Well, if they can’t go the live-action route, might as well take a tumble into the animation department. RottenTomatoes certainly seems to love it, so maybe Sony’s got this down.
The story looks like Kingpin is going to open a rift in the space-time continuum that threatens the city and it brings a whole bunch of variants of Spider-Man.
Here’s the voice talent. Starring, we have Shameik Moore (stuff I’ve either never heard of or seen), Jake Johnson (TAG , THE MUMMY , MIKE AND DAVE , JURASSIC WORLD , and THE LEGO MOVIE ), Liev Schreiber (ISLE OF DOGS , MY LITTLE PONY , 5TH WAVE , SPOTLIGHT , and the upcoming A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK ), and Brian Tyree Henry (WIDOWS , CROWN HEIGHTS , and upcoming films IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK  and CHILD’S PLAY ).
Voicing the various Spider-folks, we have Hailee Steinfeld (PITCH PERFECT 2  and 3 , EDGE OF 17 , BEGIN AGAIN , and the upcoming BUMBLEBEE ), John Mulaney (stuff I’ve either never heard of or seen), Kimiko Glenn (NERVE ), Nicolas Cage (TEEN TITANS GO! , SNOWDEN , and the upcoming THE CROODS 2 ), and Chris Pine (WRINKLE/TIME , WONDER WOMAN , STAR TREK: BEYOND , and the upcoming WONDER WOMAN 1984 ).
In support, we have Mahershala Ali (GREEN BOOK , MOONLIGHT , HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY 2 , PREDATORS , and the upcoming ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL ), Lily Tomlin (GRANDMA , and the upcoming THE ROAD HOME ), Kathryn Hahn (HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3 , BAD MOMS X-MAS , CAPTAIN FANTASTIC , and THE VISIT ), Zoë Kravitz (FANTASTIC BEASTS 2 , LEGO BATMAN , ALLEGIANT , MAD MAX: FURY ROAD , X-MEN: FIRST CLASS , and the upcoming VIENA AND THE FANTOMES ), and the late and great Stan Lee (y’all better know what he’s known for).
Now for the crew. Making for a grand total of three co-directors, we have Bob Persichetti (directorial debut; congrats, sir), Peter Ramsey (stuff I’ve either never heard of or seen), and co-writer Rodney Rothman (directorial debut; congrats, sir). Co-writing the screenplay are Rothman (22 JUMP STREET ), and Phil Lord (LEGO MOVIE, and upcoming films THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART  and WILE E. COYOTE ). Finally, composing the score is Daniel Pemberton, known for OCEAN’S 8 (2018), MOLLY’S GAME (2017), and THE MAN FROM UNCLE (2015).
Already saw the movie, so let’s get under way.
This is my honest opinion of: SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is a regular teenage kid. He’s smart and just got admitted to an elitist school, but would rather be in a regular school with his friends. Despite his best efforts to show that he doesn’t belong there, it’s all in vain. One night while hanging out with his Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali), who is secretly a criminal, Miles is bitten by a special spider and the next day finds himself with spider-like powers, similar to that of New York’s very own Spider-Man (Chris Pine). He freaks out and skips school, eventually and accidentally finding himself in the middle of a plot by Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) to open up a portal between alternate universes, despite the destructive danger it poses to the city. Spider-Man is luckily there to try and save the day, and seemingly does so, but at too great a cost. He is injured in the fight and begs the spectating Miles to take information that Spider-Man took. Miles reluctantly does so, but before he leaves, he sees Kingpin brutally kill Spider-Man, and barely escapes with his own life. However, soon after Peter Parker’s funeral, Miles encounters something strange. As it turns out, Kingpin’s machine worked out in an unexpected way and brought forth another Spider-Man, Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), who has had a rough go in recent years and is reluctant to take on Miles as a student of the ways of Spider-Man. Soon, the two encounter even more Spider-hero variants, teenage females Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), also known as Spider-Woman and Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), also known as SP//dr from the year 3000, Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) from the 1940s, and the cartoonish Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), who all have to get back to their dimensions before they die.
Man, this one was weird. But you know what? Weird is code for AWESOME! I guess all it took for Sony to get Spider-Man right was make it animated. Who knew?
Before any of the uninitiated start asking questions, yes, all of these Spider-people are from the comic books. None of them were made-up on the fly for this movie. Miles Morales really did end up replacing Peter Parker as Spider-Man in his own universe, following Parker’s death. Whether or not Miles’ origin story in the comics is the exact same as portrayed in this movie, you’d have to ask a comic nerd. Miles is a legit half-black, half-hispanic teenager, Spider-Man Noir is really from the 30s or 40s and his printed comics are (as far as I know) black and white… and gritty, Peni Parker really is from an anime-inspired version of Spider-Man who essentially makes friends with the spider that grants her psychic control of the Spider-Mech (it’s not the actual name, I just like the sound of it), and Spider-Woman is more popularly recognized as Spider-Gwen. And yes, Spider-Ham is also real. Originally as a parody of Spider-Man, but became popular enough to warrant a comic series of his own. How faithful they’re represented on the big screen, again, comic nerds, ask ’em, but I have no idea. But as an ignoramus, I had fun with what I saw.
