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SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE gets 9/10 Thwippin’ Marvelous


Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman

Starring Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Liev Schreiber

Drawing inspiration from the Ultimate imprint of Marvel comics, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse launches the career of a new Spider-Man to the screen (at least in animated form), in a universe that is like the Marvel world we are familiar with, yet different.

We all know the tale of Peter Parker, and how when bitten by a radioactive spider he learned that with great power comes great responsibility. Similarly when young Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is bitten by a radioactive spider, he too gains extraordinary powers. However when Parker (Chris Pine) fails to stop Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber) accessing other dimensional realities, Morales is forced to take on the mantle of Spider-Man before he is properly prepared. Yet something else has come through that dimensional rift, and Morales finds himself as not the only friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. In fact, with Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), Peter Porker (John Mulaney), and a film noir version of Spider-Man (Nicolas Cage), he may have enough help to thwart The Kingpin.

It’s difficult to explain why Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is such a great film, after all, it’s just an animated kid’s superhero movie…right!? Well, yes and no. Obviously, for decades many of our big screen action films have arisen from a comic background, but it goes beyond this. The best analogy would be to compare Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to a bento box. It has a wide range of ingredients offering a beautifully presented, harmoniously balanced selection achieved by an immaculate execution that goes beyond the simple recipe. Into the Spider-Verse delivers everything you could desire from a comic book film in a way that makes it not merely the best Marvel adaptation of the year, but possibly the best Spider-Man film to date (sorry Sam Raimi).

That recipe is a simple tale of the hero’s journey, the standard origin story that we’ve come to expect from a superhero film, and has even become pass√© for the form. Yet here it is both subverted and celebrated by the bold, brash way it is told, and the other various Spider-folk of the ‘verse. It leans into the comic book styling both in its art and telling, playing off the audience’s familiarity with the form, allowing for a rapid re-telling. While it does this, it builds Miles’ story, his self doubt and fumbling first steps as he learns what it means to be his own hero.

None of this gets lost in the plethora of Marvel characters in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Moore (Dope, The Get Down) shines through as the young Miles Morales, shifting the character between cockiness and despair as the young hero grasps the great responsibilities attached to his great power. Jake Johnson (New Girl) brings much of the comic relief with his slovenly alternate version of Peter Parker, and Schreiber is appropriately terrifying as Kingpin. It even has the compulsory Stan Lee cameo, made even more poignant by his recent passing.

All of this is brought to life through beautiful animation that really pops on the screen. It revels in its comic book background, even down to the ink dots on the page. It creates a film that is a celebration of kinetic art, more so by managing to meld various artists’ styles into a cohesive design whole. The effect is distinctive, powerful and moving.

All that adds up into something very special. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a flawless execution of a superhero film, taking a simple story and refining it into something far more.

Excelsior!

DAVID O’CONNELL

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