The 2-minute review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a vintage comic book come to life 2
A visual spectacle with comedic touches
Culture

The 2-minute review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a vintage comic book come to life

Also, one of the great pleasures of this animated film lies in the way it expertly mines comedy out of the humanity of its characters
Andrew Paredes | Dec 10 2018

Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman​

Starring Shameik Moore, Jake Johnston, Hailee Steinfeld

After three Sam Raimi movies, two sad outings with Andrew Garfield, and his current incarnation as the puppy-dog sidekick to Tony Stark, you might be wondering if we need another Spider-Man reboot. Turns out, we do: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse radically resets and expands on everything that has gone before, and does so in eye-popping ways.

The 2-minute review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a vintage comic book come to life 3
The fact that this Spider-Man is entirely animated allows its makers to go full throttle on the storytelling.

Spider-Verse puts the origin story of Miles Morales—a teenager of color conjured up in 2011 by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli, both inspired by the Barack Obama presidency—front and center. Voiced by Shameik Moore (The Get Down) with an off-handedness that is instantly charming, Miles is being pressured by his adorably helicopter parents (notably his demonstrative police officer dad, played by Brian Tyree Henry) to make the most of his transfer to an upper-class academy in Brooklyn, when he would much rather go off with his rogue uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) and paint graffiti-art manifestos.

During one such trip to an abandoned subway tunnel, Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider, and his newly acquired spider powers freak him out enough to investigate the scene again. On his return trip, he witnesses Marvel Universe villain Kingpin—voiced by Liev Schreiber and drawn as a human bowling ball with a head attached—botch the opening of an inter-dimensional portal…and murder the incumbent Spider-Man (Chris Pine).

The 2-minute review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a vintage comic book come to life 4
A much older Peter Parker (voiced by Jake Johnson), the super cool Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), and lead character Miles Morales (Shameik Moore).

The rudely interrupted inter-dimensional opening also happens to have zapped five other Spider-People from other alternate realities into Miles’ dimension, and this is where the fun really begins. The Peter Parker monomyth is represented by Chris Pine (in a meta-twist you would expect from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the brain trust behind the Lego movies, this Peter Parker’s backstory features the greatest moments from the Spider-Man movies, as well as “a so-so popsicle”), and by a sad sack version (Jake Johnston) who insists to Miles that he is neither a hero nor a mentor, but goes about being both anyway. There’s a Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), who was thrown back in time a week. There’s an anime Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) who has a psychic bond with a Spider-Robot, a bizarre Spider-Ham (an arachnid bitten by a radioactive pig voiced by comedian John Mulaney), and a black-and-white Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage, whose line readings are so perfect, you want to savor them like fine wine). They all must stop Kingpin and his crew from opening the portal again and swallowing Brooklyn whole.

The 2-minute review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a vintage comic book come to life 5
Multiple cameras mirror the multiple universes – all shot on the same character and same animation, but are treated differently, creating a cubist, fragmented look.
The 2-minute review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a vintage comic book come to life 6
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse radically resets and expands on everything that has gone before, and does so in eye-popping ways.

The climactic battle is superhero-movie cliché—all spectacle thrown at you until you have no idea what’s up and what’s down. Spider-Verse’s pleasures lie in the way it expertly mines comedy out of the humanity of its characters. (Although its oft-repeated message that anyone can be a hero is one that I feel goes against the Spider-Man ethos; it’s more like, anyone can be bitten by a radioactive spider—or confronted by a wrong, or forced to make an agonizing choice—it’s becoming the hero that makes you special.) But you definitely have to watch it for its distinct visual aesthetic: The movie painstakingly melds the retro look of four-color process printing, hand-drawn accents, and computer animation to give you the sensation of a vintage comic book come to life—complete with Roy Lichtenstein-like halftone dots and misregistered hues. The fact that it’s entirely animated frees the makers from the strictures imposed by physics and allows them to go full throttle on the storytelling. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a trip into the multi-verse you’ll be happy to take…and staying until the very end of the credits for (hint, hint).