Released at a time when perhaps the world had seen enough of superhero movies, or more specifically origin stories, and even MORE specifically, yet another Spider-Man adaptation. Something we’ve seen an abundance of over the last two decades. But what made this so unique? What caused this to become so successful? In this review I will be dissecting Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, to discover why this is considered a modern classic, and what separates it from the endless flow of universe colliding, comic book storytelling.
Well, in a short answer, it dared to be different. This wonderfully vibrant, stylistic animated approach to the beloved neighbourhood web-slinger, immediately distanced itself from what became common place in the comic book genre. For starters, Peter Parker is no longer the centrepiece of his own story. It’s Parker’s protégé Miles Morales who finally gets an adapted story of his own.
With the death of Spider-Man sending the city of New York into shock, newly empowered Miles must understand his new responsibility. Fortunately, when the power of a universe altering collider, built underneath Fisk tower (Fisk better known as Kingpin) is demonstrated, a Peter Parker from an alternate dimension, along with a slew of unique “Spider-people” burst into Miles’ version of New York. They must work together, taking young Miles under their wing, to bring an end to Kingpin’s dangerous scheme and return back to their own dimensions.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse excellently treads new ground, whilst also keeping in tune with what we already know. It pokes fun and even highlights adaptations that came before it (Plenty for Sam Raimi fans to get excited about), showcases memorable voice performances, and offers a story that blends superhero clichés with a sweet coming of age angle.
The strengths lie in its endlessly witty writing, and impeccable, game-changing animation and design. Each ‘Spidey’ character is wonderfully fleshed out, and each bring something new and alluring to its already mesmerising image. The talented cast, consisting of Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Nicolas Cage, John Mulaney, Liev Schreiber and Zoe Kravitz (along with a few others) flourish when on screen together or solo, bringing an impressive script to life.
There’s one nitpicky issue I had with the movie, and that was the lack of depth it took with some of its villains. Kingpin is given a strong, motive driven backstory that possesses a genuine danger to our heroes. And often feels like the perfect adversary for the new kid on the block. His sidekick of such, the rarely seen Prowler, also takes a lot of the weight in that department. Prowler’s importance to the story is key for Miles’ growth in character, for both who he is with and without the mask. But that’s kind of where things end.
Doc Ock features predominantly, and is the brains to Fisk’s brawn. But there’s no real gravitas or highly memorable quality to the character, despite the creative change to the formula. Tombstone and Scorpion are no more than henchmen, and the likes of Lizard and Green Goblin are subjected to minor roles to showcase the earlier days of a fairly accomplished Spider-Man.
As is the case with superhero adventures however, it’s the hero you root for and hope to succeed, and that is exactly where this interpretation gets it right. Through the various forms of the Spidey character, and the actors behind the voices, you’re drawn to every iteration and quirky decision making behind each. It’s an acclimation of the standard Spider-Man we know and love from the comics, and it’s more outlandish rebranding over the years. Something you feel could only work in its animated setting.
Into the Spider-Verse was amongst giants during its release time. With the genre being controlled by the constantly growing fad of the MCU and DCEU, but it stands tall and soars above the competition. Oozing with plenty of charm and charisma, and a driving message that conveys anyone can really wear the mask and that superhero’s walk among us everyday.
With stunning set pieces at every turn mostly thanks to its crisp and powerfully creative imagery, co-directors Rodney Rothman, Peter Ramsey and Bob Persichetti craft something that is as visually immersive as it is with its narrative. A refreshing breather from the fast growing filmography of the conglomerate cinematic universes, and a film that’ll continue to be endured for years to come for audiences of all ages.