The Cambridge Geek

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Well, this was amazing. Also astonishing. And a bit spectacular.

Miles Morales is a wildly gifted student, pressured by his parents into attending a highly selective school, and is struggling with the expectations placed on him. At the same time, he misses his old school and the friends he made there, failing to fit in with the more judgmental students at the posher school. Difficult enough, you might think.

A shame, then, that along with the vagaries of puberty, he seems to be developing powers that seem curiously related to the anatomical abilities of the common spider (with a few tweaks here and there). What on earth is a young boy to do when he becomes some sort of Spider-Teen, especially with a father who has the policeman's traditional hatred of "masked vigilantes".

Luckily, it would seem that some bizarre multiverse collision has resulted in several different Spider-People popping into his world, and all of them have suggestions for him (and more than a few expectations of their own).

All of which makes this once again an origin tale, but one done sufficiently well that I didn't find myself feeling that sense of going through the motions. For example, this is a bit weirdly timed, coming only a year after Homecoming, and I did wonder whether I'd find myself Spider-Man'd out, but this is very different to anything else they've done recently.

You can see where a lot of it's come from.

It's partly Deadpool inspired, with some of the elements of inner monologue and the meta/self-referential humour of living in a comic book world. There are hints of the Avengers here, with the Spider-Team bringing with them a certain degree of camaraderie and overlapping skill sets, but all working together in a cheery manner. And the overall feel of the film is similar to the "motion comics" that Marvel have been looking at for the past decade(?) or so.

That's where the animation really is just staggering though. The whole film is beautiful, astoundingly so.

The most obvious "trick" is the variation seen between the Spider-People, matched up with how they were drawn in their comic incarnations, but the film as a whole runs through an incredibly wide range of styles. Each of them inspired by a specific artist. This is probably the closest you'll ever get to a true animated "comic". The shots are set up to act as splash pages, with the sound effects, visual breaks and framing such that you get a snapshot of a massive panel very frequently. And they're always so brilliantly drawn. Even if you aren't particularly a Spider-Fan, this film will impress you visually.

If you do happen to be a Spider-Fan though, firstly, you've probably already seen this, but secondly, there is a lot for you to unpack. I gave up counting references once I got to double digits, and that was just in the opening titles.

Thankfully, it never feels cheap. I've complained about unnecessary references before, and it's proving difficult to determine what makes one feel cheap and the other meaningful. Perhaps here, it's because they're baked into the whole concept of the multiverse. Or maybe I just have sufficient love for the Spider-Man franchise that I automatically enjoy all of them. Not sure. Still, I would lay odds on anyone with any fondness for Peter Parker and the world built around him viewing this film in a warm cozy nostalgia.

The film doesn't rest on those laurels though. This is Miles' story, and while those who've read the Ultimate series will not necessarily be surprised by the twists and turns of the plot, it's still a very strong structure to build his emotional arc around. His tale naturally parallels that of Pete, with this being an "answering the call" storyline, but it has a couple of neat moments that managed to catch me out. It's solid, if not outstanding. Weirdly, it's the secondary storyline that personally grabbed me the most, but telling you almost anything about it would be a spoiler, and she's a DC character, so I'll leave that out.

Also to its benefit is how funny it is. I think they realised early on that this was going to have to be lighthearted, with the Spider-Quip being one of this set of characters' most common weapons of choice. It has a few darker moments, but in general it's a decent comedy. In particular, the stinger. For the love of god, stay after the credits have finished.

If you've ever enjoyed an SM comic, this should be an automatic watch.

Score 5

Tagged: Film Superhero Marvel Fiction Cinema