I thought Miles was a great character. Aside from being smart, he still has his quirks about him. He’s a bit of a dork. When he’s late for class and called out by the teacher, tries to tone it down with a bad joke. Since he grew up in a rougher neighborhood, he’s taken up an artistic side in graffiti. And to cement his distinguished backstory from Peter Parker, he has a criminal uncle that he’s really close to and have a legit, human connection. They’re goofy, they have laughs, they talk, something that too many action movies fail to accomplish. And also, HE HAS BOTH OF HIS PARENTS!!! Jeez, how often does that happen in superhero stories? Actually, DC was on this band wagon with Blue Beetle and Jaime Reyes. Ohh, I see how it is, comic books. Let’s make sure the Latinos are superhero ground-breakers and to add more pity points, they can have both of their parents too! You… er… racists? And he has a great relationship with them, though he does seem to have his fair share of headbutting with his police officer dad, but they feel like a functioning, normal family.
I also really like how this movie sorta kinda continues the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man, referencing scenes from his movies. In his universe, though, he screwed up, divorced Mary Jane (Zoë Kravitz), got fat, and started wearing sweat pants with his costume. He’s also cynical, but still has that sense of justice to do what he needs to in order to save the day.
I absolutely love the animation style. It’s unique and doesn’t look like any other animated movie on the market that I’ve seen. Every frame makes you feel like you’re really in a living comic book page and it’s absolutely wonderful. More than that, the action is fast paced, easy to follow, creative, and once you get to the epic climax, it’s an amazing acid-trip of awesome creativity. The designs for all of the characters are great and have their own distinguished look. Spider-Ham looks like he’s straight out of a Loony Tunes cartoon, topped with mallets from his pocket and everything, Peni Parker is definitely styled like an anime character, it’s all wonderful to see. Spider-Man Noir was almost the exception, but it has the advantage of having Nic Cage as the actor and he decided to model his voice after 30s actors, giving the character a fun presence as well. I won’t lie, I would have really liked to have gotten more out of Peni, Spider-Ham, and Noir as characters, but the story was crowded enough, I guess it’s only natural that some would get pushed to the wayside. I also really love how the villains are designed too. Kingpin almost looked really too cartoonish with how blocky his body is and how small his head was by comparison, but as his character gets screen time, this actually soon becomes a huge intimidation factor, showcasing just how fast and unnaturally strong he is. I mean, the dude is strong enough to Spider-Man. That’s… scary. One of my favorites is the design for Olivia Octavius (Kathryn Hahn). I mean, I hate her mechanical arms as they look like they’re balloons, but the way her hair is styled when she’s in combat, put up in a way that looks like an octopus’ head, it’s actually an immensely creative idea and gets my vote as the best Doc Oc that has ever been put to film.
<<<SPOILERS – highlight to reveal>>> [ This movie does a great job of giving us familiar tropes while putting a fresh spin on it. Of course Miles experiences a death in his family, but it’s not any mentor or father figure. It’s his uncle Aaron. But to make matters complex and compelling, Aaron isn’t just some thief. He’s the Prowler, who is not afraid to kill people, and Miles discovers that Prowler is Aaron, making his internal conflict so interesting as he wrestles with what to do about this knowledge. Even when Aaron discovers that Miles is another Spider-Man, he can’t kill him, getting himself killed by Kingpin in the process. He dies soon after, and to complicate matters even further, Jefferson believes that Spider-Man killed Aaron. Now Miles’ dad thinks that a superhero killed his brother, not knowing that he thinks Miles did it. There’s so much complexity within the story, yet it’s so simple to follow. Perfect storytelling. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
But for all the praises that I have, I do have a couple of nitpicks.
First is, when did Gwen arrive at Miles’ universe? Like, she’s in his school as a student, she’s an employee at Alchemax, when the hell did she arrive? Okay, prior to Spider-Man’s death, but she was an established character well before he got bit by the radioactive spider in the sewer. So… what’s the deal?
Also, I feel like certain plot points barely mattered. They play into the whole “new kid at school” cliché who feels like he doesn’t want to be there and tries to self-sabotage, it just feels odd that they put this much emphasis on it and there wasn’t much rhyme or reason to it.
Overall, this is probably one of the best, if not the best Spider-Man story given to the big screen. And don’t get me wrong, I loved SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004), I really liked AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012), and I definitely liked SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017), but I’ve had my fair share of problems with each movie. This one, yeah I still do, but this movie succeeds where the others have failed. How many villains did this movie have? How many heroes did this movie have? And yet it’s still the best Spider-Man? That’s an accomplishment unlike anything I’ve heard of. Maybe the Avengers movies come close, but it’s been pretty focused on the slew of heroes, not a slew of villains. Still, this humor had me howling with laughter, I won’t lie, the drama worked so well that I actually cried a little, the action is awesome, the animation style is unique, and is ultimately a great story with great characters. I hear that sequels are already in the works and I would love to revisit. I wouldn’t even mind spin-offs with the more extreme versions of Spider-Man. It just seems too ripe for the picking now that they’ve established all of this. This has my imagination running wild and eager for more in the future. As a recommendation, yeah I give this a high endorsement.
My honest rating for SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE: a strong 4/5
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