Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, working off a screenplay by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, Into the Spider-Verse follows Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a young teenager who suddenly finds himself with spider-like abilities and needs someone to turn to, to help him master his new-found powers while trying to avoid the clutches of an evil crime boss named Kingpin (Liev Schreiber).
The help that Miles seeks ultimately turns out to be a whole bunch of super-humans with spider powers from other dimensions who find themselves all pulled into Miles’ world. The heroes range from an older, jaded Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), punk rock loving Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), a very intense brooding Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) and her robot SP//dr and last but not least, Peter Porker aka Spider-Ham (John Mulaney). An eclectic group of protagonists to be sure, but it’s an ensemble that meshes together to create a memorable piece of entertainment.
Now, as you may be aware, over the years there have been many iterations of Spider-Man on the Silver screen, some being truly great films while others are best forgotten. But Into the Spider-Verse is not just the best Spider-Man movie ever made, but it’s also in the running for the best comic book movie too. It combines a visually stunning aesthetic, with a tight, well-written story and superb voice talent to deliver a movie that is as close to perfection as I have seen.
I mean seriously, from the very moment the very first trailer hit audiences, the buzz started going around that Sony had something special on their hands. The art style alone signalled that this Spider-Man movie was going to be very different from those that came before it, and as trailer after trailer came out, the hype started growing at an exponential rate. It seemed impossible for Spider-Verse to deliver everything being promised, but deliver it did.
As previously mentioned, there is not a single frame in this movie that is not a delight to behold. Using techniques from both the CG and hand-drawn worlds of animation, Spider-Verse achieves a unique look that truly sets it apart from any other animated movie. Being totally honest, as great as the visual style is, it did take me awhile to get used to some of the effects used in the movie, at one point leaving me wondering if I had accidentally walked into a 3D version of the movie without getting 3D glasses, but it didn’t me long to get used to the effect and it didn’t detract from the film.
But style is nothing without substance, and it’s when you layer the witty, humourous, yet thought provoking story over the sumptuous animation that the magic starts to happen. From cameos, Easter Eggs, one-liners and pieces of conversation that will hit you in the emotional core, Spider-Verse’s script deftly builds a world filled with characters that you want to be invested in and want to get to know better.
Characters like Johnson’s Peter Parker, whose curmudgeonly, snarky nature is somehow still likeable. It’s Peter’s relationship with Miles that gets the most development in the story and the chemistry of the two voice actors make the constant back and forth between Johnson and Moore an easy sell. And though Peter and Miles may be in the forefront for a lot of the movie, that doesn’t mean the other Spider-People are not given their time to shine.
Each of the actors behind their respective Spider-Person perfectly embodies their role, with Cage chewing up scenery as only he can, creating in Spider-Man Noir a character that is both dark and yet funny and endearing at the same time. Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy has the appropriate amount of spunk and no nonsense attitude that one might expect from a punk rocker, and being close to Miles’ age, makes her seasoned Spider-Gwen a great counterpoint to the bumbling, still learning the ropes Morales.
Kimiko Glenn’s vocal turn as Peni Parker is every bit as cute and bubbly as her anime counterpart is on-screen. Her close relationship with her robot SP//dr is often played for laughs but also creates some of the more poignant moments in the film. And Mulaney as the very looney-tooney Spider-Ham is just an inspired casting choice, his vocal talents relishing every chance to be the over-the-top cartoon that is Peter Porker.
But I think at the end of the day, the its the underlying themes in Spider-Verse that will make a lasting impression. Themes that let each and every one of us know that we are all special in our own right, and that sometimes we are the ones holding ourselves back, and that no matter how hard life is, we don’t have to face it alone. These are very powerful messages, but they are not conveyed in a heavy handed manner, rather just flowing naturally in the dialogue, packing an emotional punch in the way they are delivered.
There are a few minor nitpicks I have with how some of the other supporting characters are portrayed and there are some moments of resolution that happen a little too conveniently for me to give Spider-Verse a perfect score, but I can honestly tell you that this is the closest I have ever gotten to giving a movie a 10 out of 10.
Spider-Verse was an experiment by Sony that has paid off enormously. It’s the kind of movie that paves a new path forward while also paying homage to all the films that came before it from Raimi’s Spiderman to Spider-Man: Homecoming but not afraid to poke fun at the more ridiculous aspects of Spider-Man’s history.
I give Spider-Verse a 9.5 out of 10, and I urge you and your friends to go and see it. I was already prepared to go watch the movie again as the credits started rolling.
P.S. Make sure you hang around for the 2 end credit sequences