Billed as one of the most unique and interesting animated movies in recent memory, Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse swung into theatres this December, boasting an explosive cast; the likes of Chris Pine, Mahershala Ali, Hailee Stienfeld, Lily Tomlim, Liev Schriber, the one and only Nick Cage, and more. The expectations literally could not have been higher for the film, which was nominated for (and later won) a Golden Globe for Best Animated Picture. The film follows Miles Morales, a young upstart prodigy whose world turns upside down when he is bitten, surprise surprise, by a radioactive spider. Upon realizing his powers, he quickly runs into Peter Parker, and embarks on a journey that would take him across dimensions into other worlds with more spidermen.
Not gonna lie, I was a little shifty about this film going in. The hype was real, with enough people whispering in my ear that this was to be the best animated film I’ve ever seen. That’s high praise. I had seen the trailer and found it amusing but not exactly show-stopping, and I was weary of another over-quirky crowd pleaser. I did not expect what I saw.
Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse is hilarious and wildly entertaining. The animation is wonderful, getting the right mix between realism and batshit craziness (which can sometimes be a little over the top) and makes for a thoroughly engaging visual treat. One of the main doubts I had before I saw it was on a conceptual level. I was worried that they were taking Spiderman a little too far, trying to do too much with the character and overextending. Someone I spoke to since seeing it made a compelling case that the overextension did happen, but I didn’t see it and I don’t think there was a moment during the film where I was annoyed by what was happening on a purely conceptual or plot level.
I can’t stress how funny the film is sometimes. The self aware, comic book aspect pays off in a big way, never feeling forced and timed just right in almost all cases. The conceptual strength that I touched on before gives the writers the freedom to come up with some cool stuff too. Nick Cage, the almighty, plays Spiderman Noir, who, aside from being the only Spiderman from a past dimension, might be Nick Cage’s true identity. I’m dead serious. Aside from that Nick Cage glory, an Anime Spiderman, a pig Spiderman, and a deadbeat Spiderman add up to make a properly hilarious movie that lands nearly everything it throws.
There’s an admirable balance between the comedy and the emotional sophistication of the film, though not an unprecedented one. There are bits and pieces of the film that bring it back down to a human level, most notably in the case of the relationship between Miles and his father. It’s not incredible, it’s not the most powerful emotional journey you’ve ever seen, but it’s good and ties in well with the comedy of the film. It doesn’t ever feel forced, which I find pretty admirable in a literal comic book movie. Again, don’t let reports containing delusions of grandeur fool you, it’s decent not extraordinary, but it’s sweet and well done. Spiderverse is reasonably emotionally stimulating as well as a comedic treat.
Some of the action sequences go way over the top. The climactic sequence, most notably, gets so wacky it’s hard to follow; which is okay I suppose but it leads to getting a little bored in the middle of all the random flashing and banging. The climactic fight sequence isn’t especially strong in the first place, thanks mainly to a so-so villain. Much more interesting than his conflict is the relationship between Miles and his uncle, after their identities are revealed to each other. That ended too quickly in my opinion.
I’ve already mentioned it, but I thought I’d touch again on the strength of the character work. Characters like Spiderman Noir, Spider Ham, and Anime Spiderman serve as excellent comic relief, but the use of Peter B Parker and Gwen Stacy are wonderful, not just to aid in the development of Miles but in the context of their own arcs. Deadbeat Spiderman, who I’m guessing is meant to be the future version of Spiderman from our universe, that is, the universe of the original Spiderman timeline (based on some evidence in the film) is a proper, fully drawn character with his own interesting stuff going on. The same goes for Gwen Stacy’s Spiderwoman, though maybe a little less potently.
All in all, Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse is an exciting, fun branch of the Spiderman timeline. With at least two more films green-lit in by the studio, one can only hope that they try as hard as they can not to ruin a quality first volume. Kudos to the team involved for vastly exceeding my expectations, and good luck to them in the continuation. Spiderverse is, without a doubt, worth a watch.
– Aman Datta
Aman’s Rating: 81/100 Aryamaan’s Rating: N/A