Into the Spider-Verse is a dizzying cocktail of vibrant colour, creative energy, action and humour. It takes the most frequently retold of origin stories and retells it in a way that surprises, delights and feels fresher than any other comic book movie in 2018.
It is, in many ways, the closest thing we’ve had to a comic book brought to life. It’s not going to compete in terms of pure cinematic scale with the likes of Infinity War (not much will), so instead it focuses on creating its own inimitable style. We’ve had a plethora of animated superhero movies in the recent past, ranging from solid direct-to-DVD adaptations The Dark Knight Returns (2012) and Batman: Year One (2011), to wide release big hitters Big Hero 6 (2014) and The Lego Batman Movie (2012), but this instantly distances itself not just from those films but also from the wider genre with its distinct visual palette. It lies somewhere between hand-drawn, CG and cel-shaded animation. With a visible ink print texture, sound waves jolting from characters, speech bubbles popping and the screen splitting into multiple panels, it employs the language of the comics that inspired it in a way that’s energetic, smart, and rather beautiful.
This isn’t your dad’s Spider-Man. Hell, it’s not even 2017’s Spider-Man. This is Miles Morales’s half-Puerto Rican and half-African-American Spidey. While his overarching journey hits the majority of the same narrative beats as Peter Parker’s traditional version of the hero, Morales maintains his own unique, modern, and very self-aware voice. Which is crucial, considering we’ve had the Spider-Man origin plenty of times since Tobey Maguire first donned the suit in 2002, so entrenched in popular culture he’s become that in his last reboot (Marvel’s Homecoming) it was skipped altogether. Not so here, however; they septuple down on it, seven origins for the price of one. Liev Schreiber’s Kingpin (marked as one of Marvel’s finest villains between this and Daredevil) tears a hole in time and space in an attempt to reunite with his deceased wife and son, but in doing so he threatens to destroy Brooklyn, the rift triggering cataclysms and bringing with it other-dimensional versions of the web-slinger.
What ensues is a mixing pot of slick setpieces, emotional rug-pulling, and knowing jokes aplenty. Nothing is sacred; from Tobey Maguire’s bizarre dance sequence in Spider-Man 3 (2007) and Uncle Ben’s famous words of advice, to Shaun of the Dead (2004) and that upside-down kiss. Be sure to stick around for what’s possibly the best of all the post-credit scenes too. Co-writer and co-producer Phil Lord’s fingerprints are all over this, the offbeat nature of another of his previous efforts The Lego Movie (2014) evident throughout.
Of the several Spideys on offer, aside from Miles it’s Hailee Steinfeld’s punchy Gwen Stacy/Spider-Gwen and Jake Johnson’s slobbish Peter B. Parker that get the most play, both offering up enough personality to suggest that they’d quite comfortably lead their own films, while of the more surreal versions of the character it’s Nicolas Cage’s (!) Spider-Noir who stands out. Past comic book movies have often struggled to juggle more than two antagonists at a time. Into the Spider-Verse manages seven main heroes, six villains, successfully introduces a new generation of Spider-Man, and clocks in at just under a couple of hours. That’s how it’s done.
Rating (out of 5):