Movie Review: ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse’ Has It All and Then Some

With great power comes great responsibility. That has been the cornerstone of Peter Parker’s existence for the entirety of my lifetime and it’s a mantra that made him one of my favorite superheroes. Yet, the comic book universe has always been more expansive than that, and Miles Morales has been a large part of that in comic book version of the Spidey universe. So, it is decidedly refreshing to see him take center stage in the latest Spider-Man film. And while it might have been good enough to have the first black Spider-Man movie be a self contained origins story, this movie has so much more in mind.

This film will make you cry. It will make you laugh your ass off! It will entertain you with memorable action sequences, and it will move you with refreshing new characters. However, it’s the presence of a familiar face, and a brand new one, working together to discover themselves that will likely capture your heart. It certainly did in mine.  

At heart, ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse’ is the story of Miles Morales. A wicked smart, African-American kid, who’s police officer father has pulled him out of the inner city school and put him into a rich private school. And there’s where any innuendo of race or class stops. We understand just enough to know that the Morales family wants Miles to have a real shot in life and that starts with the best schools. Which doesn’t keep Officer Morales from embarrassing Miles on the first day. 

A series of cleverly conceptualized events lead Miles to getting bit by a radioactive spider in a sewer and then discovering a secret experiment that is going on under Manhattan. Luckily, Spider-Man is fighting the Green Goblin and saving the day, right? Well, it seems that way until a rift is open into a set of parallel dimensions and a set of other Spider people are sucked into Miles’s version of New York. Within a day of the dimensional rift, Miles runs into a future Peter Parker and the cleverly original origins story of how Miles will become the new Spider-Man plays out. 

The film is filled with a stunningly new and refreshing visual palette. It’s a digital animation style that is finally providing something fresh, instead of cheaply ripping off what Pixar has done (which is pretty much what most studios have done). It’s a style that not only allows for some jaw-dropping spectacle when watching the hand full of Spider people in action, but also allows provides an opportunity for the most organic translation of comic material I’ve ever seen. This film really is a living, breathing comic book. 

Speaking of the Spider people, they are all both cleverly fun and perfect emotional support for Miles’s journey. Not to mention the fact that the colorful characters are voiced by a talented cast of actors like Nicolas Cage, Hailee Steinfeld, and Jake Johnson. There are also some surprise voice performances from Chris Pine and Mahershala Ali that provide real emotional weight to the story. And, in the end, it’s that balance of emotional weight, big laughs, an original story, and spectacular visuals that make it the best animated film of the year! This is not just great superhero moviemaking, this is great filmmaking, period.

Nathan Ligon

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