Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey & Rodney Rothman
Starring: (voices of) Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber
Run Time: 117 mins
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is a surprisingly good film that has plenty of heart, well-developed characters and manages to put a fresh spin on the famous Web-Slinger amidst the superhero fatigue. The marketing siginificantly diminshed my expectations as it looked to be a crowded, overstuffed film that struck a boisterous tone. The idea of having multiple versions of Spider-Man is an interesting one and it gives this film a chance to bring back many fan favourites and explore alternative characters that have been previously marginalised.
This film follows Miles Morales instead of Peter Parker (who features as well), a mixed race teenager who struggles to fit in at school and doesn’t meet the lofty expectations of his parents, specifically his policeman father who also doesn’t see Spider-Man as a benefit to the city. When Miles gets bitten by a radioactive spider to become the eponymous superhero, he stumbles across Kingpin who is trying to experiment accessing parallel universes in an effort to bring back his deceased wife and son. This then, as one would expect, causes problems and different versions of Spider-Man are brought into Miles’ dimension. These include Peter Parker, Spider-Gwen and more obscure versions of the character such as Spider-Noir and Spider-Ham. They all have to team up to defeat Kingpin so that they can return to their respective universes before they deteriorate.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse succeeds in playing with comic-book convention and it manages to not fall into certain pitfalls of the genre. Perhaps the most impressive is how it tells the origin stories of all the characters in the film without spending too much time and doing it in a comedic manner. This is a fun and fresh take on this and allows the film to get to its main narrative thread quicker. The voice cast are all excellent and all seem to be having fun. Although not quite as funny as it could have been, there’s plenty of laughs to be had in this film as well through physical gags to obscure comic-book references for the fans. There’s also a very touching Stan Lee cameo made all the more heartfelt since his passing.
With all that said, I don’t think it’s quite as good as it has been made out to be. It does succumb somewhat to typical third-act antics with an overlong and not particularly exciting final battle. Despite some hints at a more fleshed out character, the villain Kingpin is underused and quite one-dimensional. Both problems this film has are also the downfall of Aquaman as well, currently playing in cinemas too.
Overall, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is an energetic and entertaining film that is heartfelt and provides a refreshing spin on the popular superhero. It packs some good twists in its storyline and should be a delight for comic-book fans through some more obscure and metatextual references. But it’s not quite as good as it could have been as it falls into typical problems of a lacklustre villain and a slightly tiring third act.