Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
I’m sure they’ll be much scoffing in my declaration of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as the best superhero and animation film of 2018. In a year with superhero films that challenge colonialism (Black Panther) and the traditional writing structure (Avengers: Infinity War), yes, I’m choosing the animated Spider-Man movie. This is not out of spite or preference. I’ve never been a big Marvel guy and am very adrift when it comes to Spider-Man lore. But Into the Spider-Verse manages to not only play well with the character’s lore and have fun with the genre but also serve up a heartfelt tale of identity and tragedy, amid all its goofy superhero antics. It’s the Marvel movie that can have its cake and eat it too.
I’ll address the story in a moment but first, let me gush about this film’s astoundingly different animation style. The trio of directors on this project have pushed the medium of computer animation to boldest of heights with how experimental this film gets. Notice how instead of blurring the depth of field there’s a bleeding of color and layers that create this oddly surreal and unique approach to backgrounds. You’ll also notice pointillism for shading, action lines for spider senses, and a uniquely cel-shaded look to the characters that look as though they came right off the page with the outlining ink still intact. And that’s just in the hero’s own world alone, not counting the merging of 2D and exaggerated characters he’ll meet.
But who is our hero? While Peter Parker (Chris Pine) is present, it’s ultimately Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) that will become the new Spider-Man. He doesn’t want to be though; he’d much rather be an average high schooler who does street art, opposing his father’s wishes of him going to a proper school and not getting involved with his dangerous uncle. But with the first Spider-Man out of action, Miles has no choice. He needs to stop the evil Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) from destroying New York City and he’s running out of time.
Fortunately, there’s another Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) on hand to help Miles. Unfortunately, he’s not a great Spider-Man tutor, having gone to pieces when his failures at relationships and finances led him down a road to depression. Not the best teacher but the two don’t have a choice if they want to save New York. They’ll still get some additional help from other spider heroes, including Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Noir (Nicolas Cage), Penni Parker, and Spider-Ham.
With so many different characters, experimental styles, and comedy that ranges from satire to fourth-wall breaking, this film could’ve easily fit snuggly into the spot of softened animated superhero films of The LEGO Batman Movie and Teen Titans Go To The Movies. But, no, Spider-Verse takes itself earnestly enough that it can not only deliver a believable Spider-Man story on par with its live-action counterparts but hit higher as well. Part of the Spider-Man mythos is realizing you can’t save everyone which means tragedy will strike in Miles’ life and when it hits him it hits hard.
Into the Spider-Verse is far too ambitious, vivid, hilarious, and bold to ever be discounted as just the animated Spider-Man movie. It’s brimming and overflowing with ideas for its animation and strong themes of identity that resonate here are far better than any other Spider-Man movie. When a film can feature a cartoony pig delivering the most dramatic of lines and you buy into its somberness, you know you’re dealing with a film that can compete with the big boys of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War.