It may sound impossible, but what if we really did have room for another Spider-Man origin story? Watch “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and you’ll be convinced that this new movie was absolutely worth making. Directors Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman have given us something truly incredible in this Phil Lord/Chris Miller produced work, and it is sure to be remembered for a long time to come.
Rather than being the tale of Peter Parker, although Parker does appear (more than one Parker to be exact), this is the story of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and how he takes on the great power and great responsibility of being Spider-Man. The message, which is clearly stated, is that anyone can be a hero – no matter who you are or where you come from. And so, the audience watches as Morales, a teen attending a prep school in Brooklyn, finds himself bitten by a spider and with new abilities he cannot control.
“Into the Spider-Verse” is built around various Spider-Men throughout the multiverse explaining to those watching who they are, how long they’ve had the role, and where they are in their lives. So, it opens with Peter Parker (Chris Pine) giving the most heroic version of the story, but following an attempt to thwart Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) from opening an alternate universe, we are given an introduction by Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), a much more down on his luck version of the character. And from there… well, from there it just gets silly, and that word is said with nothing but respect and admiration.
The multiverse is a big part of this story and the various Spider-Men encountered—which include Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Peni Parker’s Spider-Man (Kimiko Glenn), and Gwen Stacy’s Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld—are all from various universes. In their quest to get home and stop Kingpin, who has the help of some great villains, they open Miles’ eyes to a whole new world and set him on a track to becoming Spider-Man.
A Spider-Man story, however, would be nothing without troubles at home, and Miles certainly has those as well, trying to negotiate the divide between his father (Brian Tyree Henry) and uncle (Mahershala Ali), and deal with his father’s dislike of the wall crawler.
But, this review is slipping away, getting dragged down by a discussion of plot. The point of all of the above is to say that while, yes, this is a Spider-Man origin tale it is exceptionally different from all the other ones we’ve gotten on the big screen while still retaining something inherently Spider-Man about it. Morales is an insanely interesting character, and his struggle to understand what it really means to have these abilities and to use them all while trying to save the world makes for a great story.
No one invested in the film though seems to have been content with the notion of just stopping there. Instead, this packed story unfolds with some of the most gorgeous visuals you will see in an animated movie this year (or perhaps in any recent year). It is a Roy Lichtenstein-infused pop art fest, but one that wholly embraces the character’s comic origins (complete with thought boxes) and which doesn’t mind switching looks when giving us Peni Parker or Spider-Ham.
The visual style beautifully complements the action, whether it is a big scene or a small one. The camera might turn sideways as Peter or Miles is walking on the side of a building, or get lost with the audience in the middle of Doc Ock’s machine with multiple universes colliding about the characters.
Layered on top of that is a stellar soundtrack, one seemingly built to the taste of Miles Morales. It will not only please Miles though, many are sure to enjoy it from first song to last.
And, because all of that isn’t enough, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is exceptionally funny. Johnson is a hoot as Peter B. Parker, but he doesn’t get in the only quips. Everyone coming out of the movie will have their favorite Spider-Man joke, and every Spider-Man gets in a few good moments.
If this review is little more than ranting and raving about the greatness of the movie it is because it is just so wonderful. We have gotten good Spider-Man movies, bad Spider-Man movies, and great Spider-Man movies, but this one stands out amongst them. Shameik Moore and everyone who brought Miles Morales to life here deserves a long and loud standing ovation. It is a big story and a small one, and absolutely everything a superhero movie should be.
photo credit: Sony Pictures Animation