Film Review: Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse is one of my favourite animated films of the last decade and I’m only 20 years old. That’s like half of my life and I’ve seen a lot of animated movies. I’m aware that having grown up on Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy had an influence on my initial desire to see this film. I’m also aware that the legacy behind the characters skewed the viewing experience so that I am more inclined to enjoy the end product. That being said, I did the same for Venom (2018) and I kind of hated that movie so lets get into it.


Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse

DIRECTORS: BOB PERSICHETTI, PETER RAMSEY, RODNEY ROTHMAN
STARS: SHAMEIK MOORE, JAKE JOHNSON, HAILEE STEINFELD

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Plot Synopsis (Spoiler Free)

Teenager Miles Morales is bitten by a radioactive spider and realises that Peter Parker isn’t the only Spider-Man. When a super collider merges multiple universes into Miles’, their respective Spider-People band together to fight a threat that endangers all realities. Miles must rise above his worries as a new hero; going through a handful of self-discoveries along the way.

Thankfully detached from the Marvel Cinematic Universe

With every Marvel superhero receiving sequels, tie-ins and spin-offs, I was intimidated to go into one of these films without knowing what’s been happening for the last ten years. Lucky for me, Spider-Verse is entirely contained and requires zero background info on anything else in the franchise. So even those of you suffering from superhero fatigue, this is a fresh and engaging tale that strays far from the formulaic methods of the live action movies.

Masterful use of Animation as a Storytelling Tool

Spider-Verse is a visually gorgeous movie that thrives in its comic book style. Live action adaptations can only go so far when they attempt to recapture the vibrancy and life that is found in a meticulously drawn comic. Spider-Verse pushes the boundaries of what we should expect out of an animated blockbuster. Little comic speech bubbles and sound effect words pop up during the action but don’t distract you from what’s happening on screen – everything just feels so natural. Miles’ hobby of graffiti/street art is just one of the in-story elements that allow the colours in this film to really *pop*.

I found the narrative to be a great blend of toned-down character development with Miles and hyped-up action with Spider-Man. Exploring the theme of living up to expectations, Spider-Verse never felt like a stereotypical “kid’s film” to me. Sure, there were children in the cinema I went to and they weren’t making much noise so I can only assume they were enjoying the film. However, the kid-friendly exterior and “follow your dreams, kid” narrative never felt distracting or too gushy.

Blending traditional Superhero score with meaningful popular music

The soundtrack is phenomenal – none of the forgettable score you’re used to hearing in every Marvel movie. I’ve listened to this soundtrack countless times now and it never gets old. I don’t seem to be the only one who thinks this either. Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower” boasts a whopping 628 million views with a striking music video using scenes from the film. Additionally, soundtrack standouts “Home” and “What’s Up Danger” have hit a combined 15 million views on Sony’s official YouTube channel.

Although this could cynically be seen only as a ploy to sell Sony headphones (which are, admittedly, brandished throughout), music is a huge part of Miles’ character and a way to express himself in a world that won’t give him the space to breathe. The soundtrack became more of a look into Miles’ feelings than something to just boost the mood of an action scene. Surprisingly, they even got a few minutes of Brooklyn’s own Biggie Smalls to play which caught me off guard. Spider-Verse has a great awareness of its audience and its soundtrack proves that.

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The most engaging cast of characters in a Superhero movie

I get that seems like a ballsy claim but I really believe it to be true. The three lead characters are everything you need in an action film aimed at a young audience. Miles is a charismatic lead that is shown for his strengths and his flaws. This makes Miles utterly relatable and the film makes sure to designate time into showing his insecurities as well as the powers that he gains.

It’s made very apparent he values how other people see him: comparing the reaction of his old and new classmates for example. This is then emphasised when the narrative throws five other spider-people to compare himself to – he continues to need their approval as he does with his peers. For a teen audience, that hits home hard and makes his journey from “Miles to Spiderman” so engaging.

That’s just the protagonist, Gwen and Peter B. Parker are so well written and likeable that you never have an issue rooting for the good guys. Admittedly, the supporting characters of Spider-Ham, Peni Parker, and Spider-Man Noir were used almost exclusively as one-liners. That being said, I do think their inclusion is really important to the tone of the film. Without them, Spider-Verse wouldn’t have been able to achieve such a dark tone in the moments it did. Without these three to alleviate the tension I’m sure the writers wouldn’t be able to pitch what they managed to achieve.

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Conclusion

Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse is the first film that I have pre-ordered on Blu-ray because I was so excited to see it over and over again. I’ve been trying to justify whether or not Spider-Man is my favourite Marvel IP and writing this review has pointed every finger towards “yes”. If Chris Pratt wasn’t so charming as Starlord it wouldn’t even be a question. So, even if the last superhero film you watched was the angst ridden Venom (2018) or an R-Rated take on the now over-saturated genre, Spider-Verse has a story that will keep you interested in cartoony representations of comic book heroes as long as Miles Morales is there.

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