Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Genre: Superhero Running Time: 1 hr. 57 min.

Release Date: December 14th, 2018 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman Actors: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Zoe Kravitz, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Kathryn Hahn, Liev Schreiber, Nicolas Cage

 


 

“M

y name is Peter Parker.” With quick narration from the web-slinging superhero himself, Spider-Man synopsizes his origins, including all of the previous Sony movies (at least some of the highlights), as well as his role in comic books and pop culture. This introduction does what many comparable Marvel films do, which is to concede that viewers need to be already familiar – or entirely caught up – with the character and his previous iterations; there’s too much history for audiences to jump in here as a starting point.

With that understanding, a new story can unfold – one that is particularly singular, even though it incorporates many of the same introductory concepts from other Spider-Man adaptations. Here, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is a black teenage student in Brooklyn, feeling fed up with classes and his overbearing father, who happens to be a police officer. Miles instead looks up to his Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali), a rather rebellious figure – and one who absolutely shouldn’t be a role model to the impressionable youngster. Curiously, his encounter with a radioactive sci-fi spider that gives him superpowers arrives soon enough, suggesting that he’s a not-so-different version of the famous crimefighter – one that just might exist at the same time as even more forms. “I thought I was the only one.”

When it’s not dwelling on homework, puberty, girls (especially Gwen Stacy [Hailee Steinfeld]), and Miles’ favorite pastime of graffiti painting/tagging, the film dabbles in the complexities of the space-time continuum, which opens up multiple dimensions (or parallel universes with a super collider that generates portals) – and infinite variants of the masked superhero. With exceptionally hyper motions, this animated picture leaps into excitement, showcasing excessively stylized character designs (and animation styles), coloring, split-screens, musical embellishment (the soundtrack is superb), interruptive graphics, word bubbles, and more. The visuals are undoubtedly one of this production’s greatest boons, making use of both realism (chiefly in background elements and props) and cartoonishness (predominantly in fast-paced movements and the absence of physics) in the animation as it merges action and comedy (and a couple of brief emotional moments).

“There’s only one Spider-Man.” Just like the frenzied style of the imagery, the narrative is chaotic, unfolding its tale out of order, with numerous narrators, flashbacks, hypothetical visions, and even with comic book panels (and flipping pages) to reiterate plot points or add details. Despite the excellent pacing, thanks largely to the continuous adventure and complicated premise, the stakes seem uncommonly low. With alternate realities and countless copies (including a spider-pig), no one appears assailable; no one seems to be in any genuine danger.

At the same time, a single bullet is all it takes to stop supervillains with countless resources and highly advanced technological weaponry and armor, which is thoroughly backwards in the scope of Spider-people warfare, especially since Doc Ock (Kathryn Hahn) can cause massive amounts of destruction with her unexplainably powerful tentacles. And the solution to the pending annihilation of New York is a nonsensically plain flash drive that does exactly what it needs to do, with limited sensibility and immediacy to back it up. It’s yet another example of a generic, forgettable superhero story catering almost exclusively to sci-fi action, entirely ignoring whether or not it feels coherent or meaningful. At least it’s a good-looking production, with its original blend of 3D stylization (bordering on a live-action look) overlaid with 2D shading effects.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10