An already strong year for Spider-Man (Spider-Man PS4, Avengers: Infinity War) has become stellar with the addition of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Although it was the last appearance for spidey in 2018, it was undoubtedly his strongest.
Miles Morales is a relatively new comic book character, so focusing on him for a tent pole motion picture could be seen as a risk, but that choice is exactly what makes Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse feel so refreshing.
Shameik Moore brings a youthful charm to Miles, a charm filled with hope and optimism that makes it all the easy to root for him when he encounters adversity. The beauty of Miles Morales is that he wants to do more than he can, he may be unsure of his own abilities, but he is steady as a rock when it comes to doing the right thing.
These qualities strike a chord that sounds something like a chalk being scraped across a chalk board when it comes to Jake Johnson’s Peter B. Parker, which makes for splendid viewing. Johnson’s Spider-Man is a worn out, over worked Peter Parker who has become lost in the haze of life, losing his passion and his optimism. Add an eccentric ensemble of other spider characters played by Hailee Steinfeld, Nicholas Cage, John Mulaney & Kimiko Glenn and you’ve struck cinematic gold.
Before the movie’s first shot is even visible you’re given a sense of the style that emanates throughout the film. Flashing colours and images crash onto the screen, subverting images and almost giving me a feeling that this whole thing was some form of extreme subliminal messaging.
But even with this slight suspicion for my well-being, I would face the prospect of mind manipulation a few times over if it meant getting to enjoy Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse again.
The trio of Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey & Rodney Rothman helm the directing responsibilities, and it seems fitting that there were multiple people making decisions at the very top, as the sense of collaboration is evident throughout.
Animation is a medium that takes a lot of people, a lot of work and a lot of attention to detail, and all of that results in needing a large team. Although this is the case in pretty much every major motion picture, it really shows in this film, and all of the people who worked on it deserve praise for the work they’ve done.
The cinematography seems to raise its own bar every fifteen minutes, with beautiful shot after beautiful shot sliding (sometimes literally) onto the screen. A wonderfully bright and varied colour palette is used, making for an eye-catching cinema experience, the innovative way in which the colour pops out of the screen is a real credit as it makes the whole movie feel like a comic book that has been transferred onto the screen.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse does boast phenomenal shots, wonderful animation and enthralling action, but what makes it enjoyable is that all of this stems from a rooted appreciation for character and how it drives the story. The two Spider-Men we follow the most (Miles Morales & Peter B. Parker) are both on a journey that pulls you in as a viewer, the films crowning achievement is undoubtedly forcing you to care about these characters (what’s even more impressive is just how many characters they manage to make you care about in just under two hours).
Hopefully the attention Spider-Verse has gained will be something of a watershed moment for animation as a medium. It has quietly been producing some of the best stories in film and television in modern times, but never getting the respect it deserves by default because it is animated. This is a mistake that looks sillier and sillier every time a movie like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is released, so, as an industry, let’s stop making that mistake.