2018 has been another cracking year for comic book movies. Black Panther encouraged a cultural wave in the genre, Infinity War soared financially, Aquaman passionately brought to life a long mocked hero in a incredibly faithful epic and even the critically reviled (but wackily fun and superbly led) Venom bonded with audiences and took a sizeable bite out of the box office. This has indeed been one heck of a year and now, backed by the minds behind The Lego Movie, we have Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse swinging into cinemas and wouldn’t you know, it’s another winner. As a matter of fact, it is possibly the best Spider-Man film of all!
Spider-Man over the years has had a mixed history onscreen with the praised highs of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 1 & 2 and the polarising lows of Spider-Man 3 or Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Into The Spider-Verse is a adoring celebration of all things spidey. Taking influence from the multiple comic book incarnations of Spider-Man, and introducing mainstream crowds to the time-jumping multiverse, this film is loaded with characters and action but is something really special indeed, it is a movie made by and for fans and which revels in everything that makes the hero so adored.
The wicked screenplay by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, is electric, filled with hilarity, heart and impressive levels of drama. There is a lot of plot here and just as many characters and it is a testament to the filmmakers that the whole film is so enjoyable, coherent and creatively accomplished. Some may feel the need to sit back every now and then and catch a breath but Into The Spider-Verse takes pleasure in delving head first into its years of lore. Yet, not only is this a smart, reverential and reference-filled comic book caper but it is a heartfelt ode to why anyone can be the hero, appreciating your family and to finding what makes you YOU and allowing that identity to flourish. Shameik Moore’s loveable Miles Morales perfectly encapsulates this core message and as we follow him on his unexpected journey into becoming a hero, we join him in his feelings and can relate to his experiences. Alongside Miles, are a dimension-spanning array of Spider-Man incarnations that are thrust into Miles’ world by the Kingpin’s (Liev Schreiber) universe-fracturing plot (which is personally motivated).
The most prominent of which is Miles’ reluctant mentor-esque figure, Peter B. Parker (voiced perfectly by Jake Johnson), a down on his luck and slightly older Spider-Man, who is a joy. As well as Miles and Parker are the likes of Hailee Steinfeld’s resilient Spider-Woman, Kimiko Glenn’s anime inspired robot-riding SP//dr, Nicolas Cage’s scene-stealingly serious monochromatic Spider-Man Noir (my personal fav of the lot) and even the Looney Toon-like Spider-Ham (John Mulaney)! All these heroes (and for that matter the wide range of villains – who have their own developments and twisting effect on the overall story, hence why I am not discussing them much – No Spoilers) come to life thanks to a brilliant script, well-handled direction and unanimously incredible well-cast voicework but the super animation has to take top credit.
Spider-Verse is unlike any other animation I have recently seen, the combination of stylings and techniques took an enormous amount of time to render and create (seriously, look it up people, it’s an amazing feat of love by all involved) and the effort has paid off in droves. This is a beautiful film and with its comic thought boxes and pop-up onomatopoeia, this looks – and more importantly feels – like a living, breathing, comic book and in 3D especially you are drawn into this vibrant and alive world. True the pace is fast and furious (especially in the all out riot of a climax) and the action can sometimes drown out brief moments of the diverse soundtrack (Daniel Pemberton’s score more so than the songs) but this is one heck of a show and it’s all built around an inclusive and strongly beating heart. Naturally, stay for the credits too folks, not just for the fun nostalgic post-credit sting but also for the heartfelt mid-credit memorial, that marries greatly with the mid-film cameo-cum-tribute to the late great Stan Lee that came earlier.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is another sign that we are living in the golden age of the comic book movie, not to mention – after the hit Spider-Man video game and Infinity War – the greatest year for the wall crawling hero perhaps ever.