“Spider Pig! Spider Pig! We finally got a Spider-Pig!
Miles Morales is a young boy growing up in New York City, who is reluctantly sent to a new school by his parents, where he has a hard time fitting in with the other students. He also has a difficult time getting along with his parents, particularly his father, and would much rather spend time creating art with his Uncle, who is estranged from the family. While out with his uncle, Miles gets bitten by a radioactive spider, and, upon waking up the next day, discovers that he has superpowers.
Does this sound familiar to you? The film certainly knows it does, because Miles eventually comes across a whole slew of different Spider-Men and Spider-Women from different dimensions with the exact same backstory (one of the film’s best running gags is each of them explaining their backstories the exact same way!). Included in the mix is Peter Parker, Gwen Stacey, a Humphrey Bogart-type detective voiced by Nicolas Cage, an anime-drawn little girl, and yes, as my opening line suggested, even a pig! Upon meeting, they all band together to stop the evil Wilson Fisk (aka Kingpin) who has a powerful machine that threatens to destroy the multiple dimensions the “Spider-people” came from.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, thankfully, is not only faithful to the Spider-Man legacy, but it’s also triumphantly fun. It would be expected because Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the duo behind The Lego Movie and the 21 Jump Street films, are credited as producers, and even helped write the story. Their quick-paced and off the wall humor is certainly present in this film, and it fits with the character of Spider-Man. The quality of this film is elevated by co-director, Peter Ramsey, who previously directed his own Avengers-style team-up of fantasy legends, Rise of the Guardians. Guardians had a grand visual style and brisk pacing, and this film manages to push the envelope further.
Though the voice acting, humor, and soundtrack are all fantastically done, the real star of this film, in my own personal opinion, is the animation. Though it is technically CGI animation, the textures are water painting-like and, similar to The Lego Movie, everything moves like quasi-stop-motion. This gives the film’s environment a more eye-popping and visceral feeling. All in all, it is a unique viewing experience, especially during the climax, when it looks like a wild LSD trip.
Another interesting aspect of the film that sets it apart from other cinematic depictions of Spider-Man is that the main character’s parents are still alive. Not only that, but the mother works as a nurse and the father works as a police officer, so it provides some background on Morales’ willingness to be a crime-fighter. And the film wisely takes its time in setting up Miles as a hero, and not just having him go out and use his powers instantly. His interactions with the other “Spider-people” are also some of the best scenes in the movie, because, as comical as their existence is, they are all well realized, and they all bounce off of each other well.
Admittedly, as highly enjoyable as the film is, it is not flawless. The story of the film itself, while heartfelt and humorous, is a bit too familiar in places. In addition, some parts of the story feel rather underdeveloped and could have used more focus, particularly the subplot involving Miles’ uncle. His involvement in the film’s plot ends almost as quickly as it is introduced, and leaves many questions unsolved. In addition, the character of Kingpin feels rather underwhelming, although it can be forgiven since this is not an episodic show like Netflix’s Daredevil (RIP). Thankfully, the film’s heart and humor outweigh these problems.
It is debatable whether Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the absolute “best” Spider-Man film, but it is definitely the best we have gotten in a long time. It has everything that you would want in a great Spider-Man film, including an impressive visual style, committed performances, and nice off-the-wall humor. Anyone would be able to find something to like in this film, including a hysterical Spider-Man-performed Christmas album, just in time for the holiday season!