangs, there is literally something for everyone. Though this is a different man behind the famous mask, Morales still exudes goodwill and the eventual need to do right – there’s plenty of heart throughout Spider-Verse and the late, great Stan Lee has his ubiquitous, but effective, cameo too. Plus we get Spider-Ham, a cartoon pig...didn’t see that bad boy in Homecoming, so, you know, we have a winner here.
With all comic book movies, the phrase “it felt like it came straight from pages of a comic book” is generally overused (yours truly is also guilty) but in the case of Spider-Verse, there is no truer statement. Visually and narratively, this may as well have been lifted straight from the comics – it has that feeling to it. Relentlessly fun, visually excellent and surprisingly fresh, Spider-Verse is the best web-slinger flick since Spider-Man 2. This is what comic book movies should be like.
December 15th 2018