Movie Review: “Spider-Man Into the Spiderverse” – A New Spin

Written by Matt Butler January 10, 2019

 

The term “superhero fatigue” gets thrown around a ton on the internet. Folks wondering (some even hoping) for when Hollywood will have had its fill of superheroes and move on to exploit something else. But with 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, Teen Titans Go to the Movies, Black Panther, Incredibles 2, Infinity War -those last three broke a billion dollars by the way-, an Aquaman movie that’s already made its $200 million budget, and now another Spider-Man movie, it doesn’t seem like this superhero train has quite reached the station. And looking into the Spiderverse, I think I’m okay with that.

In this not-technically-a-reboot of Spider-Man, we meet Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a young prodigy with an eye for getting in trouble and a tough-love police cop dad (Brian Tyree Henry) to keep him on the straight and narrow. But when a spray-paint session with his uncle (Mahershala Ali) leads to an encounter with a radioactive spider, Miles life turns upside down. Sound familiar?

“With great ability comes great accountability.”

“That’s not how it goes.”

Well, that’s where most of the old Spider beats come to an end. There’s still the discovering powers sequence and the close relative dying trope, but Spiderverse puts its own spin on pretty much everything we’ve seen before in a Spider-Man movie. And considering how many of these Spider-Man movies there’s been in the last…18 years? Really? Holy… That’s a pretty nifty accomplishment.

 

Soon after, a wormhole in the time-space continuum opens the door for new Spidermen to swing into Miles’ life. This includes one Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), who’s just like the Peter Parker we know, except he’s washed up and kind of shlubby. He also wears sweatpants outdoors, the slob. He’s a great cautionary tale for anyone who thinks the superhero life is all thrills and excitement. At some point, you just fall into a rut. It’s a cute bit of parody that gives an unexpected emotional undercurrent to the Peter Parker character as a whole. From this encounter on, the movie becomes an ever-growing collection of Spidermen (to be clear, four are men, two are girls, one’s a robot, and another’s a pig (John Mulaney). That’s right, Spider-Pig, but he’s actually called Spider-Ham). This is the film at its most delightfully bizarre. Even when the madness builds up, Spiderverse still maintains a breezy, appropriately comical tone. I’d say it’s because this movie takes the Incredibles route and waits till the mid-point to bring the supporting cast up to speed with the lead character, Miles, who makes this all-to-familiar origin story all his own thanks again to some clever twists in the writing.

“Do animals talk in this dimension? Cause I don’t wanna freak anyone out…”

In the middle of the second and third act, the story does drift into Kung Fu Panda territory. A scrappy upstart surrounded by skilled allies, uncertain of his power and place among them. We all know he’s going to find that power, and discover that place not just among them, but in many ways above them as well.

 

Yeah, it’s the old “the power was inside you all along” trope, thankfully never worded that way. I suppose it does fall in nicely with the conceit of the film that there isn’t just one Spider-Man. That everyone from every corner of the multiverse has the chance to rise above and become a hero. It’s a corny message, but it works for the story, which is already packed with enough creativity.

“One thing I know for sure: don’t do it like me. Do it like you.”

Plus, it’s got a banging visual style to it. Whether its the popping colours, the retro character designs, the visual references to the four-color printing process, Into the Spiderverse is a comic book come to life, in full, vibrant colour. It’s honestly one of the best looking movies I’ve ever seen. Even the way characters move, which I’m guessing was a matter of removing frames and in-betweens, gives it that flip-book feel. The secondary Spidermen also add a nice variety to the design palette, each with their own look and animation style. Spider-Ham looks and moves like a Looney Tune, Spider-Man Noir (Nicholas Cage) is entirely monochromatic, and Peni Parker / Sp//dr (Kimiko Glenn) bring an anime flair none of us knew this movie needed. Gwen Stacy’s (Hailee Steinfeld) aka Spider-Woman’s animation style runs similar to Miles’, but she’s also got this cool side buzz-cut thing going. I dig it. In any conventional superhero story, these designs would stick out like sore thumbs, but the film’s humour is subversive and self-aware enough that these Spidermen fit right at home, even if their real homes are a universe away. There’s even a joke where Spider-Ham makes an explicit reference to Porky Pig and Peter B. Parker asks “Is he allowed to say that? Legally?”.

 

I’ve heard this movie’s success could mean sequels and spin-offs (pun intended). I’m just glad the movie works as well as it does all on its own. Still, I think it would be something to see droves of people gathering to see Spider-Ham: The Harrowing Adventures of Peter Porker in IMAX 3D.

As a side note, the Stan Lee cameo, it’s one of the best. That is all.

My Rating: 8/10

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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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