Spider-Man: Into the Slider-Verse
As that token non-comic book guy, the thought of some metaverse with oodles of differing Spidey-people seemed more tedious than thrilling to me. Within moments, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse does what so few comic book movies manage to do – provide a pleasant surprise. This film, with all its kinetic and visual trumpeting, brilliantly translates the printed page to the big screen.
We’re introduced to Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), a slightly awkward teen ambivalent about leaving his neighborhood to attend a more prestigious institution. His father, a hulking cop named Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry) is caring but gruff, unafraid to push his son to better himself. Miles’ uncle (Mahershala Ali) is far cooler, allowing him a more relaxed environment to hang out and get some frustrations out.
Miles crosses paths and fates with Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) early in the film, which provides the plot’s central focus and connection. The bad guy, Kingpin (Liev Schreiber), opens up a dimension that results in other Spider-figures converging on this timeline, including a noir-version (a Cagney-esque Nicolas Cage), a Peter Porker pig (John Mulaney), and a few others.
The script by Phil Lord and co-director Rodney Rothman does a terrific job of keeping all these elements coherent while having fun with the preposterousness of it all. Parker’s sardonic nature is brilliantly on form here, but Miles’ tale is the core, taking the notion of the spider-bitten reluctant hero into very different directions. Embracing both the cultural and pop-cultural differences between the characters, this graffiti-drawing, hip hop-listening Spidey surely could appear as mere tokenism. Yet thanks to an elegant story and sympathetic direction, this feels like a natural evolution of the character, and a welcome one at that.
Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman infuse the world with kaleidoscopic grace, crafting a twitchy, fragmented universe where the different dimensions meet. Despite being screened in two dimensions, the animation still has quite a bit of depth simply thanks to its precise graphical design.
An application of offset-printing “noise” gives the film an even pulpier look. While that’s distracting at first, it manages to give the otherwise gleaming look a more tangible feeling. All is trumped by some truly extraordinary character animation. The weight and balance of each individual character, even in the most blistering of sequences, is done with impressive grace.
The voice actors are given plenty to work with. They all create richly realized characters far more carefully drawn than is usually the case in superhero spectacles. This allows the visuals to support an already invigorating story, their merging of art and story that serves the best of the medium.
The more surreal Spideys are given just enough time to make a fun impression, but the movie wisely focuses on Miles, drawing us into his world beautifully. The balance is thrilling, and the film is inviting to both neophytes and comic nerds alike.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse really is quite exceptional. Its turn on the origin story opens up great possibilities. This is arguably the best Spider-Man movie ever made, and certainly belongs with the small number of truly excellent comic book translations. In terms of a sympathetic translation from page to screen, this Spidey may swing to the very top.