Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is arguably the best big screen version of Spider-Man

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) – Film Review

It’s a pity that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has been released in the shadow of the highly successful Aquaman film.

Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse 2018 film poster
Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse 2018 film poster

The DC Universe movie is clearly the more popular film based on box office returns but Sony Animation has put out a brilliant gem of a superhero film which is in danger of being overlooked, perhaps because it’s an animation.

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller of Lego Movie, Lego Batman Movie, Lego Ninjago Movie, have moved on from their public firing from the helm of Star Wars flop Solo to create their own unique, and excellent, take on Spider-Man. 

It’s Lord who takes the creative strain on Sony’s latest Spider-Man film  – writing a story that successfully combines action, comedy, and pathos into a 2 hour animated package with very modern visuals that can easily entertain the family.

The Spider-Man on show in this film isn’t a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but could be seen as a coincidental clue to the direction that it’s about to take with next year’s Avengers: Endgame film.

It’s not about time travel but about a multitude of different Spider-people from parallel universes who all come together to join new Spider-Man – Miles Morales – combat villain Kingpin’s latest nefarious scheme which could destroy New York.

It’s possible to research all of the Spider-people because they have all appeared in comics during Spider-Man’s richly drawn history of heroes and villains – the main ones being an older version of Peter Parker and a version of Gwen Stacey who was bitten by the radioactive spider.

And yes, Spider-Women Gwen Stacey – voiced by Hailee Steinfeld (Edge of Seventeen, 2017) deserves her own film as does the Peter B. Parker version of Spider-Man (Jake Johnson from TV’s New Girl).

I had to look up some of the voice talent used in Spider-Verse – all are good fits for the characters they play – after immediately recognising the tones of one Nicolas Cage who is perfectly cast as SpiderMan Noir – black and white anti-hero Spider-Man from the 1930s.

And you then get a Japanese anime version and also – infamously – Peter Porker – yes a Looney Tunes version!

For non-comic book fans, Morales is one of the most popular iterations of the webslinger – a mixed race New Yorker for the first time in the role of Spider-Man but with the all-too-familiar origin story that is explored in the first act of the Spider-Verse film.

He’s even hinted at in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – the Marvel Cinematic Universe incarnation of Spider-Man – for comic book fans.

Stan Lee’s final cameo role is poignant

People who don’t look too deeply into spoilers will appreciate the lean script that includes all the wise cracking, angst and history of Stan Lee’s most famous Marvel character, fitting just within a two-hour running time as well as giving a concise science lesson to introduce the idea of parallel universes.

Lee, who died recently, makes his final cameo in a film involving one of his characters – and it’s a fittingly poignant one but lacking none of the sparkle or humour of the man.  

The writing, energy and emotional impact within the Spider-Verse film is a stark contrast with the recent Doctor Who series with Jodie Whittaker which, by comparison, has lacked the laser sharp focus that Spider-Verse has delivered.

The humour, wit, plot, depth, and pathos are all on show in a film that even manages to avoid an overly bombastic ending following the inevitable final fight with the main villain – Kingpin – who feels much more rounded than most of the villains in Season 11 of Doctor Who even though his backstory was a little underdeveloped compared to the various protagonists.

And the PG rating shows that you don’t need to ramp up the violence or language to explore serious issues – no need to assume that only post watershed shows can have emotional impact.

And even though there’s a plethora of characters to follow, each on has nuance and relatable motivation which is tied into a decent story.

This is what makes this film stand out so brightly against other superhero films – yes Justice League (2017) I’m looking at you. 

Do stay till the very end of the credits for a fun look at a popular Spider-Man meme which is applied to a version of the web crawler who hard core comic book fans will be very pleased to see.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (PG; moderate fantasy violence, mild threat, injury detail, innuendo; 117 minutes)

Director(s): Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti

Cast Includes: Nicholas Cage (voice), Liev Schreiber (voice), Hailee Steinfeld (voice), John Mulaney (voice), Jake Johnson (voice), Lily Tomlin (voice), Shameik Moore (voice)

Summary: SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is an animated fantasy action film in which Spider-man crosses parallel dimensions and teams up with other spider heroes.

Rating: ***** (Arguably the best big screen incarnation of Spider-Man with a brilliantly realised and emotive story)