The Spider-Man Film We Deserve
Last summer I had the unfortunate task of watching The Emoji Movie at the cinema. An animation so sloppily handled and poorly produced it tarnished the reputation of Sony Pictures Animation. There’s always something poetic about a comeback story and when it comes to Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse, the studio redeem themselves in a big way. Visually stunning and impressively crafted, this is not just one of the best animated flicks of the year, it’s also the best Spider-Man film produced to date. Not bad for a studio vilified 16 months ago.
The film opens with a brief introduction to Peter Parker. “You all know my origin story”, he says nonchalantly as we’re shown key moments from previous films leading up to this moment. Including that particular scene in Spider-Man 3. It’s a respectful tribute to what’s come before while looking ahead at a more comic-book orientated origin story. Only, this isn’t Peter Parker’s story, its teenager Miles Morales’. After seeing this teen try to adjust to life at his new school, Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes entangled in the biggest threat Spider-Man has ever faced.
After splitting apart the fabric of time and space, multiple Spider Men from other dimensions come together to stop Kingpin and his band of villains before they destroy the universe. While this all sounds very familiar, the main crux of the story sees Miles become the hero he was always destined to be while learning the greatest lesson of all. With great power…well, you know the rest. From here, Miles learns to harness his powers and becomes the new Spider-Man, filling those large boots left by Peter Parker.
While the story itself isn’t wholly original, where Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse excels is its execution and flair. Foreshadowing, comic book references, consistent characterisation and more easter eggs than you could ever dream of are all here in one of the best comic book movies ever made. While this may sound like a bold statement given what we’ve seen before, Spiderverse feels like a true comic book story brought to life.
Some of this is thanks to the general aesthetic of the film that’s unlike anything else out there. A mixture of hand-drawn animation, CGI and comic book frames combine to show some of the most impressive animation produced this year. Bursts of neon blend perfectly into the quirky, comic book style. Dizzying camera spins and compositional tricks help sell the effect you’re on a ride. All the while throwing little nods, references and comic book framing into the fold to help give the film a real comic book feel.
This style spills over to the other Spider Men too who, along with unique personalities, are painted with their own visual style. The noir Spider-Man is your classic black and white hero; Spider Pig uses tricks from the old school Looney Tunes animations; there’s even an anime-inspired Spider-Man for good measure. These blends of style could so easily have become a convoluted mess but it’s pulled off surprisingly well.
While there are a few inconsistencies with villains and the story is incredibly cliched, this really feels like the perfect love letter to the comics. There’s so much to like about this film that it’s hard to look at this one with too much of a critical eye. It’s not perfect but the nostalgia and visual style alone should be enough to help you look past any issues with the supporting cast who don’t have a whole lot to do beyond pushing Miles into becoming a hero.
Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse is a surprisingly compelling and competently made animation. While the supporting characters don’t quite have enough screen time to flesh out their character arcs, Miles Morales’ story is very impressive indeed. The visual style is breathtaking and some of the action feels like its been ripped right out of a comic book. This nostalgic feel to the visual design helps carry the film through some of its flaws and there’s some very cleverly placed jokes here that really help lighten the mood. It’s not perfect but when it comes to Spider-Man, Into The Spiderverse is about as close as you could come to achieving that goal.