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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Studio: Sony Pictures Animation
Theatrical Release - December 14, 2018

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the creative minds behind The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, bring their unique talents to a fresh vision of a different Spider-Man Universe, with a groundbreaking visual style that's the first of its kind. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse introduces Brooklyn teen Miles Morales, and the limitless possibilities of the Spider-Verse, where more than one can wear the mask.

Directed by:
Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Screenplay by:
Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman
Story by:
Phil Lord
Based on: The Marvel Comics
Produced by:
Avi Arad, Amy Pascal, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Christina Steinberg
Executive Producers:
Stan Lee, Brian Michael Bendis, Will Allegra
Cast:
Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, John Mulaney, with Nicolas Cage and Liev Schreiber


Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Movie Review
By James Harvey

To sum up Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in a word: "Amazing." Whether it's the absolutely stunning animation, the brilliant character work, the sharp and funny script, or the impressive choreography, Spider-Man's first big-screen animated movie is an absolute success and, quite possibly, the best Spider-Man movie to date. It's lovingly crafted, with clear care for the source material, and is wrapped in some absolutely spectacular visuals. If you want something fresh and different from all of the other superhero and animated movies currently swinging through our entertainment landscape, look no further.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse throws the spotlight on beloved Marvel character Miles Morales. Despite some clear (and sometimes necessary) deviations, the movie pulls pretty faithfully from the source material. Shortly after getting bit by a radioactive spider, Miles finds himself pulled into a multiverse-spanning plot by the Kingpin, who can create tears in the space-time continuum to gain access to an infinite supply of alternate Earths ... and its respective Spider-person. With the help of an assortment of different Spider-heroes by his side - including a slightly older and jaded Peter B. Parker, who becomes a mentor to Miles, and a no-nonsense Gwen Stacy, among others - Miles must grapple with whether or not he wants to become a hero and if he can handle the responsibility.

Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, with a story by Phil Lord, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is an experience like no other. It throws you right into the world of comics and does not look back. Thought balloons, dialogue boxes, sound effects, among other cool visual quirks and tricks, add to the immersive feeling and accentuate story beats. Character designs, the use of color and visual flourishes are stunning (and it all goes absolutely nuts in the finale). And with those amazing visuals comes a legitimately great, fun story that not only places us firmly in the world of Miles Morales, but it also dips us into each the different worlds of the other Spider-Verse characters. In fact, their designs are dictated from their home dimension, so even when they're all in Miles' world, they still retain the style of their home base (Spider-Gwen's universe is crazy gorgeous). We arguably get the best of each of the Spider-characters here, both in terms of visual presentation and their actual characteristics.

And the story here isn't just about another character that gets bitten by a radioactive spider, but instead its about the person behind the mask, and what makes him/her/them the best of their respective universe to carry the Spidey-torch. It's how their personal lives and relationships - both good and bad - fuel their heroic alter-ego and shows just why they are so special. It's a great angle that emphasizes the positives of these characters and why they've impacted us so much.

Miles Morales, the main protagonist whose story gives Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse its core, feels like a real, tangible person with a fully fleshed-out world and personality (also, how great is that Post Malone/Swae Lee "Sunflower" song that Miles is hooked on?). Not only is it about Miles trying to find his place in the world, but it's also about him taking his first steps toward his future and the type of person he will be. That is further emphasized in his relationships between he and his father, a policeman, and his not-so-law-abiding uncle. All of this is happening, of course, just as Miles starts to come to terms with both his new powers and dealing with a huge threat that could bring an end to not only his world but countless others. It all comes together in a tight script which, despite the host of homages, references and meta-humor littered throughout the movie, never loses focus.

