Saturday, December 15, 2018

'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Review: The Best Spider-Man Movie Ever Made

Sony does not have a great track record of developing their own Spider-Man films. The trilogy of Tobey Maguire films were great for their time, but have aged like milk. The Amazing Spider-Man films were total failures, despite having the strongest lead actors of the franchise so far. It wasn't until Marvel Studios entered the picture, and co-produced Spider-Man: Homecoming with Sony that they had something decent on their hands. And even then, the film was good, but it was good in the way that all Marvel Studios films are good; they are great in the moment, but largely forgettable the moment that you stand up from your seats. So the concept of Sony developing an animated Spider-Man film, without Marvel Studios overwatch, was met with a tepid reaction. Enter Phil Lord and Chris Miller, directors of The Lego Movie and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. This was largely their baby, being developed by them at Sony.

I think it is pretty safe to say that the first trailer for this film quelled a lot of peoples' fears. The movie's visual style was unlike anything that we had ever seen. And, more importantly, someone finally had the balls to bring Miles Morales to the big screen; the half African-American, half Puerto Rican Ultimate Comics version of Spider-Man.

And if the trailer didn't do it for you, the film certainly will. This is the best Spider-Man film to date, and totally solidifies itself in the pantheon of the finest comic book movies of all time.

The film's story closely follows the original storyline that comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis layed out in his creation of Miles Morales in Ultimate Spider-Man. Miles is a brilliant kid that lives in Brooklyn, and is going to a well-to-do private academy. While hanging out with his Uncle Aaron, he is bitten by a radioactive spider. He briefly meets Peter Parker, his universe's Spider-Man, shortly before he is killed by the Kingpin. And if all of that wasn't weird enough, the fabric of the universe is torn open and through space-time comes another Peter Parker, Peni Parker (and her giant robot spider), Spider-Man Noir, Gwen Stacy's Spider-Woman, and Spider-Ham.

Sony Animation developed a totally new and proprietary technology to design the look of this film. So, forgive me if I have a hard time properly describing the look of this film. Just know that it is entirely marvelous. It looks more like a comic book than any other movie to date. It exists somewhere in a space between the look of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Fantastic Mr. Fox. It is undeniably animated in the comic book style, but it is a movie made digitally. The film's frame rate is played with to make the movie look more like stop-motion than traditional digital animation. It's a thing you've never seen before, and it's a wonder to behold.

You'd think the weight of having to introduce a slew of new Spider-people would cause the movie to collapse. That's far from the case. The movie is very self-aware, especially when it comes to origin stories. It knows that origin stories, especially the Spider-Man origin, are a thing that people are tiring of. It breezes through origins in a way that is not only funny, but delivers the information in a quick, but effective way.

The voice cast does incredible work here, and what a cast it is; Shameik Moore as Miles Morales, Hailee Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy, Mahershala Ali as Prowler, Nicolas Cage as Spider-Man Noir; the list goes on.

What this movie gets so right is that it's a movie about being Spider-Man; not a movie about being Peter Parker. The film very pointedly kills off the oddly blue eyed, blonde hair version of Peter Parker that exists in Miles' universe right at the top of the film. The subsequent Spider-beings that show up afterward are African-American, female, Asian, Latino, and a cartoon pig. It's a movie that not only believes, but proves, that it doesn't matter who is behind the mask, as long as that person is doing what is right.

In all, Sony has opened up this potential new franchise as a more diverse, and stylistically interesting take on the superhero genre. I can't wait to see where they take it next.

I give Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse a 5 out of 5.