Along Came a Spider - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (REVIEW)
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
One of my most anticipated films in recent years was Sony Pictures yet again taking a stab at a self-contained Spider-Man story. While the MCU version has seen his share of success, not since the Raimi t̶r̶i̶l̶o̶g̶y̶ / two-logy (we don't talk about 3) did the the most recognizable Marvel hero shine as much as he does here, mostly by focusing on a different spider. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse follows young Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a boy from Brooklyn who precariously follows the same fate as spiders before him, bit by the radioactive arachnid and taking the mantle of Spider-Man of the Ultimate Universe. It's a tale we've all heard before, albeit slightly different, something about great responsibility and all that jazz. When Wilson Fisk activates a device that literally tears the fabric of space and time, other spiders from parallel universes get trapped in the New York Miles calls home. Peter Parker's Spider-Man (Jake Johnson) and Gwen Stacy's Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld) first join the inexperienced Miles Morales, attempting to help coach him to become the Spider-Man he's meant to be. Eventually we are introduced to three more spiders; Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Noir Universe's Spider-Man (Nicolas Cage), and SP//dr Mech pilot Peni Parker (Kimiko Glen) round out the cast of spiders.
This may seem like a lot on paper but surprisingly Into the Spider-Verse handled juggling the six heroes quite well. I know that I was a bit apprehensive at first, worrying that this would be almost too much. We've seen what happens when super hero movies try to cram too much into one film's run-time with Spider-Man 3 being the prime example of that. My worries were pleasantly alleviated by the time the later three spiders were introduced. Never feeling bloated and never detracting from focusing on Miles. This isn't an ensemble story, but at the same time the supporting spiders never felt like they were wasted. Each sporting unique personalities, even Spider-Ham steps out of being just a joke to playing an integral role in the greater narrative.
No hero story is complete without villains with Into the Spider-Verse sporting an impressive cast of iconic Spider-Man foils. Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber) acts as the primary antagonist, this Ultimate Universe Kingpin is largely unchanged from the Kingpin we are used to from the 616 Universe. He's menacing, all kinds of evil, but surprisingly he's motivated by more than just being the Kingpin of Crime. Into the Spider-Verse made its villains multi faceted in how subversive they were. A prime example of a strong villain is the Ultimate Universe's Prowler, who depending on how familiar you are with Miles Morales and his run as Spider-Man you'll either see or not see it coming when he's revealed. Prowler acts as one of Kingpin's primary enforcers, following orders with a lethal efficiency one can expect from a Spidey villain.
Ultimate versions of Green Goblin (Jorma Taccone), Doc Ock (Kathryn Hahn), Scorpion (Joquín Cosio), and Tombstone (Marvin Jones III) help bolster the rogues gallery to better match the spiders. Much in the same vein as the six spiders, these six sinister rogues never felt too much. It's a testament to how strong the story telling in super hero cinema has evolved when storytellers can balance such a large cast without ever feeling bloated.
Reviewing Into the Spider-Verse wouldn't be complete if I didn't touch on the revolutionary animation style of the picture. If super hero flicks are meant to bring comic book stories to life, Into the Spider-Verse is literally bringing a comic book to life with all the panache of a half-toned full page spread. Art direction is so key to the overall DNA of this flick. I'm still in awe of what I just watched. A true feast for the eyes, there is absolutely nothing like Into the Spider-Verse and anything that tries to emulate its style will always be second place. From the very first scene to the final goodbye, my eyes were glued to the screen as I tried to take in every bit of the story's visuals as I could while still paying attention to the narrative.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse accomplishes for Sony what no Spidey film has done in almost two decades. It offers a sense of a hope while standing on its own two feet. I loved Spider-Man Homecoming and the MCU version of Spidey has been one of the best portrayals of the wall crawler since Tobey slipped into the web-print onesie, but what that version stands on is the massive vehicle that is the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. Much in the same vein that Miles Morales did for the comics, this Ultimate Spider-Man makes impressive strides to stand out from it's history while staying true to what makes Spidey such an enduring hero. I have so much hope for what I expect will become a Spider-Verse franchise, looking ahead it feels like Sony Pictures finally gets it... this ladies and gentlemen is how you tell a Spider-Man story... this ladies and gentlemen is a damn near perfect super hero flick.
Too perfect for words!