‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ fresh and fun

by Kate Walz on December 13, 2018

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Rock Fist Way Up]

I am so sick of superhero movies. I don’t remember if I saw Captain America: Civil War, but I definitely stopped after the one that remade Independence Day with superheroes. But, finally, one has come along that doesn’t feel like it was written by a conference room full of suits chomping cigars while dreaming of giant bags of cash (I’m not saying it wasn’t, because obviously. But it doesn’t feel like that).

The Marvel movie I’ve been waiting for is here – but made by Sony Pictures.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse finally feels like something new, and it holds up as a comic book movie and as an animated film – because it’s something better than another live-action. It’s comic book come to life.

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is a high-schooler in Brooklyn who gets bitten by a radioactive spider while spending time with his uncle. When he starts developing some weird abilities, his search for answers takes him back to the site of the bite – where he witnesses Spider-Man trying to stop a Super Collider, which is connecting multiple realities. Spider-Man is killed and revealed to be the blonde and beloved Peter B. Parker (Chris Pine). But, before his death, he asks Miles to stop the collider.

Pretty standard stuff.

As Miles tries to figure out how to do this crazy thing, he runs into Peter Parker (Jake Johnson, whose voice I could not figure out the whole movie. I just knew it wasn’t Jonah Hill). This less perfect Spider-Man is dark haired with a disjointed nose and a less-than-super physique. Miles is determined to learn from him. Peter needs some convincing. Then more Spider-People show up, including Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) and a few lesser-known iterations.

The script, (story by and co-written) by the same Phil Lord who made The Lego Movie work and then some, is so good. It’s very funny, it moves really fast, it never panders, and it’s loaded with Easter eggs for the nerds in the room (and, of course, an after-credits scene). The jokes have varying levels of exclusivity, depending on fan enthusiasm. But the animation brings the whole thing together.

The visual style riffs on hand-drawn comic books and occasionally moves like a comic (with a frame of color blast or a screen split). Those famous swinging spider scenes are even more exhilarating because they’re in their intended medium. The animation allows for truly super stunts that mere mortals in suits with millions in special effects can’t quite pull off. These characters were born in pen and ink, and it’s the ideal place for them to be their most super selves.

The adherence to comic format also allows for faster plot movement. Every Spider-Person has a backstory, and they fly by thanks to split screens and graphic framing. Occasionally, the movie slows, allowing for character connection and plot absorption. During those moments, the vocal performances stand out. Johnson’s hilarious vocals are put to particularly good use, as is Nicolas Cage – in a role a smidge past a cameo.  And then it’s off again – all vibrant colors and good-natured ribbing.

For those who just want to take their kid to a PG film? Totally works. I tested it on my eight-year-old, whose only knowledge of Spider-Man is that he exists. She absolutely loved it (but was clueless about the Stan Lee cameo).

There are already plans for a sequel and spin-offs and the relentless barrage of money grabs that will follow. But this first one is truly something to see.

Kate Walz

Kate is a digital advertising ninja by day, but a content-consuming pop-culture nerd always. Her top 5 movies are: The Philadelphia Story, The Master, The Fountain, What About Bob and The Departed.

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