Cast: Voices of Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Liev Shreiber, Mahershala Ali, Nicolas Cage, Lily Tomlin
Directors: Peter Ramsey, Robert Persichetti Jr, Rodney Rothman
Everyone’s favourite web-slinger has thrice been rebooted for the screen. Do we really need another Spider-Man origin story?
The answer, of course, is no. But you’ll be happy to learn that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse isn’t focused on the Peter Parker story that’s been at the centre of every one of these movies until now. No sir. The new film asks us to consider the existence of other ‘spider people’ in the world. What if Peter Parker wasn’t the only one of his kind?
It’s an interesting idea and it’s what drives this comic book movie that looks and feels like an actual comic book. Into The Spider-Verse pops with bright colours, thought and speech bubbles, panels and split-screens, hyper-real action scenes, lots of irreverent humour, and first-rate animation. In short, it’s a sensory overload; a riot of sound and design. You won’t complain.
The protagonist here is Miles Morales, a mixed-race Brooklyn teenager who acquires special powers when he’s bitten by a radioactive spider. Turns out Peter Parker as we know him is already around, but Miles watches him die trying to stop the film’s villain Kingpin from opening a portal to alternate dimensions. That portal brings in other ‘spider folk’ like Gwen Stacy, a jaded Spider-Noir, a Japanese anime schoolgirl named Peni Parker, and even Spider-Ham, a pig. There’s a running gag in which each of these characters narrates his or her backstory, and it’s one of the smartest ideas in the film.
Even as the gang tries to figure out how to vanquish Kingpin so they can return to their respective dimensions, Miles seeks a mentor in Peter B Parker – not the Peter Parker we know, but one from a different timeline – who’s divorced, depressed, greying, and plumper. Reluctantly he teaches Miles how to be a superhero, and to embrace the whole “with great power comes great responsibility” mantra.
To be fair there’s a lot going on in the film but it all unfolds coherently and is powered by a sort of kinetic humour that is the secret ingredient here. Hardly surprising given Phil Lord and Christopher Millar, those geniuses behind The Lego Movie, are credited as co-producers. It also helps that the filmmakers assemble a terrific voice cast for the roles, including Nicolas Cage as Spider-Noir, Liev Shreiber as Kingpin, and a terrific Jake Johnson as Peter B Parker. The humour is complemented nicely by a genuinely relatable track involving Miles’ relationships with his strict father and with his cool uncle. It gives the film emotional heft.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is a bold and ultimately rewarding attempt to expand our favourite web-slinger’s movie universe. It’s a real blast of originality and creativity, and I recommend that you don’t miss it. I’m going with four out of five.
Rating: 4 / 5