You can be forgiven for rolling your eyes at yet another Spider-Man movie. The latest actor to don the suit, Tom Holland, has done three movies in the past three years, thanks to the all-encompassing Marvel Cinematic Universe. Before him, Andrew Garfield had two installments in 2012 and 2014, and before that Tobey Maguire had his own trilogy. Spider-Man is inescapable.
But Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is different. For one, this is not a story about Peter Parker.
With an incredible blend of traditional and CGI animation, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is an origin story worthy of its hero, Miles Morales. While I was originally displeased that Miles, the first African-American/Hispanic Spider-Man, would be debuting in an animated movie and not a live-action one, my fears were completely dispelled thanks to the sheer inventiveness of Spider-Verse and its clear love for Miles himself. Even though there are six Spider-People (well, five people and one pig) in this film, this is Miles’ story through and through.
Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is a regular kid living in Brooklyn with his parents. He’s trying to fit in at his fancy new school, but isn’t having much luck. His uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali), somewhat estranged from Miles’ father (Bryan Tyree Henry, having an unbelievable year), is Miles’ hero. One day, when Aaron takes him underground to make some street art, Miles is bit by a radioactive spider. Spider powers ensue.
That’s all fairly typical for a Spider-Man film, but things get strange quickly. Kingpin (Liev Schreiber), here rendered as a brick wall in a suit, has activated a dimension-ripping machine that has connected Miles’ world to several alternate universes. The Spider-Man of Miles’ world attempts to stop this, but fails. In the aftermath, Miles meets another Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), a middle-aged sad sack who nonetheless must teach Miles how to be a hero and save his home. Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Noir (Nicolas Cage), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) are on hand to train him too.
The blended animation cannot be praised enough. The action sequences have a remarkable feel to them, as if a comic book is coming to life. Spider-Ham is drawn like a Looney Tunes character, while Peni is straight out of an anime. These competing styles never clash, just add to the unique feel of the film. Things get chaotic in the final act, as all superhero movies do, but Miles’ character arc is a consistent throughline, guiding us through the Spider-battles and interdimensional turmoil. He’s a good kid, and his story is just getting started. I can’t believe I’m saying this about a superhero movie, but thank goodness a sequel is already confirmed.
And don’t forget to stay for a post-credits scene!
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
dir. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, & Rodney Rothman
Opens everywhere Friday, 12/14 (though the Hassle recommends the Capitol or your local mom & pop cineplex)