The following is a review of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman
The late, great, legendary film critic Roger Ebert opened his review of my favorite Spider-Man film, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, with the line: “Now this is what a superhero movie should be,” a sentence that feels pretty appropriate to use today when describing the first of, likely, many theatrically released Sony Pictures Animation Spider-Man-related films because Into the Spider-Verse is a special movie in virtually every way imaginable.
In Sony Pictures Animation’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, we are introduced to Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), an Afro-Latino teenager adjusting to life at a new school. While out with his uncle, Aaron Davis (voiced by Mahershala Ali), to graffiti the walls of an abandoned subway station, Miles is bitten by a genetically-modified spider.
The next morning, Miles experiences the changes to his body and finds out he has new abilities, which he immediately and nervously attributes to nothing more than puberty. When he returns to the subway station, he discovers that Kingpin (voiced by Liev Schreiber) has built a particle accelerator in an attempt to bring back the loved ones that he has lost.
Though initially unsuccessful due to an interruption by a spider-person, Kingpin’s particle accelerator has set another thing in motion altogether. The particle accelerator has transferred multiple spider-people, including Spider-Man Noir (voiced by Nicolas Cage), Spider-Ham (voiced by John Mulaney), and an older and downbeat more traditional Spider-Man (voiced by Jake Johnson), into Miles’ universe.
Miles, who is in desperate need of guidance as a young, new superpowered spider-person, now finds himself in the middle of a race against time as further Kingpin experiments threaten the existence of everyone in Miles’ universe, while the misplaced spider-people are starting to slowly glitch out of existence the longer they stay away from home.
A character originally created for the purpose of letting Latin and African-Americans see themselves as the iconic web-slinger, Miles Morales, as presented in the film, lives up to every hope and dream you may have had for him, and Into the Spider-Verse gives him a soon-to-be iconic big-screen Spider-Man origin story for people of all ages. This is a film that, I imagine, immediately makes the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man more beloved and much, much more relatable for so many people.
This is a film that I believe is both made for a very certain part of the spectrum of nerddom, but also one which somehow manages to lift us all up in the process. Make no mistake, this is Miles Morales’ film, but Peter Parker as Spider-Man is essential to the film in an interesting way. This film isn’t just about a young man learning to relax within himself and then become the hero he can be, it is also a film about a depressed hero who has lost his drive and who needs new inspiration. In that way, I think this is obviously a film for all ages. Kids will see themselves in Shameik Moore’s Miles Morales (or Hailee Steinfeld’s Gwen Stacy), whereas parents will see themselves in Jake Johnson’s Peter B. Parker.
Again, this film is for everyone. It points fingers at superhero tropes in a refreshing and visually pleasing way, it pokes fun at the tone of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films in a fun way, and it contains a plethora of easter eggs that will have your eyes working overtime to catch them all. Though it is for everyone, it almost felt like the easter eggs in this film were tailor-made for someone just like me (seriously, Community-fans, keep an eye on Aaron Davis’ television — you won’t be disappointed).
The voice-acting work in this film is also extraordinary (Jake Johnson and Nicolas Cage are both above and beyond amazing in their respective roles) and the characters are incredibly well-cast. You’ll get a kick out of realizing exactly who Kathryn Hahn is playing (don’t Google it), and you’ll have fun with trying to guess exactly who they’ve picked to play this, that, and the other special appearance character.
But the one thing that makes this film stand out to anyone watching it is the unique animation style which is both cartoonish, comic book-like, and CGI-like. The result is a wild and uncontrolled love letter to the comic books that birthed the characters on-screen. The worlds are unique, the characters designs are on-point or clever new designs, the chill-inducing animation effects help to make it feel energetic and dynamic, and the action had me open my mouth wide in amazement for minutes.
This is a special film within which you can find tons of things to love. Sony Pictures Animation’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the most stylish superhero film of the year, but it is also a film that carries a worthwhile message about the importance of the everyman that gets right to the heart of the web-slinger we all love. In the undying words of Roger Ebert: “Now this is what a superhero movie should be.”
10 out of 10
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.