Published Dec 12, 2018While there is no such thing as the perfect movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse comes tantalizingly close. There is a lot of heavy lifting involved to get casual movie-goers onboard with the fact that Peter Parker isn't the only Spider-Man in town — you will believe that this generation's webhead is a half Puerto Rican, half African-American teen from Brooklyn named Miles Morales, dynamically voiced by Shameik Moore of Dope and Netflix's The Get Down fame.
And can we talk about how cool and crisp the animation looks? Merging computer animation with hand-drawn comic book techniques is a savvy move — filmmaking duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The LEGO Movie) establish a psychedelic, "being inside a comic book" feel, while using restraint with the visual "Pows" and "Punches" that we see onscreen.
It accomplishes this in style, with directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman quickly establishing an origin story and then thrusting us into an adventure involving a nefarious plot by the evil gangster — and hulk of a man with an affected "Noo York" accent — known as Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) to use a machine that can open portals into other dimensions.
It is this plot point that enables varying iterations of Spider-Men to emerge, including the mysterious Spider-Woman, aka Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), a "cartoon" pig called Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), an old-timey Humphrey Bogart-sounding Nicolas Cage, who voices an alternate Spider-Man from the 1930s, and a Japanese-American middle school student named Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) who pilots a psychically-powered and spider-themed mech suit. That's a lot of narrative balls in the air — the stakes are high — but the flick deftly and dizzyingly juggles it all to tell a satisfying story of Morales's journey of becoming the graffiti-spraying, trap-soul listening Spider-Man of his universe.
Spider-Man purists might object to the fact that their beloved Peter Parker is effectively shunted to the background in a mentor role to let this character shine — it's not exactly the "real" Peter Parker, rather a lightly paunchy and recently divorced "Peter B. Parker" (voiced by Jake Johnson) — but that ship has passed regardless: it's Miles's time now. In tracking Miles's journey as a teen becoming a hero, his relationship with his family (including Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Velez as Jefferson Davis-Morales and Rio Morales, along with the Oscar-winning Mahershala Ali as his mysterious uncle) it's a superhero story with heart.
It goes without saying that the movie effectively sets up a franchise, but does so in an organic fashion. And for now, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse sticks the landing; it is probably the best, most faithful representation of a comic book on film to date.