The film's casting is spot-on, as Shameik Moore brings a burst of energy to the role of Miles Morales, articulating the character's youthful struggles perfectly. Jake Johnson as Peter Parker is a total surprise, absolutely selling and making the viewer eventually cheer for this movie's cynical spin on the famed web-slinger. Hailee Steinfeld does solid work as a superbly cool Spider-Gwen/Gwen Stacy and Nicolas Cage is pretty hilarious as the hard-edged and snarky Spider-Man Noir. Spider-Ham, voiced by John Mulaney, and Peni Parker, voiced by Kimiko Glenn, also bring the laughs during their respective character's appearances. Those last three members of the Spider-Verse "team" don't get as much screen-time as the film's promotional material may lead you to believe, but they still leave a lasting impression. Liev Schreiber is fantastic as a ruthless, even frightening Kingpin, whose story arc in the film is actually more layered than one might aspect. Luna Lauren Velez is inspired casting as Rio Morales, as is Mahershala Ali as Miles' Uncle Aaron, Bryan Tyree Henry as Jefferson Davis, Lily Tomlin as Aunt May and Zoe Kravitz as Mary-Jane Watson. The cast put together for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is legitimately incredible.

And that's just another testament to how so incredibly well-executed this movie is. Everything about this movie is great, both when judged on their own merits - the writing, the animation, the cast, the music, etc. - but also how every part works so perfectly together. Any given aspect of the movie is made just that much greater because of how great it works with the movie's other aspects. The snappy dialogue and the vocal performances, for an example, or the music mixed with the incredible on-screen action. It's when all these different parts come together that it just elevates everything that much higher.

All of this is wrapped up in such a stunning package, too. I couldn't take my eyes off this movie. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is loaded with these picturesque moments, moments that you could get absolutely lost in if the story wasn't constantly propelling us forward. And that's not a dig against the film's quick pace. The film's editing only serves to fit the film's energetic tone, itself dynamic and pretty stylish. This film has so many great moments and scenes that just hit so hard, all of which is undoubtedly the result of the incredible imagery, camera work and composition. Fight scenes are absolutely exhilarating and pulse-pounding. There are so many shots in this film that are just jaw-dropping, whether they come from the film's quieter moments or the kinetic action beats. That said, the animation might take a little getting used to for some viewers.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the closest thing we'll see to a comic book coming to life. It feels like the comics I've been reading my whole life. The thought balloons, narration boxes, sound effects written-out, the character designs and environments that feel ripped right from the page. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse doesn't shy away from its four-color roots, it embraces it, and it's all the more better for it. Not only is the film's style inspired by it, but actual comic books trappings play a role in the film's story. The best of these superhero movies, TV shows, etc., tend to come when they embrace their source material, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a great example of just that. In fact, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has truly set the new high bar.

And for those wondering, yes,Stan Lee does make a cameo and, given his recent passing, it hits incredibly hard. There's also a touching tribute to Lee and Steve Ditko during the film's end credits.

In all honesty, comparing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to the other Spider-Man movies seems almost unfair. There's so much more animation can bring to the table over live-action, especially when it comes to adapting comic books, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse takes full advantage of the medium. There are things that happen in this movie that could arguably never happen in a live-action movie (though Speed Racer comes somewhat close in terms of a live-action comparison). Still, countless articles claim Batman: Mask of the Phantasm as the best Batman movie of all-time, live-action installments included, so why not here, right? So on that note, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse definitely surpasses Spider-Man 2 to claim the top of the Spider-Totem. Spider-Man 2 remains arguably the best live-action Spider-Man movie to date, but overall Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse still just crushes it.

An experience like none other, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only the best animated film of the year, and the best Spider-Man film (and maybe even the best Marvel-branded movie), but it's unquestionably one of the year's overall best films, live-action or animated. It's the very definition of a can't-miss movie. The smart and funny script, the great character work, the love of the source material from the creative team, the animation unlike anything else out there, all of it comes together to create an absolutely unique movie-going experience. The comedy works, the drama works, the action works, the character works, the music works, it all just works so well together to a nearly unbelievable degree. Plus, it's an absolutely important movie for diversity and representation. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a creative new spin on the tried and true superhero origin story, resulting in something that's funny, hypnotic and entirely fresh. Must See!

Want more Spider-Man? Check out The Spectacular Spider-Man: The Complete Animated Series, available to on on physical and digital media from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. For more details, check out the Marvel Animation Age The Spectacular Spider-Man subsite!


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