Monday 31 December 2018

Movie Review - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Having endured a somewhat clumsy cinematic history ranging from universal acclaim to widespread mockery, the forever iconic Spider-Man now finds himself in a new story split apart (to an extent) from all his live action adventures in the form of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, his first animated feature length flick, and surprisingly one that earns accolades of being one of the finest in the series yet.

As the title suggests, the story brings us into the Spider-Verse, where different incarnations of the titular hero find themselves brought into one shared dimension of New York surrounding Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a teenage student developing spider-esque superpowers which he struggles to control. The cause of these events links back to the villainous Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber), and so leads to a quest to prevent him from causing further destruction and to help return those lost to their respective dimensions.

The different incarnations of each character are of course adapted from various comic book versions; the key Spider-Man most will be familiar with finds himself the main co-star, with Morales' story arc being the primary focus. The chemistry the two share is spot on, making them a delight to watch throughout, aided well of course by the superb vocal work from Moore and Jake Johnson. Spider-Man acts well as a teacher of sorts to Morales, who is thankfully given more depth than just a clumsy student; both find themselves co-operating in a suitably entertaining manner as they infiltrate enemy territory and enter all sorts of gripping set pieces, all of which balance the right amount of action, humour, and genuine thrills.

Several other versions of the character join the cast later in the film, perhaps ones that general fans won't be as familiar with; Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), SP//dr (Kimiko Glenn), and Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage). Their roles within the overall story as co-stars don't end up being as entirely fleshed out as the primary Spider-Man, though if anything this works to the film's advantage; they find themselves entering the third act naturally rather than through any abrupt contrivances and the meat of the story doesn't end up juggling around too many characters than it might be able to handle. Whilst their vastly different characterisations can make for some awkward tonal shifts, they're for the most part a thoroughly likeable ensemble, all brought to life superbly by their respective performers.

It goes without saying that visually Into the Spider-Verse is incredibly impressive on a technical and artistic level, with a style that deftly blends that of traditional and 3D animation as well as a theme heavily inspired by comic book aesthetics, something the film uses well to convey certain basic plot points or simple visual gags. This visual style of course further adds to the quality of the superbly structured action sequences, and also captures the emotions of the characters themselves beautifully during the necessary tender moments. It's all this that makes Into the Spider-Verse a refined and well developed animated hit on many levels, and certainly one of the finest films within this iconic franchise.