Sony’s latest Spider–Man adventure brings diversity, depth and action to the family-friendly film world, but is it a worthwhile flick? Read on to see what our critic says.
WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:
KEY CAST MEMBERS: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Hailee Steinfeld, Luna Lauren Velez, Kathryn Hahn, Liev Schreiber, Lily Tomlin, Lily Tomlin, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage and John Mulaney
DIRECTOR(S): Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman
THE BACK STORY: Ever hear the theory that there are multiple dimensions all existing at the same time? Ever read a Marvel Comic book? If not, the fact that Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore of Dope and The Get Down) – a Brooklyn African-American/Puerto Rican teenager – grows up admiring Spider–Man may not be all that surprising … Until you realize that he, too, like Spider–Man, is bitten by a radioactive Spider right before The Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) is able to do the one thing most super villains haven’t be able to do in any other Spider–Man tale: Kill Peter Parker.
Or at least, one version of Peter Parker.
As it turns out, the Kingpin’s “Super Collider” – which he has designed for a very specific purpose with the help of one female Dr. Octavious (Lily Tomlin) – has opened up a porthole to other dimensions … Which is why Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) ends up arriving on the scene … As does Gwen Stacy a.k.a. Spider–Woman (Hailee Steinfeld) … And 1930s black-and-white crime fighter Spider–Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) … And Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) and her Spider-Robot from the future … As well as Peter Porker, a.k.a. Spider-Ham (John Mulaney). Yes, Spider–Ham … Don’t believe me? Look here.
Now, with the Kingpin and his cronies on the loose and a bunch of other radioactively enhanced people in his world, Miles not only has to deal with newfound powers and responsibilities, but a new school and the biggest issue he can’t seem to conquer: the balancing act he has to keep between his police officer father (Brian Tyree Henry) and his less-than-on-the-up-and-up uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali).
Needless to say, Miles life – as did the entire world around him – just got a whole lot more complicated than the average teenager these days is likely ready to deal with.
THE REVIEW: When you’ve got an iconic character that has had no less than six solo live action films (not including his Avengers cameos) with three different lead actors playing him, you’ve already got the deck stacked against you. Throw in the fact that you already had an offshoot film release earlier this year from the Spider–Man catalogue (the critically destroyed but fan accepted Venom) and the odds get even worse. To top it all off, let’s make this film throw in a bunch of characters casual fans are unfamiliar with, one of whom its an anthropomorphic talking pig who just so happens to also have been bitten by a spider and you’ve got all the elements in place to produce one of the biggest disasters in the history of animated/superhero film.
That’s why the team behind Spider–Man: Into the Spider-Verse deserves any and all awards they may be nominated for – because despite those odds, they have produced not only one of the best Spider–Man movies ever, but one of 2018’s finest releases, period.
Miles Morales – both in concept and execution as brought to life by the animators and Moore – is a perfect take on a modern teenager. Long before you think of him in any superhero capacity, he is crafted to be relatable on a human level (quite an accomplishment for a cartoon, if you think about it) who’s journey into superhero-hood not only does the legacy of Spider–Men justice, but possibly enhances it as well. Likewise, the family dynamic that has always been essential to the character is fully on display here, as Miles’ desire to be his own person versus taking advantage of all the gifts his parents (and later, that infamous spider) bestow upon him makes for a complex duality in him. It’s not that Miles wants to be a criminal nor is he struggling with being a “goody-goody;” it’s just that he is trying to come into his own as the world around him becomes more and more complicated and complex, which is something people of all ages (and Spider–Man enthusiasts) to which can relate. Spider–Man’s greatest strength has always been his common man given a great, unexpected gift that he must now use for good mentality; Into the Spider–Verse never loses sight of that ideal and makes that ideal its centerpiece to fantastic effect.
The supporting players serve up elements that compliment the film well as well, be it the self-assured “women can do anything without having to tell you they can” presence of Gwen Stacy and Peni as portrayed by Steinfeld and Glenn, the “what if Spider–Man wasn’t exactly super away from his super hero duties” Parker Johnson makes his own or the comedic elements both Cage and Mulaney bring to their more outlandish characters … But the family dynamic is the film’s heart and soul, whether it is the relationship between Miles and his family or the new one he finds with his fellow spider-people.
Throw in a beautifully alive, animated world and a perfect for the movie but now ironically beautiful (and sad since it will be one of his final if not the final cameo) by Stan Lee with a soundtrack that perfectly fits the film’s (and today’s musical) environment and Into the Spider–Verse is just about everything you could want it to be: Familiar yet original, funny yet serious, hip and street smart while remaining smart as well and entertaining yet poignant.
You can now rest in peace, Mr. Lee along with his former partner Steve Diko … To quote A Tribe Called Quest, “We got it from here. Thanks for your service” – Spider–Man: Into the Spider–Verse makes sure of that.