If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’d have heard that there’s yet another Spider-Man movie waiting to be unleashed on unsuspecting fans. And this when we just watched ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ last year, with Tom Holland taking on the mantle from Andrew Garfield, who himself took it on from Tobey Maguire. Also, any gamer worth their salt has been busy playing PS4’s ‘Spider-Man’, one of the most hyped video games to have been released this year.
And before we forget, the trailer for ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ just dropped this last weekend, even if only fans in Brazil have yet had the luck to watch it. All in all, there’s been a lot of wholesome Spidey content thrown at us in the last two decades. So, this begs the question: Do we really another Spider-Man? The answer is an unequivocal, resounding YES.
Especially, if the Spider-Man is question is Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) — a plucky, half-African American, half-Puerto Rican, Brooklyn-born teenager, dealing with a fancy new school for gifted students and a bite from a radioactive spider that’s suddenly given him the powers of a friendly neighbourhood web-slinging superhero. And even more because filmmaker duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (‘Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs’, ‘The Lego Movie’) have produced this gorgeous piece of animation glory that is hands down one of the best comic book big-screen movies to have ever been made. No hyperbole, we promise.
Directors Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsey and Robert Rothman with writers Rothman and Lord have woven together a story that works on several fronts: animation, emotion, comedy and thrills, compromising on nothing and delivering everything. Trouble with school? Check. Familial strife? Check. Romance? Check. Character growth? Check. Talking cartoon animal with a super-sized mallet? Check.
The events of ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ truly kick off shortly after the death of Peter Parker (Chris Pine) and Morales’ fateful spider bite. When classic Spider-Man villain Kingpin (Liev Schreiber), with the help of another vintage villain we won’t spoil here, opens up an inter-dimensional rift that threatens to destroy reality as the world knows it, Morales must quickly learn to control his new-found powers as he suddenly comes into contact with Spideys from alternate dimensions.
Leading the pack is Peter B Parker (Jake Johnson), a slightly portly and older version of Morales’ timeline Parker, dealing with a broken marriage and in desperate need of some morale boosting. He’s soon recruited as an unwilling mentor to young Morales as they fight against time to shut down the machine that’s set off the reality-bending portal.
But he’s not the only one who slips through, obviously. Other Spidey people include Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman (singer-actress Hailee Steinfeld); anime schoolgirl Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) and her robot spider friend SP//dr; the black-and-white Spider-Noir (Nicolas Cage, making the jump from DC after voicing Superman in ‘Teen Titans Go! To the Movies’); and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), a talking pig.
The beauty of the film is that while it’s essentially an origin story for Miles’ Spider-Man, it manages to tell everyone’s story in a manner that harks back to the character’s roots but also stays completely fresh, and isn’t scared of riffing on itself repeatedly.
Also, it looks like nothing you’ve seen before. Made like a living breathing comic book (think the moving photographs in ‘Harry Potter’), the visual flair exhibited here is a masterclass in how to break the rules judiciously, while creating something new altogether. The uninhibited use of screentones and cross-hatches will immediately transport you to Sarah Pichelli’s vibrant artwork for her Miles Morales comics, co-created with writer Michael B Bendis. It’s a little mindboggling to wrap your head around how they’ve managed to combine various comic book sensibilities to put across such a realistic view of urban city life, but somehow it works and the trick is to strap yourself in and let yourself be taken for a ride.
Ultimately, visual hijinks aside, ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ tells a really important story for our times, tied together neatly with a post-film dedication to Spider-Man’s original creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, both of whom died this year: anybody can be a hero, it’s just a matter of making that first leap of faith.