It’s been a mixed year for Spider-Man. On the one hand, his much beloved co-creator Stan Lee has passed away; the conclusion of Avengers: Infinity War was less than desirable for him, to put it mildly; and the financial success of Venom makes it more likely that Sony will eventually yank him out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, he did also get his own critically acclaimed PS4 game – and Sony Pictures Animation’s Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is also very much a positive. Quite simply, it is easily the best Spider-Man film since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.
Our main hero is Miles Morales, a young man struggling with classic teenage problems like embarrassing parents, fitting in at a new school, and just not being sure what he wants out of life. One night, while painting some graffiti in the New York underground, Miles is bitten by a peculiar spider – and the next morning, he’s gained new athletic abilities and his hands stick to whatever he touches. In the process of trying to investigate what the heck has happened to him, Miles discovers that Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, is building an underground collider to open portals to alternate dimensions. As a result, Miles is soon confronted with a resident of one of these dimensions: a middle-aged Peter Parker. Teaming up with Peter, and other Spider-People who have been thrown into his universe, Miles must learn what it means to be Spider-Man, and stop Fisk before he destroys New York City.
The aesthetic style of this film is really unique. While the animation is CGI, it’s made to look as much like hand-drawn art as it can while still being three-dimensional, and the fast, jerky movements of the characters appear closer to stop-motion. The aim is to really make the film look like a comic book, and it succeeds, with lots of colour, and captions appearing on screen every now and then. The continuum-cracking effects of the interdimensional technology give the animators opportunity to get really crazy, and some of the alternate Spider-People bring alternate animation styles with them, like anime and monochrome. There are a few curious choices, like making Wilson Fisk a square with limbs and a head while practically everyone else looks like a normal human being; and the lights and colour that are thrown at you can be a bit overwhelming at times; but still, it’s a wonderful film just to look at. And the animation is perfect for the action scenes, which are bursting with energy, and take you flying through the air in all directions. If any animation style could embody the character of Spider-Man, it’s this.
The thing I loved most about the story itself is how much heart it has. There are so many different character relationships to get invested in. We see Miles finding it hard to gel with his loving but strict father; wanting to maintain a relationship with his Uncle Aaron, who has a questionable background but seems to understand him better than anyone else; and looking to Peter Parker as a mentor. Peter comes with his own emotional baggage; his personal life is at a low point and he’s rather lost his way. Even Wilson Fisk is motivated by something more than power or money this time round. As for the other Spider-People – Spider-Gwen, Spider-Noir, Peni Parker and Spider-Hamm – we get to know them well enough to care about them, and they can be very funny too: Spider-Noir, a 1930s private eye, is voiced with a tongue-in-cheek brooding tone by Nicolas Cage; and Spider-Hamm brings some Looney Tunes-style moves and jokes to the table. (Unlike Spider-Pig in The Simpsons Movie, I can actually understand the appeal of this porcine.) In case you’re wondering, the late Stan Lee does have a cameo, and a soberingly appropriate one.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse has something for everyone – a great look, a great story, great action and great characters. It’s everything you could want from a Spider-Man film, or just a film in general for that matter. Rating: 5/5!